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My favourite places: Sarah Burns MBE of Smart Works

When Smart Works Reading's charity chief Sarah Burns isn't riding a bike to raise £20k to support local women, where will we find her? These hangouts, of course!

Sarah Burns MBE

If you’ve not come across Smart Works Reading, it’s an inspirational charity supporting women, who have been out of the employment game for whatever reason, return to work. Each women who walks through the doors is given an interview outfit, styling advice, one-to-one interview coaching and a super-charged boost to their confidence.

The woman leading the charge to lift women up is Smart Works Reading’s founder, Sarah Burns MBE. She’s a natural born leader for positive change and was awarded an MBE by Prince William in 2019 for services to disadvantaged women in the Thames Valley.

Cooper Bluebells
Cooper! One half of Sarah’s doggy support crew

But Smart Works needs our help! Just as the pandemic has seen unemployment soar, charities’ finances have been been hit too. To mark International Women’s Day, Sarah and her team (aka The Thames Valley Wheelies) are pedalling 500 miles with purpose from 1-8 March 2021 to raise £20,000. Sarah’s personal target is £3,000. Every donation makes a difference, so if you can – DONATE HERE.

Sarah’s lived in Berks, Bucks or Oxon her whole life. She grew up in Oxford, but has lived in Reading, Burnham, Maidenhead, White Waltham and now Cookham Dean with her two hyperactive spaniels Cooper and Mack. It’s safe to say, she knows her way around and has a few firm favourites in the ‘hood.

Fobney Island Nature Reserve, Reading

Fobney_Lock_By Andrew Smith
Image: Andrew Smith

Close to the busy A33, within a stone’s throw of Reading’s re3 recycling centre, is the surprisingly peaceful Fobney Island Nature Reserve. On the banks of the River Kennet and the Kennet and Avon Canals, a beautiful circular walk takes you round a wildflower meadow, a hay meadow, wetland and reed beds. It is a lovely place to spot water birds, walk your dog or to admire the view from the weir.

Bakery House, Reading

Bakery House Reading

Two doors down from Smart Works Reading is Bakery House, a family-run Lebanese restaurant serving traditional and tasty Middle-Eastern food. Reasonably priced and freshly prepared dishes include Armenian spiced lamb sausage, okra cooked in coriander leaves, garlic and tomato, sea bass, and small pastries filled with spinach, cheese and zaatar. Their homemade fruit juices include a zingy and refreshing mint lemonade.

Bisham Woods, Maidenhead


With two Springer Spaniels , Cooper 3yrs and Mack 6mths, that have an abundance of energy we are so lucky to have these National Trust woods on our door step. During lockdown it has become busier but there are still times you can be the only person there. It has so many different walks to do from easy to more difficult and it’s a great place to take in all seasons – farmland, pheasants, deer, bluebells, trees homemade “Eeyore” houses and discover beautiful wild flowers. During bluebell season the floor transforms into stunning carpet of blue/purple flowers.

Cliveden House, Taplow

Cliveden Dining Room window view parterre

This has something for everyone. If we have friends to stay it is a must for walking either with dogs or just potter around the gardens. The afternoon tea is really lovely. In 2019, my girlfriends and I tried all the local Cream Teas and Cliveden (plus Coworth Park and Danesfield) topped of the list. I have been lucky enough to visit the spa. There are so many little touches that make it feel special. And finally we can’t ignore the its scandalous role in the infamous Profumo Affair. 

Twyford and Loddon Nature Reserve


There is a circular trail or you can do part of the walk, I meet with friends and their kids and dogs and do group walks (when allowed). There’s a good mix of things to see on a walk, starting with some of Twyford village, followed by the River Loddon through a beautiful nature reserve of lakes ( which were former gravel pits) and then returning to Twyford across fields. Definitely a longer and muddier walk than in the Bisham Woods, so wellies are a must, and the dogs definitely have a hose down on return. 

Newlyns Farm Shop, Hook

Newlyns Farm Shop

I meet here and have lunch with a couple of friends as its our half way point. This is my most favourite Farm shop, love that everything is seasonal, homemade, friendly and just my dream type of shopping , they have a walk in refrigerated Cheese room which is Amazing, in fact I make special trips just to go when having dinner parties.  They have a proper Butcher and deli counter fresh bread, …..

Orwells Restaurant, Henley-on-Thames

Every year I go to Orwells for my birthday – and any occasion that comes up, to be honest. The guys that own it, Ryan & Liam, are such creative, happy people and so talented. Their ethos around sustainability is wonderful. They grow everything they can – and even make their own honey. My husband is a wine lover and is very happy he can take his own bottle and pay corkage. I love the ‘Gin Bar’ and it’s dog-friendly too. It’s a lovely old pub with character and a friendly atmosphere. The Sunday roasts are great value and during lockdown they set up a community shop and have been offering takeaways. Just amazing.

The Big Little Club, Berkshire 

The Big Little Club

Founded by Lizzie Hughes and Patricia Dhir, their first live event was a massive success and supported Smart Works Reading. I’m a founding member and LOVE IT! It’s right up my street, supporting local independent businesses, passionate about what they do. They wanted to create a club that gives you a warm welcome and facilitates VIP access to great brands and some inspiring events and experiences. I’m looking forward to live in person events in the future. 

Satollo, Marlow

Satollo Marlow

Satollo is my favourite lunchtime café. It’s one of many coffee shops and places to eat lunch in Marlow, but I just love their authentic Italian coffee and simple lunches. In 2020, during lockdown, it turned its recently opened tapas restaurant into a deli. I love that they work with the community. The beautiful flower shop next door, The Flower Studio, gives them small seasonal flowers for their tables in exchange for coffee! In the summer, they open in the evenings with live music. 

Pub in the Park and Harrow and Hope, Marlow

Pub in the park Tom Kerridge Giant PITP letters

Marlow has several restaurants owned by Tom Kerridge (The Coach is my favourite) and he started the Pub in the Park in Higginson Park which is a wonderful initiative that brings the community together. There’s something for all the family. This is where I was introduced to Harrow & Hope a local sparkling winery which is a real summer pleaser. 

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