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What To Do in Bucks/Oxon: 19 – 26 Aug 2014

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Oh my God, are we nearly done with the Summer hols yet? (*gasp*). I love my children, truly I do, but I’m ready to kiss their soft, sweet hair and shove them through the school gates. Until later, my darlings! (dab eyes with  hanky, before scooting off for a leisurely coffee).

But no, we have another few weeks to go, so here is the latest Bumper Muddy Guide for your salvation if you’re a parent, or for your relaxation and amusement if you are unencumbered. Enjoy.

Tuesday 19 Aug


Made it to the Chiltern Open Air Museum yet? I thought this place was great, and today they’re doing their Terrible Tuesdays for kids, dissecting past poo (not real, don’t worry!), meeting devious doctors and doing all that horrible history stuff that kids love. There are only two weeks left to enjoy the River & Rowing Museum’s Summer Funtime with Mr Toad exhibition (see my review) – well worth it for little ones and you’re in a great spot by the River for the rest of the day. Pick some fruit before it all runs out – Peterley Manor Farm has a new yurt cafe this summer, and Rectory Farm has a cafe with wifi!! At the mkGallery, Start the Art is a free hour of arty activities every Tuesday, this week based on the current exhibition Cadences for accompanied children aged under 5. They transform the Events Space into one large doodle pad which sounds like fun.

Bung the kids out into the fresh air for the day at Longridge Activity Centre, a fantastic place to get your kids into the outdoors and trying everything from kayaking to wall climbing (see my review). Be utterly, wonderfully selfish and check out Bicester Village’s sale – now up to 80% off. Avoid anything that’s not for you for once! The tourists are starting to drop off slightly so now’s a good time to attempt Highclere Castle – avoid 11am or 1pm, the busiest times. You can’t pre-book tickets but there always buy-on-the-door if you time it right. It’s closed on the weekends so this is a week day jaunt.


Wed 20 Aug

In Oxford for the day? Give yourself a pitstop with a difference between 5-7pm at TVC’s roof terrace (or if it’s rainy, the cool first floor bar) with cocktails from £4.50 (oh sweet heaven). You can’t beat a bit of free den-building and if it’s somewhere stonkingly pretty like Basildon Park all the better. Drop in today and watch your kids lugging logs left right and centre while you ‘supervise’. . Love the sound of Children’s House Tour at Waddesdon Manor, where kids 8-12 years get to see the gorgeous rooms close-up, and find out what it was like to be in a 19th century house party. No adults allowed (off for a coffee you go), £5. The wonderful indie Ultimate Picture Palace in Oxford is showing Richard Linklater’s well-reviewed Boyhood, if like me you’re desperate to see it but missed it in the multiplexes. At Hughendon Manor in High Wycombe, families can play traditional Victorian games on the south lawn (no charge). What, no DS?! At Cliveden, it’s Wild Wednesday today, a free drop in session, where kids can fly kites, cloud watch blow bubbles and generally do kiddie stuff in the gorgeous grounds, ideal for 4-11 year olds. At Modern Art Oxford, the Free Yard sessions of music and funky outdoor cafe continue today (also open on Saturday). Or if you’re looking for somewhere different to walk your dog, the stunning backdrop of Stowe Landscape Gardens provides Man’s Best Friend Monthly Dog Walk with the ranger, discovering different themes each month.

Thurs 21 Aug

A fantastic venue for the restaurant, don't you think?

Go Splash! at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley (above) with all sorts of water-based experiments, art and play. Free with museum admission 10.30-4pm. At The Roald Dahl Museum, kids can make a Willy Wonka Bow Tie which sounds fun (£2, 11.00am, 1.00pm and 3.00pm). Fancy some culture? The High House gallery has just started its summer group exhibition, featuring well known artists such as Alison Jackson, Dan McDermott and Hugh Mendes (open Thursday – Sunday 12am-6pm). Charlie & Lola’s Extremely New Play is showing at the Oxford Playhouse, adapted from Lauren Child’s much-loved kids books by Jonathan Lloyd, artistic director of Oxford’s Pegasus Theatre (family ticket £44, 3+).  The History of Britain by the Pantaloons Theatre Company  moves to Waterperry Gardens. Think Horrible Histories, with songs, sketches and jokes aimed at Britain’s famous historical figures. Adult £10, Child £7.50. Or how about Towersey Festival, now in its 50th year, starting today and going on until 25 Aug? The children’s area has been much expanded so even if you’re not into the more folky elements of festival, there’s loads to do, and you can camp too.

