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Antiques fair, chocolate shops, cyclists' paradise, hot yoga and free cups of tea... Life is looking good in Oxon and Bucks - read on for the latest news in food, culture and good times

Foodie news

Tap Social

Tap Social, the Oxford-based craft brewery that also provides training and employment for prison leavers, has just opened a new joint at the Lock29 in Banbury. Tap Social is the anchor tenant in this newly regenerated canal-side hub, which will boast a smorgasbord of indie food and drink vendors. Get yourself down there asap.

If grown-up chocolate is your thing, Montezumas has just opened a new store on Queen Street in Oxford. Expect glorious gift boxes, slabs of flavoured chocolatey delight (orange and geranium anyone?) and vegan options like dark peanut butter truffle bites (yom!). A much-needed cocoa-powered boost to this part of the town centre.

Chiltern Velo

Like riding bikes? Like stopping off in the glorious Chilterns for a cup of tea and slice of cake? Hey, you earned it – so pedal power your way over to Hawridge on the Bucks/Herts border where Chiltern Velo has just opened for business. You can get rickety bikes checked out at workshop, and the cafe is just days away from opening. It will sell freshly made cakes, scones, pastries, homemade soups and cream teas. Best add a couple of hills climbs to your route to work that lot off…

Relais Henley

Henley’s The Red Lion Hotel was put on the market in May 2020 and now, after a £3m makeover under the gaze of award-winning international hotelier Grace Leo, it is due to reopen on 15 July – just in time for the Regatta. It is being reborn as The Relais Henley, a boutique hotel with 40 rooms and suites, and all-day dining restaurant, The Clipper, plus The Quarterdeck Bar (are you getting the theme yet sailor?!) and the Deli for food on the go. 

Real! Life! Shopping!

Henley Decor Fair

After a year of lockdown, every last inch of our houses could do with a refreshing coat of paint and a spruce up. Thankfully, Henley Decor Fair (27 – 31 May) is coming to the rescue with over 180 of the UK’s best-known traders, selling art, bronzes, antiques, vintage finds, and one-off pieces that will breathe new life into that exhausted corner of your living room. There’s loads of exciting food and drink trucks too and live entertainment so, go for the shopping, stay for the prosecco. Tickets are on sale here.

PLUS we have TWO prizes of a pair of weekend tickets and Afternoon Tea up for grabs over on our Instagram.

Rejoice: culture returns!

MK Gallery

Woohoo! MK Gallery is back open, and with it, its big screen, which from 18 May will be showing Oscar winners Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari, Nomadland and Maya the Bee 3: The Golden Orb, so that’s everyone catered for. To help visitors get back into the swing of socialising, the gallery is offering a free hot drink to everyone in the first week of opening (until 23 May).

Community happenings

Cherry Tree Inn

Many pubs became a lifeline for their communities in lockdown stocking groceries or transforming into takeaways, but The Cherry Tree Inn in Stoke Row has taken things a little further. Landlords Dan and Natalie Redfern have transformed a small room in the pub into a community library and IT hub with over 300 books (expect a large section of cookery books, naturally) and volunteers to assist the less IT-savvy to get to grips with t’internet. Oh, and the 4-star accommodation and Michelin-rated food isn’t bad either.

Chiltern Lifestyle Centre

If you haven’t been driving around central Amersham of late, you might have missed the huge girders that are going up on a site just along from the station. Turns out Buckinghamshire Council is building a brand new, state-of-the-art leisure centre called Chilterns Lifestyle Centre that will host – among other facilities – a new pool, diving pool, climbing wall, hot yoga studio, luxury spa, library and cafe. Phew. It’s due to open at the end of this year. Get ready to buy your annual ticket.

And finally…

How do you feel about water parks? The BEST day out or blight on planet? Well, there’s one in the pipeline (geddit?) for Chesterton, near Bicester, as it has just been revealed that American waterpark chain Great Wolf Lodge has had planning approved for its first UK resort. There’s been a lot of local resistance to the park but the owners promise to bring in £200m of investment and over 600 jobs. Interesting to see how this one pans out…

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