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Amazing August! 60+ things to do locally this month

New month, new marvellous Muddy guide to the best of Bucks and Oxon. Family festivals, lashings of outdoor theatre, fabulous foodie events, countryside antics and more. Get stuck in.

ART & EXHIBITIONS

‘Red Dots’ by Salomé, appearing in Young and Wild? at The Ashmolean

As always, Oxford’s Ashmolean makes for an easy, arty day out (thanks in part to the chilled-out roof terrace, which is the ideal spot to escape to during summer in the city). Their recently-opened Pre-Raphaelite exhibition is one of our top picks until it closes until late Nov, and there’s a curator talk on 4 Aug (both online and at the Museum) about the landscapes and John Ruskin in particular if you want to dig a little deeper. Prefer your art more modern? Check out the brand new exhibition called Young and Wild?, which explores the relationship between punk and paintings in 1980s Germany. Sehr gut.

Keeping things in the city, Adapt Transform, a new interdisciplinary exhibition about urban design is on display from 16 Aug across two venues from 16 Aug: Modern Art Oxford and The Glass Tank at Oxford Brookes. While you’re at MAO, don’t forget to check out their exhibition on activist Ruth Asawa, Citizen of the Universe, before it goes for good on 21 Aug.

Over in Bucks, MK Gallery has two new incoming exhibitions this month. First up, Yoga Life arrives from 5-14 Aug in collaboration with MK Hindu Association and Arts and Heritage Alliance MK, and reflects how yoga is used to express the Hindu identity. Next up, Kan Ya MaKan (which translates from Arabic to ‘once upon a place’) runs from 19-28 Aug and combines personal anecdotes and memories with traditional Middle Eastern design. Want to take the kids? On 20 Aug there’s a Kan Ya MaKan Story Time day, with half hour story slots running throughout the morning.

MUSIC

Miss Jones at Bletchley Park

Time to perfect those victory rolls: from 6-28 Aug, Bletchley Park is holding a Summer Concert Series of vintage music on their lawn, with a food truck to keep attendees’ hunger at bay. Expect 1940s and 1950s jazz and swing tunes from acts such as Miss Lily Lovejoy, who performed at Captain Tom’s 100th birthday.

Also running from 6-28 Aug, Glyndebourne rounds out its summer opera festival with a Poulenc Double Bill: La Voix humaine and Les Mamelles de Tirésias (both new for this year’s festival).

Don’t fancy Poulenc? Head for Waterperry Gardens for the fifth anniversary of its Waterperry Opera Festival, running from 12-20 Aug and comprising eight productions, including opera mainstay Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. We’re particularly intrigued by dance piece Figures in the Garden on 12 and 13 Aug, featuring dance students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and young local musicians from Oxfordshire County Youth Orchestra.

And now for something completely different: Stonor in Henley is bringing a taste of the White Isle to its glorious grounds for Café Mambo In The Park, an Ibiza-style dance music set hosted by Radio 1 DJ and dance connoisseur Danny Howard. Grab your sequins and dancing shoes and book your ticket for 12 Aug.

Stonor is also home to the Stonor Park Proms, which are out in full patriotic force on 14 Aug, with the sounds of London Gala Orchestra and the Spitfire MK XI punctuated by fireworks and flag-waving galore. Meanwhile, Bucks locals can pack a picnic and head to Campbell Park Amphitheatre for MK Proms on 19 Aug, with classic pieces from the 32-piece Alina Orchestra, a singalong with soprano Rebecca Bottone and a fireworks finale.

FESTIVALS & FAIRS

Wilderness

Speaking of music, we’re barrelling towards peak festival season here in Bucks & Oxon. Big hitter Wilderness Festival hits Cornbury Park in Chipping Norton from 4-7 Aug, with headliners including Underworld, Jungle and Years & Years, as well as names like Laura Mvula and Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Tickets are still available, so snap them up ASAP for a weekend of good music, food and lakeside hot tubs.

