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16 brilliant things to do this weekend

There’s a distinctively festive feel about What’s On this week. If you’re more bah humbug than ho ho ho, it’s time to flick that switch baby – we’re entering the C-zone!

Christmas at Blenheim, Woodstock, Fri 25 Nov – 2 Jan 2017

Blenheim Palace’s whopper Christmas offering will be visible from space from Friday. For the first time, the Blenheim estate will be illuminated for an hour-long festive trail that will transform the Capability Brown-designed Gardens into a winter wonderland. The highlights include a scented Fire Garden, Christmas trees that sing, a swaying lawn of fibre optic colour; the lake filled with brightly-lit boats filled with snowflakes and presents (dont be tempted to swim for it). Other highlights include a fairy-lit arbour and the lakeside boathouse which will become a temporary home for that fat bloke with the white beard. Apparently most of the weekends are already sold out so if you live further afield I’d suggest getting onto it quickly. I’m visiting today  so I’ll report back asap but all the signs are that it’s a festive no-brainer.


Living Crafts for Christmas, Blenheim Palace, Thurs 17 – Sun 20 Nov

No excuses not to do all your Christmas shopping at least a month in advance with all these gift and craft shows everywhere. This week the Living Crafts show in Blenheim Palace is on – two huge pavillions situated in the Great Court, directly in front of the Palace, where over 150 British designer-makers will be showcasing millinery, ceramics, studio glass, leather work, sculpture, textile crafts, photography, toys and puzzles, fashions, soaps and designer jewellery. Overflow parking is in one of the fields so wellies rather than stilettos are probably advisable.

Woldstone, Evening with The Designers,  Woodstock, Thurs 24 Nov

Woldstone is a superbeautiful jewellery store in Woodstock with a wonderfully curated, arty side to it. Tonight, as part of its Danish Design exhibition, (Nov 22 – Dec 3) , you can meet two leading Danish designer goldsmiths now living and working in the UK at Thursday evening’s preview.

5.30pm – 8pm. Woldstone, 25 Oxford St, Woodstock, Oxon,

Comedy Club for Kids, The Stables, Milton Keynes, Sun 27 Nov


Cracking entertainment for the over 6s (I’m just trying to imagine the jokes too risque for 5 year olds…) starring regular host Ternan Douieb and Howard Read of Little Howard. It’s comedy without the rude bits basically. Kids not as used to mine at hearing obscenities will love it.

Suitable for ages 6+. Children to be accompanied by an adult. The Stables, Stockwell Ln, Wavendon, Milton Keynes, Bucks,

Nutcracker Workshop with English National Ballet, Milton Keynes, Sat 26 Nov


A creative ballet workshop, inspired by the Christmas classic The Nutcracker led by English National Ballet dancers. It’s a family workshop for kids between 5-10 who will learn extracts from the dance and explore Tchaikovsky’s score. You will need to accompany your little darling so don’t forget to bring your tutu!

Running time: 11.30am-12.30pm. Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks,

Brian Cox Live, MK Theatre, Tues 29 Nov


What must feel like to be Brian Cox? He’s already been a pop star and now he’s a heart-throb professor with a fine line in enthusiastic puppy-dog-to-camera charisma. He’s bounding up to the MK theatre next week, explaining a whole load of highly complex science stuff to the great British public, while we all look on randily and pretend we’re just interested in what he’s got to say. Oops, just me?!

Running time: 2h20mins (inc interval) Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks,

Christmas at Stonor, Mon 28 Nov – Sun 4 Dec

A flagwave for a first at Stonor House near Henley (above), that opens its front door to guests this Winter for the first time from Mon 28 Nov. This will be the moment to think kind thoughts as your body is gripped by stupendous envy as the family still lives here (excuse me while I weep quietly). Stonor House, let’s be frank, is an absolute stunner that dates back to 13th century, and for its open house is promising a traditional Victorian Christmas tree in the Gothic Hall, the Blue Dining Room laid for Christmas lunch and even Christmas stockings in the bedroom. It’s the sort of thing that kids will love if you can trust them not to push and shove each other around the tree (timb-errrrrrrr!) and you’ll get massive brownie points with the in-laws too.

Bray Christmas market, Berks, Fri 2 Dec 


It’s not in Bucks & Oxon and it’s not this week – stop being so fussy! –  but you’ll want to know about this little beauty in advance. Christmas is coming to The Crown at Bray and Bray High Street with a special Christmas market. It’s free to enter in The Crown’s lovely cosy gardens, showingcasing indie craft and food producers. Get there before 7.30pm to see Father Christmas turn on the The Crown lights (is it Heston? is it Heston?!! Um, probably not), then it’s choir time as The Crown chefs serve winter foods and mulled wine from the outside bar. On Saturday and Sunday there’s storytelling inspired by Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ from the heated garden show tent, plus Santa’s Grotto (£14 per child to include a gift) and £10 per adult – buy your tickets here . It will all be done in the best possible taste, no question about that.

