Herein lies a Hippo Burger

THE 5 BEST VIEWS WITHIN
30 MILES OF BIRMINGHAM

We'll admit it, it can take a lot to coax us out of Brum. But this week we've been talking to Verity Milligan, an eminently persuasive photographer, who took a break from aurora chasing and the pursuit of a certain eclipse that you may just have heard about, to convince us that beautiful Birmingham is surrounded by five places which are heartily deserving of your attention. The first is the blanket of bluebells you'll find at Austy Woods near Henley-in-Arden and conveniently enough, now is just about the best time of year to go forth and seek them out. And with coincidences like that, you might be fooled into thinking we actually plan our content to coincide with external events, seasons and the like. We said you might.
It's Chesterton Windmill and is located five miles south-east of Warwick. We hadn't been introduced either. Verity captured this image of what is the earliest tower mill in England to retain any of its working parts, at sunset on the longest day of the year. Sleep is not a priority for this photo-holic who can usually also be found armed with her camera at sunrise come summer solstice. An incident with a handbrake (or lack thereof) and a ditch did prevent an early shot on this particular day. But fortuitously for us, Verity had recovered in time to record the dreamy scape pictured.
Our first thought was a Saharan waterhole. So probably best that you find a seat before we tell you that this shot was actually taken in deepest, darkest Acocks Green. But twenty-five minutes from the city's fulcrum, Verity likes Fox Hollies Park for the slice of wildlife it brings to Brum's sprawling suburbs. And when better to capture the enclave than on a day which Verity explained almost broke Instagram? March 15, 2014 boasted a sunset that she can still recount vividly. And the volume of images which found their way on to social media that night suggest the photographer was not alone in singling out this particular Saturday as special.  
Dense, thick fog. It's not our idea of the dream conditions for a day trip either. But for Verity, the only thing that's better than a foggy day, is a foggy week. And they don't get much more mystical than this moody shot of the Lickey Hills, which, for its forest-filled, fairytale connotations, is a firm favourite of her's. Ten miles from Brum and less than two from the Barnt Green Inn, treat yourself to a top-notch Sunday lunch after you've expended some energy on one of four circular walks, which range in distance from 1.5 miles to around 15, and all start at the Lickey Hills Visitor Centre.
Situated on the site of a former quarry, Burton Dassett Hills Country Park spans 100 acres of rolling ironstone elevations and is a top spot for picnickers and kite fliers, so long as they can find a sheep-free spot. The park also featured in Tom Selleck's panned sequel, Three Men and a Little Lady. So now you know. Ever humble, Verity is keen to get back to the spot where this image was captured to get an improved shot - apparently some cloud cover is what's really required to do the park justice. We're going to go out on a limb and admit that we remain pretty taken as is.

Lots more of Verity's work and details of how to buy the photographer's prints, here. All locations are within 30 miles as the crow flies. 

GREAT BRITISH MENU REVISITED

We regularly advise on how you can eat like a king, but how about eating like a judge? For two days only Aktar Islam, of Lasan repute, will be recreating the dishes he mastered to tantalise the panel in the sixth series of Great British Menu. We're wide-eye excited at the prospect of roasted Cornish bass marinated in Kokum and curry leaves, served with a crisp caraway soft-shell crab. Because the dish wasn't impressive enough without the addition of a whole crustacean. And with a slow-roasted shoulder of lamb forming the focal point of the feast, we only wish that every 13th birthday party could be quite so civilised. The event is in celebration of Lasan’s move into the moody teenage years, by the way. And all we got was a sleepover. Priced at £45 it takes place from 1pm on April 26 and 6pm on April 27. Book here.

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: 
CINDERELLA

This may be one of the most square films in recent memory, and there’s not a decapitation in sight, but Ken Branagh’s take on Cinderella has to be on the shortlist for the year’s most sumptuous experience at the cinema. There’s next to no post-modern games being played here, which is oddly refreshing, and a game cast go for it, making it at times seem like an enterprising impresario has created a panto comprising only of people who’ve been to the Oscars. It’s about as interested in entertaining adults as The Raid was in playing to the Frozen set, and all the better for it – find a child, and just settle in for some innocent enjoyment. Speaking of Frozen, there’s a fun short with the same characters at the start of Cinderella, and if you have kids, prepare to be shelling out for mini-snowmen seconds after the credits.
EXCLUSIVE: FAT HIPPO VERSUS LE BUN

Unless you've had all earthly meat news put on 'mute' (which is an invention that hasn't been invented yet, so we're guessing you haven't) you will have heard about the award-winning UK Burger Battle, which is bringing the country's finest purveyors of gourmet burgers, bi-monthly, to dear ol' Brum. Well, we can exclusively reveal the line-up for the next battle which takes place on Sunday, April 26. It's a Geordie versus cockney foodie fisticuffs as Newcastle burger dons Fat Hippo (creators of the Fat Hippo burger, above) travel south to meet Londoners Le Bun (makers of this) at Digbeth's Spotlight. Tickets cost £20 but will quickly jump up to £25 after 100 have been sold. On the day you'll have a four hour window in which to collect two of the very best burgers mankind can make, before voting for your favourite. This news is so fresh the teams haven't announced which creations they'll be showcasing yet, but check out their websites (here and here) and then try and tell us you're not as moderately hysterical about the event as we are. There's a frighteningly good magician, a well stocked bus bar and music thrown in. Tickets here, see you there.  
Venue: Gas Street Social, The Mailbox, B1 1RL; gasstreetsocial.co.uk 
Choice: The Socialite  Chooser: The Manager

It's early days for the Mailbox's immensely likeable Gas Street Social and the Socialite is our frontrunner for the cocktail most deserving of 'signature' status. Finlandia vodka, Aperol, pineapple, lime and passion fruit combine in smooth and foamy harmony making this a terribly moreish slurp. There's a welcome kick of booze that so often goes wanting in fruity cocktails and enough tang to make it resoundingly refreshing from sip one right up to your second order. Which, for us, was another round of Socialites. That, surely, is a ringing endorsement. Hats off to the Gas Street Social for their tasteful and thoughtful Brummie-inspired decor, too. A lovely touch. Go visit. 
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"Hamburgers! The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast." – Jules Winnfield, Pulp Fiction
WORDS: Katy Drohan, Andrew LowryTom Cullen
ADDRESS: I CHOOSE Birmingham, Office 211, 43 Temple Row, Birmingham, B2 5LS

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