Ready the hairspray: Rewind Festival lands on Temple Island Meadows in Henley on 19-21 Aug with line-up worth of the Eighties. Names include Holly Johnson, The Human League, Level 42, Midge Ure and Belinda Carlisle. Heaven really is a place on earth!

Stowaway Festival has had a major glow-up since its beginnings as the Festival of Beer, and is now a three-day camping festival of music, food, wellness and all-round fun. It arrives on 19-22 Aug at Blackpit Farm in Stowe, beside the lake (perfect for the canoeing, paddle boarding, lake swimming and wood-fired hot tubs you can expect). Orbital, The Staves, and Elder Island headline the music stage, with Russell Kane and Suzi Ruffell on comedy, plus there’s plenty of sparkle and silliness for kids and grow-ups alike. Oh, and beer – naturally.

Over in Middle Claydon near Buckingham, Towersey Festival rounds out the month, taking place over the Bank Holiday weekend from 26-29 Aug. Held on the beautiful Claydon Estate, the festival is a whopping 58 years old, and is packed with music, comedy, dance and family-friendly entertainment. Names for this year include Imelda May, Turin Brakes, Kate Rusby and Del Amitri, with Bill Bailey popping up with his own brand of musical comedy.

Also taking place over the Bank Holiday weekend is Alex James’s headliner festival, Big Feastival. The musical line-up has more big names than you can shake a wedge of cheese at (The Human League, Anne-Marie, Stereophonics, Sugababes, Jake Bugg, Basement Jaxx, Eurovision breakout star Sam Ryder and loads more), but it’s the food we’re going for. There are demonstrations from Michelin-starred chefs, an M&S Food Cookery School, a dining tent hosted by local caterers Feast and so much street food you’ll need to wear stretchy pants. Head to Alex James’s farm in Kingham on 26-28 Aug to fill your boots.

Not to be outdone on the food or music front, Foodies Festival sets up shop at Oxford’s South Parks from 27-29 Aug. Expect Noughties nostalgia galore from the music – the line-up includes Natalie Imbruglia, Toploader, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Scouting for Girls, The Feeling, Five and East 17 – as well as Michelin-starred chefs, Bake Off and Masterchef winners, and master mixologists at work.

Away from sequin jackets and cider tents, there are plenty of country shows happening this month too. Park Fair is a newcomer for 2022, but we’re very excited – not least by the Laurent-Perrier refreshments on offer! This four-day fair takes place from 18-21 Aug at Great Tew Estate in Chipping Norton, and features boutique shopping from fash brands like RIXO and Desmond & Dempsey and lifestyle stores like The Modern Nursery, Grace Sisters and Olivia Morris at home, as well as feasting courtesy of Quince & Clover and workshops from the local foodies at Thyme.

Henley Country Craft Show arrives at Stonor over the Bank Holiday weekend, 26-29 Aug – perfect if you’re looking for a day out to keep the family entertained (Fido included). This year there’ll be over 200 indie businesses there, as well as gourmet street food, a children’s fairground, workshops and the classic falconry display.

Also held over this weekend (26-28 Aug) is the Oxford Storytelling Festival, which launched its inaugural event just last year at Waterperry Gardens. This year promises more of the same zen vibes, with stories, spoken word and music taking centre stage (or, tipi, more accurately) as well as workshops and classes (we’ll be headed for the laughter yoga).

THEATRE

While traditional theatre takes its summer break, open-air theatre is flavour of the month, with productions galore happening throughout the various manors and National Trust properties in the counties (aren’t we lucky?).

As part of The Oxford Shakespeare Festival, Siege Theatre is performing King Lear in the courtyard at Oxford Castle from 1-13 Aug (not including Sundays). This is such an atmospheric location for outdoor theatre, especially a tragedy, so nab a pew if you can.

Catch The Railway Children at Daws Hill Vineyard in Radnage on 6 Aug – their open-air production takes place with the incredible vines as a backdrop, and wine is naturally available to purchase from the bar.