Market opening times : Fri 2 Dec (6-9pm); Sat 3 Dec (11am-9pm); Sun 4 Dec (11am-6pm).
Super Science Saturday: The Science Behind the Headlines, Sat 26 Nov


If you happen to be in Oxford, drop into this biannual family science fair where kids can meet over 60 real scientists (as opposed to fake ones) and take part in 20 activities looking at science in the news. They’re promising all sorts of science activities from alien orbs to ageing worms, diabetes to dung beetles, and penguins to plesiosaurs. Tis a free drop in, so it would be rude not to.
12-4pm. Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Parks Rd, Oxford,

Didcot Food Festival, Fri 25 – Sun 27 Nov


Bake Off star Christine Wallace, above – remember her from 2013? –  has teamed up with Didcot Events and the fantastic Cornerstone Arts Centre to launch the town’s first ever three-day food festival. I know how the Thame Food Festival really helped boost Thame and put it on the foodie map, so hopefully this will do the same for Didcot. It’s clearly a foodie area as Christine has roped in  2015 Masterchef the Professionals finalist Nick Bennett from Faringdon, and Bicester’s Sarah McCready, who starred on Masterchef in 2015. This Winter Food Festival run alongside a Christmas market in the town square and promises plenty of talks and cooking demos.

Cornerstone Arts Centre, 25 Station Road, Didcot, Oxon,


Fright Friday, late night at Ashmolean, Oxford, Fri 25 Nov


Have you made one of these yet? On LiveFridays the Ashmolean opens its doors from 7- 10.30 pm, giving visitors the opportunity to experience the Museum and see the collections after hours. This month’s theme is Fright Friday, explores the art and science of hope and fear and features several large performances in the main atrium including orchestral and processional, plus 30 activities and events throughout the museum. So achingly hip that you’ll grow a beard on the spot.

Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont St, Oxford,

Great Missenden Village Christmas Festival, Great Missenden, Sat 26 Nov


Great Missenden is a gorgeous Chiltern village, famous for its Roald Dahl connection and it’s pretty position in the Bucks countryside. On Saturday it’s holding its annual Christmas festival, during which you can get free entry to the Roald Dahl Musum for a day of storytelling, crafts and a Minpin trail.  The festival itself includes Santa’s grotto, a market, kids fairground rides and carol singing.

Out in the High Street, enjoy festive food and drink, carol singing, Santa’s grotto, a Christmas market, seasonal shopping and children’s fairground rides.

Free parking from 3pm and 8pm at Great Missenden Station and at Missenden Abbey. The Roald Dahl Museum, Great Missenden, Bucks,


Oxford Christmas Light Festival, Fri 25 – Sun 27 Nov


Enchanted Christmas, Westonbirt Arboretum, weekends from Fri 25 Nov – 18 Dec


Illuminations seem to be the thing this year. Waddesdon Manor’s are already up, Blenheim is all set to go and Westonbirt is joining the optic party with its Enchanted Christmas, taking in around a mile of the arboretum’s paths. The walk is pushchair, wheelchair and mobility scooter friendly and takes around 45 minutes. Time it for 5pm and Father Christmas will pop up with a small token gift for your kids at no extra charge! (*thud*)

Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Westonbirt, Tetbury, Gloucs,

The Artist’s Dozen, Green Dragon Eco Farm, nr Quainton, Fri 25 – Sun 27 Nov

Silver Silver Silver

This established North Bucks artists and makers, working in a wide range of media including painting, printmaking, photography, ceramics, stone sculpture, glass, textiles, and silver jewellery, are holding an exhibition of recent work at Green Dragon Eco Farm near Quainton. Artists include painter Rebecca Rason Flor Ferreira (below), print artist Alexandra  Buckle and jewellers Silver Silver Silver (pictured).

10am- 6pm, free entry. The Artist Dozen exhibition, Green Dragon Eco Farm, Claydon Road, Hogshaw MK18 3LA.

And so it begins… (oh yes it does)


It’s only November but some of the pantos are already out of the starting blocks (*wahhhhh). Early double entendres appearing at The Oxford Playhouse from Friday with its non-celebby Cinderella, the Chippy Theatre is well underway with its Robinson Crusoe and The Pirate Queen, and if ou’re heading into London The grand dame of the panto venues The Hackney Empire starts its run on Saturday with Sleeping Beauty. See my full local panto guide here including my tip for the top Aylesbury Waterside’s Aladdin (Michelle Collins people, Michelle Collins!).



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