Ready for Crimbo? Stratton Audley Xmas Barn is!
One of the things I love most about working on Muddy is that I get to see businesses grow. I first came across Stratton Audley Christmas Barn (near Bicester) a few years back when it was just a fledgling business. There was a basic shack ‘barn’, a small, well chosen collection of gifts, and a lot of fingers crossed behind backs that it would take off.
I went back earlier this week, because as you know, in retail land, Christmas has well and truly arrived, and it’s really stepped up another gear to become a replete Christmas gift shop. Yes there are plenty of decorations (and no doubt more will come out when the Christmas trees arrive for sale in early December) but it’s a great place to come for the smaller, sweeter, more thoughtful gifts too.
As in previous years, owner Sara has brought out really good ranges for men and kids – let’s face it, those are the presents we are buying mostly (I just tell Mr Muddy want I want for Christmas, all he has to do is wrap it badly).
The cafe has also really expanded this year – not in size but in aspiration. The day I was there the lovely Elliot from former Muddy cafe winners Gyre & Gimble was in helping to train the cafe staff, and what that guy doesn’t know about coffee can be written on the back of a bean.
Stratton Audley is a small, pretty village with a lovely church and a sweet-looking pub just to the north of Bicester, but if you’re thinking of coming in from further afield to take a look, maybe tie it in with a trip to Claydon House or Stowe Landscape Gardens with kids, or Rousham Gardens without (minimum age for ankle biters is 15 – by which stage they’re grunting rather than biting). Good pubs around that area include The Old Thatched Inn in Adstock (see my review here), The Nut Tree in Murcot (Michelin-starred but not crazily priced), and closest of all, The Muddy Duck in Hethe, just a few miles away.
Owner Sara is very hands on, so you’ll probably see her stacking the shelves, and the staff are all incredibly friendly and helpful (and local – it really helps!), so if you fancy a trip out with some shopping therapy and (from next month) Christmas tree buying attached, this could be it.
West Farm Barns Launton Road Stratton Audley, Nr Bicester, OX27 9AS. Tel: 01869 278184. strattonaudleychristmasbarn.co.uk