At the Waterperry Gardens Amphitheatre, you can spot a family-friendly production of The Three Musketeers by Box Tree Productions if you’re visiting on 6 Aug. This jaunty musical is a lovely way to round out a day at the gardens, and will cost you £10 to £15 per ticket on top of your entrance fee.

At the National Trust’s Upton House in Banbury, there’s an outdoor production of Shakespeare classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Quantum Theatre on the South Lawn on 6 Aug. What better location than among the beautiful blooms and cedar trees of Upton’s gardens?

Millets Farm in Abingdon is hosting an evening outdoor performance of Much Ado About Nothing from Folksy Theatre on 9 Aug. BYOB (that’s bring your own blankets), and pre-order food and drinks when you order your tickets to scoff during the interval.

If you’re visiting Waddesdon Manor with the family on 21 Aug, keep an eye out for the open-air production of Robin Hood from Unbound Theatre. The performances are short and sweet (just 30 minutes long) and take place throughout the day at the Woodland Cafe.

To finish up the month, award-winning outdoor theatre company Illyria are staging The Pirates of Penzance on the Manor House lawn at Cogges Manor Farm in Witney on 23 Aug. Bring a chair or a blanket, and don’t forget to pre-order your picnic box for the interval!

FEEL GOOD FASHION

Hello dopamine dressing! Bicester Village has teamed up with Smiley® to launch a collection of beach-ready sliders, hats, t-shirts and more with all proceeds donated to BV’s DO GOOD charity partners. Visit the pop-up shop at the village (the collection is super-reasonable, with most pieces around £25), plus keep your eyes peeled for the bright yellow installations around the village – perfect Instagram fodder.

Bicester Village’s Extraordinary Sale is also running until 14 Aug with up to 70% off normal Village prices – and that includes many SS22 current season items. PLUS the Summer Evenings programme has started with live music, cocktail happy hours and 10pm opening every Thursday until 25 Aug.  

FOOD & DRINK

Foodies rejoice! Feast on Cloud 9 finally arrives at the Wormsley Estate in High Wycombe this month – we’ve been looking forward to this one ever since we tried Feast’s incredible catering at their Feast over Flame pop-up at Henley Regatta. Head to the Wormsley’s walled gardens and ancient orchard between 4-28 Aug (depending on whether you have an evening or lunchtime booking) to gorge on a nine-course tasting menu from the comfort of your very own wicker basket with hot air balloon.

Head to Great Linford Manor Park in Milton Keynes on 18 Aug for foodie festival Linford Eats. It’s free to enter, dog-friendly, and there are plenty of local artisans and street food stands on offer, from Neapolitan pizza and Punjabi street food to artisan toasties (!) – the hard part will be choosing what to scoff.

We love any excuse to visit The Yurt at Nicholson’s in North Aston, but an evening of English wine tasting with Gusborne Wines will certainly do the trick! Snap up tickets for 19 Aug for canapés, a two-course meal and a tutored tasting.

Ever fancied making your own wine? Sparkling wine specialists Daws Hill Vineyard are holding a wine-blending workshop on 20 Aug, where you’ll get to create your own bottles of white and rose fizz to take home. Pre-booking a taxi is strongly recommended! *hic*

More of a beer girl? Tap Social’s very own beer festival, Change is Brewing, takes place over the Bank Holiday (wise) on 28 Aug, at their Tap Social Taproom in the Curtis Industrial Estate in West Oxford. You can sample from over 13 different breweries, with street food to help you soak it up and live music to sway to.

OUTDOORS

A self-guided walk through the dreaming spires of Oxford, supporting plucky local indies and a rooftop drinks party? Sign us up, pronto! The Oxford branch of Annie Lennox’s charity The Circle is organising a Women of Oxford walk on 6 Aug, taking you round places of historical interest connected to women in the city, with optional stop-offs at local female-led businesses and finishing up with rooftop drinks at Courtyard by Marriott. Grab your gal pals and some trainers and hit the pavement.

