Fancy going out?
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RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch, Henley River & Rowing Museum, 26 Jan
I’m a big fan of the Henley River & Rowing Museum, not least because it has such an idyllic position on the water in such a gorgeous town. This annual event in association with the RSPB gets kids out in the open air, looking for birds, finding out about nature and, to be blunt, removing young children from under your feet. If the little people get bored of waiting for a blue tit, robin or chaffinch to appear, they can make animal masks, dragonflies and bird feeders. Or failing that, give them some nuts to eat, and get them to pretend they’re birds. It’s like, creative.
Free with the price of museum admission. 10.30 – 3.30pm.
I’m very excited about this exhibition, particularly as I’m yet to visit the MK Gallery (which I’ll be correcting very soon!).Treasures in MK, which opens tomorrow (Friday), features an exceptional range of art works spanning almost an entire millennium, selected from over 50 mostly private collections within Buckinghamshire. Its billed as a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ – Old Masters such as Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, William Hogarth and John Everett Millais rub shoulders with Modern Masters from Picasso and Matisse to Andy Warhol. Other extraordinary items an Aston Martin DB4 on loan from Aston Martin Works Service and a unique self-portrait by David Bowie from a private collection. Sounds amazing. If I make it there before you, I’ll report back.
Fresh air alert!
It’s a difficult time of year to get out and about, with many of the country estates and National Trusts still closed. But Rousham Gardens (above) roughly five miles north of Bicester and Woodstock, one of the most replete eighteenth country gardens in England designed by William Kent, is open all year round, with its ponds, cascades, temples and even a sham ruin called the ‘Eyecatcher’ (£5 for entry, no shop or tea rooms). Cliveden gardens are open with three different circular walks available, and Waddesdon Manor‘s outdoor charms are still available on weekends.
If you’ve missed your regular box of organic produce from the massively popular Worton Organic Garden, 5 miles north of Oxford, you’re in luck. The farm, run by David and Anneke Blake (he Ozzie, she Dutch) reopens tomorrow on its seven acre plot, providing an incredibly diverse range of fresh veg, herbs, fruit, eggs and cut flowers. There’s a cafe (that’s currently being extended – be warned, it may be a bit ‘buildy’ this week), bakery, gardens and a whole lot of community spirit going on. Put on your wellies and pay them a visit.
Open Friday 10-4pm, Sat 10-4pm, Sun 11-4pm www.wortonorganicgarden.com
Science Live relocates to a new venue in Oxford Castle Unlocked while it’s superduperpooper new centre is being built. This is the first Science Saturday Club of 2014 and it’s a goodie – asking kids aged 5-8 the vital question, ‘Why does popcorn pop?’ and conducting lots of tests that no doubt culminate in exploring what it tastes like to stuff one’s face with the experimental matter. These events get booked up quickly and there were only a couple of places left when I called, so get onto it pronto!
11am, 2pm shows. £7 for 1 child + 1 adult. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
The new venue is the Key Learning Centre at Oxford Castle Unlocked, next to Cafe 1071.
Burns Night, 25 Jan – 27 Jan, various
If you’re of a kilt-wearing, poetry reciting, whisky quaffing disposition, Burns Night is right up your alley. In the restaurant calendar, it’s nearly as popular as Valentine’s Night and you’ll have no trouble finding your haggis and skink wherever you go, but I like the sound of these ones best…
Oxford Playhouse’s Burns Night dinner at the Royal Oak Pub (Woodstock Road, central Oxford) where the usual food and drink is supplemented by a Playhouse Plays Out performance of Robbie Burns-inspired poetry or £21 per head (1pm, 7pm).
The Crooket Billet’s evening in Stoke Row (26-27 Jan), which offers a full menu of Scottish specials including Islay diver scallops, Arbroath Smokies, Macsween haggis, neeps & tatties, cranachan, clapshot, smoked Lochinvar salmon, Finnan haddock, Cullen skink, skirlie, Dundee marmalade pudding & over a dozen Hebridean Malts, along with bag pipes, Celtic band and free Islay malt to all those who come in Scottish gear. £15 music cover charge.
And Danesfield House’s Burns Night, with Billy Reid now firmly at the helm of all three restaurants and in the mood to impress. Tickets £50 per person. Off you go and develop that hangover.
Brandenberg Concertos, Sheldonian Theatre, Sat 25 Jan
I have a weakness for Bach’s Brandenberg Concertos, and this is a rare opportunity to listen to all six chamber orchestral pieces together – often just one or two are played in the same programme. The setting at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford is sublime (though a bit hard on the bum) and I’m told there are still tickets available from £10-28, only the most expensive at £40 having sold out. The soloists come from the highly regarded Oxford Philomusica, so it should be a fantastic concert if you love baroque music.
Need cheering up this month? Shappi Khorsandi has risen fast to become one of the UK’s leading comedians, playing on her Iranian heritage for laughs and with a flirty, warm stage presence that has seen her charm audiences at Live at the Apollo, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, 8/10 Cats and Have I Got News For You. She comes to the Banbury Arts Centre for one night only, so don’t miss her if you can help it.
Bite, Chipping Camden, 1-8 Feb
Slightly further afield into the Cotswolds and not for another week, but worth letting you know about in advance in case you want to make a weekend of it. The Bite festival basically takes over this part of the Cotswolds for the first week of February, and inlcudes an all-day-long free outdoor market in Chipping Camden (on the 1st), a literary lunch with Arabella Weir, an evening with Anthony Worrall Thompson, children’s tea party, champagne dinners, family cooking masterclass, and lots more throughout the week. Check out the full programme here and plot your feasting. I’m testing out a new Cotswold hotel on Friday so will let you know asap if it’s worth booking with this weekend in mind.