Here comes Easssssster!
Release the little people! The Muddy Guide to Easter is here and it's a *cracker* (I'll get my coat).
EASTER EGG HUNTS & TRAILS
Tis’ the season for legitimately scoffing endless chocolate so here’s where to find it. Go posh with Blenheim Palace’s huge egg hunt around the grounds and pleasure gardens (19 – 22 Apr), there’s also interactive activities, princesses, clowns, stilt-walkers, bouncy castles, bungee trampolining and circus skills – phew! The Easter Bunny will be at Millets Farm dishing out gifts along with a bunny hunt around the Garden Centre and decorate your own chocolate egg workshops (8 – 18 Apr), while Waterperry Gardens (1 – 24 Apr) and Batsford Arboretum (6 – 22 Apr) are both offering a more lo-fi wooden bunny hunt. Then there’s Sudley Castle’s giant easter egg hunt in the garden (13 -22 Apr) and tiny chick hunt inside the venue (6 – 28 Apr); Highclere Castle’s egg trail and Easter Bonnet Parade through the Downton Abbey gardens and woodland in aid of The Murray Parish Trust (21 Apr); Westgate Oxford’s The Big Road Dinosaur Trail with six giant dinos hidden around the centre each with a fact about the prehistoric era- trail maps are found at the Info Desk and there’s a prize at the end if you find them all (6 – 22 Apr) and Waddesdon Manor hosts three spring trails, Wild Nature, Gorgeous Greeks and Cosmic Celts with activities around the gardens (6 – 18). Finally, pretty much all the big National Trust sites in our ‘hood, including Waddesdon (which has a dinosaur theme) and Grey’s Court, are taking part in the Cadbury Easter Egg hunt – find your closest site here.
Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Great Missenden, Bucks
The museum in G Miss piling on the activities to keep the ankle biters entertained over the Easter break. Kids can make crazy glasses and kaleidoscopes at Matilda’s Phizz-whizzing Eye Tricks workshop (try saying that after a couple of gins), mould their own villainous Miss Trunchbull out of clay, learn about opposites at Miss Honey’s Science School and more. To celebrate Matilda’s 30th birthday, the Lower Babbling Room has a mini exhibition of eight new drawings by Roald Dahl’s illustrator Quentin Blake, each showing a different version of a grown-up Matilda. Workshops not included in entry price, booking essential. Tickets here
Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes
For brain-boxes aged 5 – 14, the top-secret heritage spot host a D Day themed trail based on the interlocking stories of a soldier, a commander, a codebreaker and an evacuee on the homefront. Expect clues, codebreaking, crafts and challenges. Activities run on Tues, Wed and Thurs and even over the Easter weekend (just in case you need to drag ’em away from the chocolate for a few hours). bletchleypark.org.uk
For a relatively small venue, Wycombe’s heritage museum is pulling out all the stops for Easter with loads of activities going on across the two weeks, not forgetting the lovely big garden that’s great for exploring (fingers crossed for sunshine!) As well as your usual egg hunt, there’s also clay moulding (Tues 9 & Thurs 11), Easter crafts, (Tues 16 & Thurs 18), and a pop-up play village (Sat 13 Apr).wycombemuseum.org.uk
Bucks County Museum
As well as your usual Easter crafts (16 – 17 Apr), the museum is hosting some quirkier activities for the holidays including a rock and fossil day (13 Apr), and an origami workshop (18 Apr) inspired by the venues newest Samurai warriors exhibition (from 6 Apr). Plus Queens Park Arts Centre’s in-house team Unbound Theatre will be popping up in the garden with their new production of Antony and Cleopatra, don’t forget to bring your own chair. The museum is also open on Easter Sunday and Monday (21 – 22 Apr) with a 1600s Stuart household themed day – kids can help servants prepare the house for an Easter feast and (*fingers crossed*) pick up a few tips along the way. buckscountymuseum.org
Beautiful Broughton Castle, the moated and fortified medieval manor house in North Oxfordshire, has just reopened for the Spring and Summer. It’s one of my favourite local castles – small enough to get around without boring young children, and there’s a lovely garden for them to bomb about in. It’s open Wed, Sun and Bank Holiday Mon until Mon 30 Sept, 2-5pm.
Greys Court nr Henley is also top of my list for a day out- there’s great bluebells and daffodils this time of year too. Plus its new Book Nook opens in time for the holidays on Sat 6 Apr, selling secondhand children’s and adult books as well as non fiction, with a comfy space to read in.