If you’re visiting National Trust gem Hughenden in High Wycombe before 7 Aug, grab a chart and a pencil and spend a tranquil 15 minutes in their gorgeous gardens for the Big Butterfly Count. Spot as many as you can, log them on the sheet and feel better for being out in nature for a bit. Want more? There’s a whole litany of wholesome outdoor events on offer this month, from a Royalty in Nature family-friendly trail and a Mindful Monument walk (both available until 29 Aug) to woodcarving workshops (3 and 20 Aug) and an introduction to nature photography on World Photography Day, 19 Aug.

Meanwhile at Greys Court in Henley, August is a month for mindfulness. Take a deep breath and try one of their wellness events, including an Unwind Outside relaxing children’s nature trail, available until 10 Sept, ‘Relax Kids’ mindfulness workshops (think stretching, breathing and warm-up games) on 3, 17 and 24 Aug and a silent guided woodland walk on 16 Aug.

Brace your Instagram feeds – Millets Farm in Abingdon are once again welcoming local PYO flower farm Dahlia Beach to their fields from 20 Aug. You can PYO blooms from a selection of 4,000 (!) for £2 a stem, or go all-out and book a 2-hour flower experience for £50pp, which includes an arranging class, a photoshoot in front of the farm’s bright pink double decker bus, Poggy, and all the dahlias you can lay your mitts on.

Snap these tickets up ASAP: Turn End and Middle Turn, the award-winning Haddenham-based houses and gardens owned by architect Peter Aldington, have released more availability for their Open Day on 29 Aug. It’s a fantastic estate, and definitely worth exploring for the inspiration.

KIDS

First things first – you’ll want to check out our Summer Holiday Guide if you haven’t already, as it’s full to the brim with kid-friendly events happening this month, like Tumblestone Hollow’s Sparkle Bright Summer in Henley (above), running until 4 Sep. If you’ve ticked that off your list, here are a couple more local offerings just for you…

To kick off the month, The Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden is holding Danny’s Awesome Activity Week from 2 to 7 Aug. There are local countryside walks, junk modelling workshops, pottery sessions, storytelling and more. Need sustenance to see you through? Check out one of the pop-up summer food stalls frequenting the Museum this month. Over in Oxon, Wallingford Museum are holding a Big Art Day on 20 Aug, with royalty-themed crafting activities for kids included in the price of admission (think decorating their own castles and making puppets of kings and queens), while Oxford’s Museum of Natural History is teaching 10 to 14-year-olds how to become insect experts in a week with their Insect Investigators Summer School, 1-5 Aug.

Oxford Playhouse are bringing their family-friendly A-game this month, with Julia Donaldsons’s Zog and the Flying Doctors crash-landing (literally) into the theatre from 19-21 Aug, the spell-binding West End winner Dragons and Mythical Beasts (above) flying in from 26-28 Aug. In Bucks, the under fives will love Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever at the Wycombe Swan on 13-14 Aug and Milkshake! Live at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre on 29 Aug, while older kids will appreciate The Pantaloons’ version of The War of the Worlds, staged in the grounds of Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury on 5 Aug.

Ready for some major cuteness? Kew Little Pigs in Amersham is holding a Family Fun Open Day on 21 Aug, with plenty of opportunities for micro-pig cuddles, as well as a bouncy castle, face painting and games. Tickets cost just £10, which is a total bargain – snaffle them up quick!

End the month with a bang (literally) with Abingdon’s Summer Balloons and Fireworks Festival – the biggest in the country. Expect multiple musical fireworks displays, including one from the British Fireworks Champions Illusion Fireworks, as well as hot air balloons, a massive fairground, light shows and lasers, plenty of local food and buckets of Pimm’s to wash it down with. Book your ticket for 27 Aug.

Too much banging and crashing for you? Hop over the border to Windsor Racecourse for their Family Fun Day on 7 Aug, with live horse racing, pony rides and an inflatable fun fair. Hype them up on ice cream and watch them go.

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