SEE THE NEXT BIG THEATRE HIT
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre‘s new show has some serious creds to its name. Adapted from a bestselling book by Kate Pankhurst (descendent of Emmeline, no biggie), and made by the producer of the wildly successful musical Six, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World exploded onto the stage only in November, but has already earnt oodles of praise. It’s a family pop-musical that highlights — yep, you guessed it — famous women, from Rosa Parks to Marie Curie, alongside a killer soundtrack. Showing at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre from 5-8 Jan, it’s the perfect Friday / Saturday evening family activity. Tickets from £13.
BASK IN BEETHOVEN
From super-charged pop soundtracks to iconic classical music… On both Saturday (8 Jan) and Sunday (9 Jan), you can catch a concert celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth (one year late, #JustPandemicThings) at St John the Evangelist Church (Saturday) or St Michael & All Angels Church (Sunday), Oxford. This will feature the East Oxford Community Choir and Orchestra performing three seminal works by Beethoven, all written in the period 1807 to 1808: the Coriolan Overture, the Mass in C, and the Choral Fantasy. Can’t speak for you, but we don’t enjoy nearly enough classical concerts — time to up our cultural grown-up creds! Tickets from £8.
CRACK SOME CODES (& FITNESS GOALS)
Find exercise boring? Reader, we hear ya, and we have a super-cool solution. This month, Bletchley Park is offering a brand new test of mind and fitness: Operation Bletchley, which paints you as a WW2 spy that must run or walk 40 / 80 miles, depending on selection, before the deadline of 31 Jan. With every eight miles clocked (you track them via your phone or fitness tracker), a new code is unlocked for you to solve, with immersive stories offered along the way. There are three levels to choose from (junior, codebreaker and cypher expert), and the operation can be undertaken anywhere. The cost of £10 is used to support soldiers, veterans and their families, through ABF The Soldiers’ Charity. Cool, right? You best get cracking — there’s only until 31 Jan to complete the mission!
TRY A TOP-TIER TREAT
Are you making the most of our counties’ finest food offerings? Throw in a beautiful walk, and you’ve got a killer day planned. We heartily recommend taking a circular route through the pretty landscape around Nettlebed, between Henley and Wallingford, and then dropping in at the Nettlebed Creamery’s Cheese Shed for a truly killer cheese toastie. Dogs, cyclists, and muddy footwear (guilty!) welcome.
Or, go for a walk in the unspoilt Wendover Woods, near Aylesbury, before making a beeline for Rumsey’s Chocolaterie on Wendover High Street, for one of their famous, extra-indulgent hot chocolates. Sure, it’s not one for watching the waistline, but what better way to perk up a chilly winter’s day?
Another one not to be missed is the incredibly aesthetically-pleasing selection available at Quince & Clover, Great Tew, near Chipping Norton. There are hearty salads and fresh tarts galore, but it’s the buttery pastries and chunky sausage rolls that really set our hearts a-flutter. Perfect fodder to accompany a walk through the picture-perfect Great Tew Estate.
FOLLOW GREAT FOOTSTEPS
Remember the BBC Lark Rise to Candleford series? Swoon, young Ben Aldridge.
Why not track some of the hefty literary history of Bucks and Oxon this weekend? We’ve got a lot to boast about! Up in Buckingham you can enjoy a major collection dedicated to Flora Thompson (author of Lark Rise to Candleford) at the Buckingham Old Gaol Museum.
Or, near Farnham lies the village of Stoke Poges and its church of St Giles, which in the 18th century was the writing place of Thomas Gray’s famous “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”. (This has been heftily described as “probably still today the best-known and best-loved poem in English”, though we’ll forgive you for not having heard of it…) Take the heritage walk leading through the village and church, which is also where Thomas Gray is buried, and then around the magnificent Stoke Park, described in the poem (and featured in the first Bridget Jones film, for further creds!).
Of course, Oxford is bursting at the literary seams. C.S. Lewis (The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe) and J.R.R Tolkein (Lord of the Rings) were both part of a writing club called the Inklings, and you can easily take yourself on an Inklings walking tour of Oxford: visit Magdalen College, above (where C.S. Lewis taught, and where the Inklings often met), Exeter College (where J.R.R. Tolkien studied), and St Mary’s University Church (where C.S. Lewis preached, and also where Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows is buried). You can also trace the footsteps of Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland along the river and in Christ Church’s Great Hall. If you want more, The Oxford Story Museum has an immersive exhibit on the city’s thousand years of story history. That should do for now!
PLAY WITH COLOUR
Head on over to the History of Science Museum in Oxford this Saturday for a guaranteed hit of the bright and bold: Colourful Kaleidoscopes, a free, drop-in session running from 2-4pm. Taking place in the Basement Gallery, this interactive family activity will explore light, colour, and symmetry with mirrors. You’ll get to make your very own kaleidoscope to create unique, swirling patterns, and learn about the science of light as you go. Open to all, though you have to book a free ticket to enter the museum.
Ahem, not like that. Why not visit one of the highpoints of Bucks / Oxon for a sweeping view? Your Insta feed will thank you. For the best vistas, head to the top of the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, hike the Ivinghoe Beacon, on the Bucks/Beds/Herts border, visit the MK Gallery‘s Sky Room auditorium in Milton Keynes, or take on the steep route around White Horse Hill at Uffington, near Faringdon.