Other heritage buildings worth a meander are the stunning Chastleton House in North Oxfordshire, where you can have a crack at croquet, Claydon House nr Buckingham (amazing 18th century interiors) and Upton House on the Oxon/Warks border which is currently exhibiting a collection of vintage posters from the famous Tottenham Court Road furniture store Heal’s. Buscot Park, in Oxfordshire, is also out of hibernation for Easter- lovely gardens to mooch around.
A little further afield, there’s William Morris’s Cotswold retreat Kelmscott Manor in Glos, which also has croquet and a new exhibition of artwork by former tenants Edward and Stephani Scott-Snell. And over in Berks, Highclere Castle (of Downton Abbey fame) is definitely worth checking out.
Cogges Manor Farm offers the your classic Easter trail and farmyard antics as well as some more unusual activities including drop-in cooking by campfire sessions (Tues 9, 16 Apr), and a family theatre performance of Treasure Island, (Thurs 11). Mead Open Farm also has loads of new things going on for Easter including an immersive Wizard of Oz walk-through experience (Mon 8 – Mon 22 Apr), Easter shows and new large Indoor Play area and Grain Store Kitchen Café. Or head to Chiltern Open Air Museum for baby lambs (Fri 12 – Mon 22), trails, activities and the new WW1 Nissen hut.
More farms good for a li-fi, wholesome day out are Green Dragon Eco Farm in Bucks, Thrift Farm, nr Milton Keynes, Farmer Gowes nr Farringdon and the Waterfowl Sanctuary nr Banbury that’s celebrating its 30th birthday this Easter.
Kew Little Pigs, Old Amersham Farm, South Bucks
How cute is this?! Kew Little Pigs offer unique experience days with micro pigs where kids (or adults) can play with the little oinkers and learn how to groom, feed and take care of them. Snaffle 25% off mini pig keeping this Easter, booking essential. kewlittlepigs.com
As part of the National Trust’s “50 things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4″’s campaign, The Great Big Tree Climbing Company pitch up in the woodlands at Hughenden (Thurs 11, 18) and Cliveden (Wed 17, Thurs 18, Fri 19). With expert help, kids can safely scale the trees with ropes, harnesses and helmets and even zip line to the forest floor at Cliveden- rather them climbing trees than the walls, right? Suitable for age 6+
If trees aren’t your thing then Stonor Park, in Henley, has a pop up 4m climbing wall (Sat 6 – Mon 22 Apr) there’s also an Easter trail around the Wonder Woods. Stonor House opens Sundays from 7 Apr and Easter Monday.
Survival School, The National Herb Centre, nr Banbury, Tues 16 Apr
Firelighting, shelter building, signalling, foraging for food? Um, you’ll find me in the nearest boutique hotel, but kids always love this sort of thing once you can tear them away from the iPads and get them outside. The workshop runs from 10am to 4pm (don’t forget a packed lunch) and is taught by Outdoor Specialist Simon Birbeck, aka Banbury’s answer to Bear Grylls. Suitable for ages 8-14 years, booking essential. herbcentre.co.uk
Pirate Treasure Hunt, St Michael’s and All Angels Church Hall, Amersham, Fri 12 Apr
Based over the border in Herts, Lucky Geko creates themed Discovery Boxes with fun, educational items and tasks inside. For the Easter holidays the team is coming to our ‘hood to host a Discover Day in Amersham. The two and a half hour session is pirate themed with challenges for kids to complete in groups and ending with a treasure hunt. For children 8 – 12. Email email@example.com for more info.
