20+ fab and free things to do this month
Great intentions but small bank balance this month? We've got your back with a ton of ideas for a day out with mates, family or solo - from art and artefacts to winter walks and chatting books with a glass of wine.
New year, new outlook? Challenge the status quo with this thought-provoking exhibit of work by Jesse Darling, an Oxford born artist who has exhibited worldwide from the Tate to the Venice Biennale. No Medals No Ribbons explores how government, ideology and technology shape our experience of the world, and it’s free, at Modern Art Oxford (until 1 May).
Another inspiring and free exhibition going on in Oxford now is Changing The Story: Photographs Of British Life In Black And White (1917-1962). Put together by writer and performer, Dr Rommi Smith (above), it tells the story of the first half of the 20th century from a lesser-explored perspective. Catch it at The North Wall before it wraps up on 29 Jan.
The grand dame of Oxford is the classical colonnaded Ashmolean Museum where the permanent collections are free – so you can save your dosh for a champagne tea on the rooftop! The current free exhibition by Ali Kazim runs until 26 June and includes some striking portraits by the Pakistani artist who once had a residency at the Ashmolean.
The counties’ many bookshops are a rich mine of inspiring events, talks and signings. Blackwell’s Oxford hosts Philosophy in the Bookshop with Oliver Burkeman on 26 Jan and The Joy of Being Selfish with Honey Ross on 27 Jan. Award winner Mostly Books in Abingdon has regular author signing events – keep an eye on its insta, as does Chipping Norton’s Jaffe & Neale, alongside its monthly Book Club. Meet at 6.30pm on the first Weds of every month for a glass of wine and a literary chinwag.
FREE HISTORY LESSONS
With Bletchley Park on our doorstep, our local history is chock-full of kickass women and their contributions to WW2. Learn all about this fascinating shift in women’s history and how it has depicted in art with a free, online virtual talk courtesy of Bletchley Park’s Research Volunteer, Karen Lewis, and the MK Gallery’s Head of Exhibitions, Fay Blanchard, happening Wed 19 Jan at 1pm.
If you’re with the kids and the sarcophagi and mummies in the Ancient Egyptian gallery don’t get them excited, try the animal skeleton parade at the Museum of Natural History or the shrunken heads at Pitt Rivers Museum, round the back, which are all free but invite donations on entry. Old hand on the museum scene? Check out our Muddy insider guide to the hidden gems of Oxon and Bucks, many of which are free, like the Wycombe Museum and the Natural History Museum at Tring… who knew?.
FIT & FRESH
That lockdown puppy isn’t going to walk itself… so why not find some new terrain and get started on that new year fitness resolution while you’re at it? We’re loving the selection picked by the National Trust in Bucks and Oxon for a good old romp in the wintery countryside. There’s a three-miler around Buscot which follows the Thames then loops back, or blow away the cobwebs on White Horse Hill with this four mile loop starting from Uffington. At the other end of the counties is the Bradenham Beech Woods 4.4 mile circular, for classic Chilterns scenery and thigh-burning hills.
Been there, walked that? Make it your resolution to tick off these headline local walks – with the best views, landmarks or history, or if you’re walk needs to end with reward (check!) then we’ve found these walks near coffee shops and these 11 walks that end (or start!) at a pub.
HAVE A NOSEY
Lived in the ‘hood for yonks and STILL not pottered around the nooks and crannies of the dreaming spires? You should! This Oxford Univeristy website has all the info on which colleges have re-opened for tours and visits, plus opening times and prices. Christ Church is the biggie, but we love Balliol for the pretty quads and stripey chapel, Magdalen’s picture-book cloisters and Worcester (above) for its gardens and orchard.
GO FOR A SPIN
Dusted off the bike in 2022 and looking for somewhere to take it for a spin, then the Waddesdon Greenway is a nice easy starter. The new traffic free, tarmac and fine gravelled shared use path runs for 4km between Waddesdon Manor and Aylesbury Vale Parkway station. There’s more cycling inspo in our feature about the best outdoorsy adventures in the area, and we’ve found the best family friendly cycle routes for littler legs.
More local love…