Wild Watlington

Liz Nicholls

Genre

Nicola Shafer tells us how her love of the natural world led her to the publication of her new book

We are lucky to have beautiful natural local habitats. From our precious chalk grasslands to our rare chalk streams, from the beech woods filled with bluebells and wild garlic, to our ancient hedgerows rich with native species, to old oak trees and meadows, to the gardens and green spaces in the town.

My love of wildlife started as a child, encouraged by my parents and grandparents and a small flowerpress. However it is only since I got involved with the Green Plan, a collaboration between Watlington Climate Action Group and other local groups interested in conservation that I realised how much I didn’t know about ecology. I joined Watlington Environment Group and started to learn the names of flowers, the types of insects, the song of our birds and the importance of our chalk stream. Last year, I acquired a macro lens with which to take better photographs of our local wildflowers, and a whole new world of beauty opened up in front of my eyes. Previously on walks I might notice the flowers in passing but now, stopping to take a closer look the variety, colour, and structure of these wildflowers astounds me. Looking closer you often see that a single flower can be home to various small insects, and a food source or a resting place for a bee or a butterfly.

Thank you to Watlington Library for displaying Eleanor’s artwork from the book in July, and to The Granary Café for hosting an exhibition last month.

Wild Watlington, The Creatures of Watlington Parish is a tour of just some of what can be found on our doorstep. Written as a story book, it is full of information that will be appreciated by young and old alike, as we find out about the habitats that make up our landscape, and the creatures that share it. The book was illustrated by young artist Eleanor Short, who is a Year 8 student at Icknield Community College. Thank you to Watlington Library for displaying Eleanor’s artwork from the book in July, and to The Granary Café for hosting an exhibition last month.

In the last year, with the aid of apps, my grandmother’s guide to wild flowers, and patient friends with more knowledge than me, I’ve been able to learn a fair proportion of the flowers I find on the local hills and verges. In times gone past, we were intimately acquainted with the plants around us – what was edible, what was not, what could be used for a medical treatment, what could be used for warding off evil spirits, and what smelt good when added to bedding. Now most of us don’t even know the names! As a society we have lost so much of this knowledge, but it is worth the effort to reclaim it. Looking closer and recognising the flowers and plants around us bring a greater understanding and connection to our natural world and with it a greater desire to protect and restore it.

Around Watlington my favourite places for wildlife spotting are:

1. The Chilterns way through Greenfield and College Woods is beautiful and I often see deer there

2. Incredible wild flowers can be seen on the chalk grass of the Aston Rowant Nature Reserves

3. The Chalk Pits at the bottom of Watlington Hill is a quiet retreat to listen to birdsong

4. The Paddock behind Watlington Library is beautifully planted with pollinator friendly plants, a great place to spot different types of bees and butterflies

5. Watlington’s historical chalk streams and spring fed ponds such as the Willow Pond and Horse Pond host amphibians, invertebrates, ducks, and occasionally a water vole.

Get your copy

The book is on sale at So Sustainable on Watlington High Street, priced at £5, and limited edition prints are available at wildwatlington.uk

Music to pianists’ ears

Karen Neville

Genre

Pianoz.com opens a new flagship store on Maidenhead High Street

High-end piano store Pianoz.com has opened its flagship store on Maidenhead High Street. The new shop in the Old Post Office will add to the extensive retail offering in the area.

Spread across two floors, this new location offers one of the largest displays of high-end pianos in the country. Pianoz.com has around 300 pianos on display, from Steinway, Bosendorfer, and Yamaha to a selection of new digital instruments. Locals can ‘tinkle the ivories’ of exceptional antique and bespoke pianos, instruments of historical significance, and even some from blockbuster films.

Even if you are not buying a piano, you can still visit and make use of these interactive spaces

The flagship store also features a flexible performance space with two Steinway concert grands, practice rooms, a YouTube recording studio and teaching facilities – which are already being used by local community groups. Pianoz.com has plans to host events and masterclasses for local schools, with some of the top concert pianists and pop musicians who have purchased pianos from the brand, as well as lunchtime recitals and other events further down the line.

Pianoz.com owner, Adam Harper said: “We are thrilled to have opened our flagship store on Maidenhead High Street in this wonderful location. For us, this space is more than just a store, the outstanding facilities we have incorporated, such as the practice rooms, YouTube recording studio and teaching facilities mean that even if you are not buying a piano, you can still visit and make use of these interactive spaces.”

Book your visit

Pianoz at the Old Post Office is currently open on an appointment-only basis to give customers one-to-one attention and the opportunity to play the instruments without distraction. Appointments available on 0203 888 0880 or

Cliveden Literary Festival revels speakers

Karen Neville

Genre

The stunning Berkshire stately home will once again welcome a wealth of authors for the festival in October

A stellar line-up is being assembled for this year’s Cliveden Literary Festival which returns on October 15th and 16th at the iconic stately house in Berkshire.

This year’s festival features expert panels on Putin’s Russia, chaired by Simon Sebag Montefiore, and Zelensky’s Ukraine, with Serhii Plokhy and Anne Applebaum; Vogue’s editor-in-chief Edward Enninful on his rise to the top of the fashion world; a constellation of all-star novelists on their craft; expanding history’s horizons with William Dalrymple and Peter Frankopan; Succession’s Brian Cox on becoming Logan Roy; and Louise Perry daring to question the sexual revolution.