Junior Chefs, Daylesford Cookery School, Wed 17 April
Dreaming of the day when you come home to find your offspring has cooked you dinner? Me too. I suspect this course won’t do that but it aims to get your tween (aged 8 – 12) interested in cooking, building skills, confidence and independence in the kitchen. Similar classes, but for the whole family, will run on Fri 19 and Sun 21 Apr. daylesford.com
Outburst Festival, Pegasus Theatre, Oxford, Thus 11 – Sat 13 Apr
Organised by Oxford Brookes University Outburst Festival, now in its eighth year, this showcases new research from across the university in a variety of activities and workshops, exhibits, events and discussion for all ages. Highlights for families include tai chi and kung fu lessons, comic book making and an interactive story telling event with local children’s authors Adam & Charlotte Guillain. There’s also street food, music, augmented reality (ooh!) and face painting. The festival is held in Muddy favourite, Pegasus Theatre. pegasustheatre.org.uk
SCIENCE: Egg-sperimental, Oxford Castle and Prison, Oxford, Fri 12 – Sun 14 Apr
Loads of eggy science activities for families going on over at the lovely Oxford Castle over the next couple of weeks. Sessions run from 12pm – 1pm and include dragon egg dying and decorating workshops (with vinegar, food colouring and bicarbonate of soda, it all sounds very messy!) egg drop challenges and a bouncy egg challenge to take home. oxfordcastleandprison.co.uk
Ever dreamed of locking up your teen for an hour or so? Er, yeah! Great for families or older kids, Escape Hunt in Westgate Oxford (you’re locked in a room for 60 minutes and decipher clues to get out) has five rooms, each with a different theme – Wild West, Blackbeard’s Treasure, The Fourth Samurai, Alice in Puzzleland and Doctor Who themed Worlds Collide. Muddy tried out Worlds Collide recently and I can smugly say we managed to escape- check out our survival guide here. escapehunt.com
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Milton Keynes Theatre, Tues 9 – Sat 13 Apr
For his first ever starring role in a major musical, Union J’s Jaymi Hensley dons the technicolour dreamcoat as Joseph at MK Theatre; all the iconic tunes plus new choreography from Gary Lloyd (Thriller Live, Heathers). Tickets here
Easter Pantos (yep, they’re a thing)
Pantos are just for Christmas you say? Oh no they’re not! Wycombe Swan put on a panto with the same team every Easter – this year it’s Peter Pan starring ’80s comic Bobby Davro, Dani Harmer (Tracy Beaker, Strictly) and Lloyd Warbey (Disney’s Art Attack), Wed 10 Apr. Over in Oxon, TaleGate Theatre Productions are performing The Little Mermaid at the Beacon, Wantage, complete with pop songs, magic and puppets, Fri 12 Apr.
Dinosaur World Live, Oxford Playhouse, Fri 12 Apr
Kids can explore uncharted territories and discover a prehistoric world of (remarkably life-like) dinosaurs at this interactive show. You’ll meet a host of impressive creatures, from Triceratops to every child’s favourite flesh-eating giant, the Tyrannosaurus rex. oxfordplayhouse.com
WillNE and Stephen Tries live, New Theatre Oxford, Sat 13 Apr
This will definitely get you in the good books with vlogging obsessed tweens and teens! YouTube personalities WillNE and Stephen Tries stop off at the New Theatre on their UK tour- the duo have over three million subscribers and over 355 million views on their channels. For bonus points, you can buy a VIP pacakge which includes a meet and greet and gift for £30. Tickets here
No doubt your children will be bouncing off the walls with the excitement of having two whole weeks off school (*groans*) so let them blow off some steam by actually bouncing around at this pop-up inflatable obstacle course at The Cheney School, Oxford, complete with slides and Disco Domes, Fri 12 – Sun 14 Apr. Tickets are £6.95, kids under two and adults go free. Suitable for children 2 – 10 years. Tickets here.
I’m always slightly puzzled by the enduring appeal of Thomas, though my oldest son would probably still choose ‘Episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine 2002 – 2007′ as his specialist subject on Mastermind. Anyway, kids can meet the big blue guy, his friends and The Fat Controller at Buckinghamshire Railway Centre (Fri 19 – Mon 22 Apr), with hop on rides, activities and stories throughout the day. Or head to Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway for tea on a steam or vintage diesel train and Chick Hunt on the platform (Sat 20 Apr). Trains run at 9.30am, 11am, 12.15pm, 13.35pm, 15pm and 16.30pm.
Warner Bros. Studios, Herts
Just when you think the Harry Potter hype is finally over, Warner Bros. figure out another way to get us through the door. On Sat 6 Apr, the studios unveil their biggest expansion to date, Gringotts Wizarding Bank full of with crystal chandeliers, original film props and, er, a gallery of goblins. The new set will be a permanent addition to the tour. wbstudiotour.co.uk
Legoland’s open! Windsor
Kids rejoice! Legoland reopened last month and is launching its new ride this Easter, on Sat 13 April, called The Haunted House Monster Party. Man of the house Lord Vampyre, Mummy and Monster Rocker will also be there for photos.
