YOUR SOCIAL WEEK SORTED: The Muddy Guide 7 – 13 September
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Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, until Sunday 9 September
Before the Olympics I couldn’t imagine myself including this on the top things to do for the week, but come on – it’s your chance to see a whole load of Olympians in action! It’s all very posh of course, with a shopping area that includes picnics, a tailor (yes really), garden furniture and fashion. No MacDonald’s here, my dear, I can assure you, but Blenheim is gorgeous, the buzz will be incredible and it’s going to be a sunny weekend. QED no?
Berkofest, Berkhamsted Sports Club, Herts
Berkhamsted punches above its weight with theatre, festivals and independent loveliness. Flirtatiously nudging south Bucks, the town is offering a new music and comedy festival this week, Berkofest, set in the 8-acre Berkhamsted Sports Club. It’s a real mixed bag and you’ll have to scroll through to find your pleasures. Comedians Mitch Benn and Mary Rourke have great stand-up credentials and there are plenty of bands booked, though I’m not sure Showaddywaddy counts as musical entertainment (I did fancy the lead singer when I was little, mind). My feeling is that Berkofest is one of those events that could brillant or bloody awful. Sometimes it’s fun just to take the chance.
The Ultimate Picture Palace relaunches, Cowley Road, Oxford. From tonight (Friday 7 Sept)
I’ve been to the UPP a few times and always rather enjoyed its mosh-pitty, studenty feel, perhaps out of nostalgia for my own student days up the Cowley Road. But I can’t say I regret too deeply that the new owner has just given the oldest cinema in Oxford a facelift. From today (7 Sept), there’s a new sound system, lighting and comfy chairs no less along with a natty exterior revamp too. Box office biggies Shadow Dancer, Oscar-winning documentary Undefeated and Keira Knightley’s new bodice-ripping costume drama Anna Karenina (on general release tomorrow) are all screening this month.
Blenheim Palace Literary Festival at Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Weds 12 – Sunday 16 September
Blenheim Palace is back for the second time in the Muddy Guide this week, with this well regarded, intimate literary festival. Authors as diverse as Deborah Harkness, Roger McGough, Frederick Forsyth, beauty guru Liz Earle and chef Ken Hom are on hand for talks, literary dinners or interview evenings, all in the beautiful surroundings of the palace and Woodstock itself. Ask Forsyth his views on Fifty Shades of Grey and watch the feathers fly!
Roald Dahl Day at Gipsy House Garden, Sunday 9 September
A fantastic opportunity to enjoy Roald Dahl’s beautiful garden with your kids as part of the celebrations for Roald Dahl day. The quirky pleasures include the old painted caravan which Dahl bought as a giant toy for his children (and wrote about in Danny, Champion of the World). In the back garden there’s a bird house, once a coop for his homing budgies, but now filled with giant green bottles, like those that held dreams in The BFG. It’s impossible, too, to miss the maze, its entrances marked by stones inscribed with lines from his children’s books.
Free entry, but donations to Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity welcome. Tea and cakes available. 11am-5pm, Whitefield Lane, Great Missenden, HP16 0BP