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The Muddy Guide

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National Mills Weekend, 11-12 May, nationwide


Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire have their fair share of wind and watermills – for starters, the Great Haseley windmill close to where I live is mid-reconstruction and is open for view which will be fascinating (11-5pm on Sunday only). And Mapledurham watermill in Oxfordshire (above) is the last working watermill on the River Thames, with tea rooms enticingly attached. Have a gander at the comprehensive county-by-county list and see which mill you get blown to.

Harrods opens Gatsby Bar

great gatsby 2 glam
Get ready for the Jazz Age deluge. The Great Gatsby opens on Thursday 15 May and it’s unleashed a stylistic bandwagon unseen since the world went crazy for another Baz Lurhmann film, Moulin Rouge. Pleasingly amid all the fashion talk, Harrods have got straight to the point with a Twenties-themed pop up cocktail bar, open to visitors from 9-20 May, which promises the ‘unmistakable glamour of the roaring Twenties’.

On Friday (10 May), the bar will host a one-off evening event, during which guests will be able to enjoy a Twenties-style jazz band trio, woof some jazzy canapés and take part in a cocktail-making masterclass. The winner of the best cocktail will get to dance the Charlston with Leonardo di Caprio. Oh alright, I made that last bit up, but we can all live the American Dream can’t we? To book tickets to the evening, £50, email

Science Live Oxford, only 10 times to experience it before it closes

scientist with lab stuff
If you haven’t taken your kids to Science Live Oxford, you’d better make it snappy! The present facility is closing from 8 June to allow staff to develop their plans for The Magnet, a new science and innovation centre that will be developed opposite the Oxford Castle mound. I’ve written about Science Live before and one of the things I really love about it is how it’s accessible for all ages. Little ones get to play, draw, experience science at hands-on level and older kids can attend Saturday Science Club where they get to take part in often groovy experiments. This Saturday (11th May) it’s a slight departure from the norm with a mini-beasts bug hunt in the park for ages 8-11, but during half term week Plane Crazy is back on familiar territory, inviting kids and their parents to make and throw paper planes to learn how they fly.

Bug Hunt, Sat 11 May, 11am or 2.30pm. £5/SO Friends free
Plane Crazy, 28 May, 30 May, 11am or 2pm. £5/SO Friends free.

Chilterns Open Air Museum, Chalfont St Peter, Working Heavy Horses, 12 May

I have to admit I’ve never been to the Chilterns Outdoor Museum (oops). The will was definitely there last year but never the weather. But there are plenty of lovely events coming up, including this one, to tempt me out. It’s real family stuff as you can imagine, and this Sunday you and yours can watch the heavy horses at work on the farm, learn about traditional farming methods of ploughing and harrowing and meet the three horses who live at the Museum. It’s all very old-fashioned I know, but there’s also something very charming and honest about it too – and of course, there’s not a fungicide in site.

In  Fine Style: The Art of Tudor &  Stuart Fashion, Buckingham Palace, 10 May – 6 Oct

elizabeth 1 crop
Another embarrassing admission: am I the last person in the UK to visit Buckingham Palace? It’s on the must-do list for this year, and this exhibition might force the trip sooner rather than later. In Fine Style explores the sumptuous costume of British monarchs and their court during the 16th and 17th centuries through portraits in the Royal Collection. During this period fashion was central to court life and was an important way to display social status. In Fine Style follows the changing fashions of the period, demonstrates the spread of styles internationally and shows how clothing could convey important messages. Including works by Hans Holbein the Younger, Nicholas Hilliard, Van Dyck and Peter Lely, the exhibition brings together over 60 paintings, as well as drawings, garments, jewellery, accessories and armour.


Sculpture in the Vineyard, Bothy Vineyard, Frilford Heath, 11-19 May

sculpture bothy vineyard
I love the sound of this one – a double whammy of culture and nature with boozy undertones. Bothy is Oxfordshire’s oldest vineyard and the 7 acre grounds are playing host to 200 large outdoor sculptures, produced by over 50 local and UK-wide artists, drawing visitors through the vines, orchard and wildlife areas. A further 50 indoor sculptures will be on show in the working winery so that visitors will be able to admire the artwork in between the fermentation tanks, barrels and press.

Mon- Fri 11-6pm, Sat-Sun 11am-7pm. Bothy Vineyard, Frilford Heath, Oxon, OX13 6QW. Tel: 01865 390067.

Giffords Circus, start booking now for shows commencing 16 May

giffords circus horse
An early flag wave for this extraordinary family circus show that somehow improves every year. If you haven’t been before it’s hard to put into words how inventive it feels. Join Tweedy the clown, an Argentinian magician, Ukrainian acrobats, Nancy Trotter with her travelling puppet show, vintage hand-balancers Pat & Kate Bradford, jugglers Bibi & Bichu, a wire-walker, dancing horses in a flamboyantly produced family show. There’s drama, humour, thrills, not to mention a careful eye on the takings with plenty of souvenirs to tempt kids and an entry price of £21 for adults and £14 for kids over 3. It’s worth every penny. Book and go.

The performances begin on 16 May in Broadway. Click here for a full list of Oxfordshire venues and dates.

The Eden Centre Fashion show, High Wycombe, 11-12 May


fashion show
Who needs New York and Milan when there’s High Wycombe? Don’t interrupt your international schedule for this one but if you happen to be someone who doesn’t feel particularly confident about fashion, or your daughter is mad about it, or you need to do some shopping and fancy seeing a bit of a fun side show, the Eden Centre Fashion show is on next weekend. Have a gander at this season’s trends in men’s, women’s and children’s fashion from the likes of House of Fraser, Zara, Next, Monsoon, M&S, River Island and Superdry, choose your must-have wardrobe, then go and suffer at Yo Sushi or Wagamama while you plot how to drop a dress size in 2 weeks to fit into it.


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