Legoland is also running cool, themed holiday workshops at its brand spanking new pop-up iLab in Paddington where kids can become mini engineers for the three day workshops. The Wonders of the World camp runs Mon 8 – Wed 10 Apr whilst Planes, Trains and Automobiles runs Mon 8 – Wed 10 Apr and Mon 15 – Wed 17 Apr. legoland.co.uk
Great Brick Safari, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Beds
More LEGO! New for Easter, Whipsnade Zoo introduces its Brick Safari- there’ll be loads of LEGO brick beasts and animals around the mammoth zoo (it’s the biggest in the UK doncha know) made from over one million bricks, as well as hands on family activities. Included in entry price. zsl.org
Warwick Castle, Warwickshire
It’s a jam packed Easter over at Warwick Castle with the brand new Falconer’s Quest- the biggest Birds of Prey show in the UK, with 70 majestic birds taking to the skies and doing all sorts of aerial acrobatics. Plus world exclusives! The world’s largest siege machine fires twice a day in a brand new show as well as the first Horrible Histories adventure maze featuring fun challenges, Terrible Tudors, Vicious Vikings, Storming’ Normals and more- a guaranteed winner with the kids. warwick-castle.com
Southbank Centre, London
Free fun by the bucketful if you’re heading to Southbank Centre this Easter with music from Camp Bestival regulars Dizney Rascal, cool folk singer London Rhymes and comedy theatre group Mrs H and the Sing-Along Band. Paid events include giant musical sandpits, an immersive colourful performance called Kaleidoscope and the brilliant Tabby McTat (Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler) Freckle Productions, the team behind Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales and Zog.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Power to your mobile, Film Oxford, Oxford, Mon 8 – Wed 10 Apr
Fledgling tween and teen Tarantinos or Bigelows can put their mobiles to good use (instead of that Snapchat malarkey) in this three day workshop where they’ll shoot and edit their own film from their phones. They’ll learn about creating storylines, shot types, editing, sound effects and more. filmoxford.org
Mud Pie Monday, Earth Trust, Abingdon, Mon 8 Apr
This one is all about getting muddy so naturally we’re all for it! This drop in activity day at the charming Earth Trust farm in Abingdon is suitable for kids under seven- there’ll be a mud kitchen to get creative (and messy!) Don’t forget wellies and, if you have one, a bucket and spade. earthtrust.org.uk
Photography School, Waddesdon Manor, Wed 10 Apr
As if the house opening for Easter isn’t enough of a draw, those clever sausages at Waddesdon are holding a day-long photography workshop for tweens and teens aged 10-15. Kids will learn how to creatively use light and colour to capture spring flowers and wildlife in the lovely grounds and also get to grips with the techy bits, aperture, shutter speed, exposure and all that jazz. On Sat 6 Apr there’s also an exclusive kid’s tour of Waddesdon’s art collections before it opens to the public with activities and snacks – no need to tag along so you can enjoy a child free couple of hours mooching round the collection yourself. Suitable for 7-12 years. waddesdon.org.uk
Nick Sharratt’s Right Royal Drawalong, Roxburgh Hall, Stowe, Wed 10 Apr
Illustrator and children’s author Nick Sharratt, of Tracy Beaker fame, hosts a drawalong to celebrate his latest book Nice Work for the Cat and the King (hence the royal theme). He’ll be giving a tutorial on how to draw his most iconic characters as well as unicorns, dragons and other fantastic creatures. The show lasts for 75 minutes, bring pens, pencils, paper and something to lean on. stowe.co.uk
In the Willows, Oxford Playhouse, Tues 9 Apr
Theatre’s going all hip hop- the West End may have Hamilton, but we have Metta Theatre’s production of In the Willows! Featuring Olivier Award winner Clive Rowe (Tracy Beaker) deaf street dancer Chris Fonseca (The Greatest Dancer), Seann Miley Moore (X Factor) and Matt Knight (Let It Shine), the classic Edwardian tale gets a revamp with Toad, Ratty and Badger spitting bars, backflipping and street dancing. Word. oxfordplayhouse.com
KIDS: Star Seekers, Cornerstone, Didcot, Wed 10 Apr
Fresh from a run at the National Theatre, The Wardrobe Theatre company perform Star Seekers, an interactive show exploring the galaxy through songs and silliness. It’s only an hour so great for little ones with short attention spans. Suitable for 3-8 years. cornerstone-arts.org