Fri 22 Aug

The gorgeous Stonor Park near Henley is playing host to the Chilterns Craft Fair from today until 25 Aug. I love the sound of the evening Salacious Gossip Tours at Hampton Court Palace, where you have to be 18+ due to the racy nature of the stories at court from the 17th and 18th century. There’s a champagne reception and bedrooms to retire to if all gets too exciting. I’m making that last bit up, but wouldn’t that be fun?! Tickets £25. Odds Farm continues its Summer Circus Spectacular, a free event included with entry including a Mexican Clown (the mind boggles), Italian Fast Speed Juggler and even Spiderman apparently. My daughter has bypassed this trend somehow but if you’re kids are bonkers about Frozen, there’s a Frozen singalong screening at the Phoenix Picturehouse today. Bring your earplugs.

Sat 23 Aug


The first ever BBC Good Food Festival at Hampton Court Palace starts today and goes through the Bank Holiday weekend. Artisan producers, cooks and chefs, music, a kids cookery school, and amazingly all included in the palace admission ticket (and kids go free!). Or you prefer the wet stuff, The Oxford Wine Festival is on today and tomorrow in the city centre – check out the train times home! The Cliveden mega slide that goes from the back terrace onto the lawns is open this weekend – wheee!!! (suggested fee, £2), or there’s a free Recycled Sculpture workshop today and tomorrow at Blenheim Palace if you fancy taking a whole load of your kids’ junk – I mean, art – home with you.

Cult Screenings continue at Oxford’s Malmaison’s outdoor cinema, with The Lost Boys tonight. Grab a blanket, order a drink and relax. Or at the Ultimate Picture Palace, Who is Vivian Maier? is showing. I read about her a few weeks back in one of the broadsheets and it sounds like a fantastic documentary about the strange, riveting life of a reluctant nanny who was secretly a prolific street photographer. Finally, how about trying a Family Day at Longridge? I’m going today, ready to show my children just how unfit I am on the kayaks, canoes, rafts and climbing walls. Bring it on! Available each weekend. The Foodies Festival comes to Oxford’s South Parks today, tomorrow and Monday (23-25 Aug), with top chefs cooking live, food writer Xanthe Clay around and about, Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi of The Caldesi Cookery School and TV chef Manju Malhi cooking their signature dishes, plus the usual array of workshops, competitions and artisan producers.

Sun 24 Aug


It’s kiddie catnip at the Chiltern Open Air Museum today and tomorrow with Medieval Firepower, a two day romp through military history, where they can meet medieval gunners and soldiers and explore their camp, see amazing replica medieval cannons and weapons, see artillery displays and generally have an explosive time of it. Let’s Get Geeky family friendly drop in at The Museum of the History of Science is on this morning, a free volunteer-led handling session for geek gadget freaks. Blenheim Palace holds its 8th Blenheim Festival of Transport today and tomorrow, showing of not only classic cars, but also motorcycles, Minis and VW’s, Customs, Hot Rods and Americans, kit and sports cars, if  that kind of thing floats your boat. Claytons Marlow is holding a Bar-Bados all day party, which sounds like my kind of bash – all day Carnival Party & BBQ
DJs, a steel band and rum punch, and free entry before 9pm.

Mon 25 Aug

©National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

At Waddesdon Manor, kids go free all through August and this Make a Mosaic foam  coaster craft activity, inspired by the Predators and Prey, A Roman Mosaic exhibition has a suggested donation of just £2 so it’s great value. Kiddie catnip continues today at the Chiltern Open Air Museum today with Medieval Firepower, a two day romp through military history, where they can meet medieval gunners and soldiers and explore their camp, see amazing replica medieval cannons and weapons, see artillery displays and generally have an explosive time of it. There’s a Dahlia Festival at Chenies Manor today – this manor house is only open on Wednesdays and Thursdays and Bank Holidays so if you work full time this could be your last chance to get there this summer. Don’t forget Plantasia at Kew Gardens as an option too – the festival finishes on 7 September so again this is probably one of your last opportunities to get there. Stonor Park, with its church, grand house and lovely gardens is open this afternoon from 2pm – 5pm, while Creation Theatre continues to put on Macbeth in the grounds of Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford. Don’t forget that the counties’ museums are all open on Bank Holiday Monday, so fill your boots with culture, cake and coffee as you see fit.











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