Renowned as a forum for lively discussion, innovative ideas, and political debate, the Cliveden Literary Festival has been described by Ian McEwan as ‘probably the world’s best small literary festival,’ and by Alain de Botton as ‘the most dignified and beautiful literary festival on the planet’.

Daniel Spiller has reached the finals in the Schwarzkopf Professional Colour Technician of the Year category and now awaits his fate at a black-tie event on November 28th at Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London.

The stylists submitted four photographs each demonstrating the breadth of their hairdressing expertise, showcasing evidence of both technical skill and creative ability. They will now submit a further four images for the final round of judging, which takes place in September.

A stellar line-up is being assembled for this year’s Cliveden Literary Festival

Run by a committee of writers and historians – Andrew Roberts, Natalie Livingstone, Catherine Ostler and Simon Sebag Montefiore – the Cliveden Literary Festival draws on Cliveden House’s unique history as a literary salon frequented by writers and thinkers including Alexander Pope, Alfred Lord Tennyson, George Bernard Shaw, Jonathan Swift and Sir Winston Churchill.

Natalie Livingstone, Chairman of the Cliveden Literary Festival, said: “We’re delighted to announce some of the speakers who will be joining us at the Cliveden Literary Festival this October. As ever, this year’s festival will see our fascinating line-up of speakers discuss – and at times fiercely debate – the most pressing issues of our era.”

Monica Ali • Brian Cox • Peter Frankopan • Edward Enninful • William Boyd • Anne Applebaum • Robert Harris • William Dalrymple • Clarissa Ward • Sebastian Barry • Abi Morgan • Serhii Plokhy • Olesya Khromeychuk • Louise Perry • Jonathan Freedland • Howard Jacobson • Tina Brown • Ben Okri • Mark Galeotti • Julia Samuel • Merve Emre • David Nott • Katy Hessel • Radek Sikorski • Yana Peel • Flora Yuchnovich • Michael Gove • Andrea Marcolongo • Inaya Folarin Iman • Daisy Dunn • Nadhim Zahawi • Robert Hardman • Wesley Kerr • Sam Leith • Joanne Cash • Jonathan Haslam • Mikhail Zygar Harry Mount • Antonia Romeo • Luke Johnson • Albert Read • Octavius Black • Simon Heffer • Andrea Elliott • Lucasta Miller • Alice Thomson • Camilla Tominey • Roy Foster • Wyre Davies • Natalie Livingstone • Simon Sebag Montefiore • Catherine Ostler • Andrew Roberts

More info...

A sell-out success every year, tickets are on sale now clivedenliteraryfestival.org

Peter Rabbit & pals at Blenheim

Round & About

Genre

Looking for something fun and immersive to do with your little bunnies in a gorgeous setting?

The Peter Rabbit Garden Adventure is the fabulous live immersive experience in the grounds of Blenheim Palace until 3rd September.

We have some happy bunnies here at Round & About who have loved the magical mix of storytelling, live performance, and puppetry.

Developed in association with Frederick Warne & Co, this is the first time Peter Rabbit has appeared in this way, and is also a first for World Heritage Site Blenheim Palace which has allowed unprecedented access for families trying to save Peter Rabbit from ending up in Mr McGregor’s pie.

The Peter Rabbit Garden Adventure is a fabulous live immersive experience in the grounds of Blenheim Palace

This 50-minute immersive adventure celebrates Beatrix Potter’s beloved rabbit who has starred in 250 million books sold since he first appeared at the start of the 20th century. The experience has been created by the team behind Autumn Treasure Hunt with Percy The Park Keeper At Chiswick House & Gardens.

There are also free activities on site and a Peter Rabbit Farm Shop.

Find out more

For more info or to book your trip please visit PeterRabbitGardenAdventure.com & blenheimpalace.com

Cheers! Best wines for summer

Round & About

Genre

Columnist Giles Luckett recommends some sensational summer sippers available locally.

Hello.

Summer is a brilliant season for wine lovers. There’s nothing quite like being able to sit in the sun and sip some time away in the company of a diverting glass or two. Over the last 30 years, I’ve written dozens of best of the summer wines columns, most of them under strict deadlines.  Not because of pressure from my editor, but because spells of good weather have often lasted about as long as a bottle of Graham Beck Rosé (Majestic £11.99) lasts in my house. The current two-person record being 14 minutes and 18 seconds.

That certainly isn’t a problem this year. And with the forecast for our part of the country giving better odds on cloudy with a chance of meatballs than rain, here are some summer sipping wine recommendations that should bring a smile to even parched lips.

First up, a fizz. I’ve always been passionate about sparkling wines, and the last few years have proved a golden age. When I joined the wine trade, Harrods’ wine department reflected the mood of the times by listing a wide range of Champagnes but virtually no sparkling wines.

This was great for tastings – the evening we spent tasting every Champagne in the shop was one of the best tastings I’ve ever attended – but woeful for the wallet. Good (drinkable) sparkling wine was rarer than a hen’s dentures, but how things have changed…

South Africa, Australia, California, France (who knew?), and Italy all offer great tasting; great value fizzes these days. For this column, though, I’m going to recommend a homegrown wine, the Denbies Whitedowns (Waitrose £18.99). This is everything you could wish for in a sparkling wine. From the fresh, floral, white berry nose to the refined, zesty palate with its flavours of pears, citrus, and peach stones, it’s complex as it is and refreshing.

There's nothing quite like being able to sit in the sun and sip some time away in the company of a diverting glass or two.

Next up, the first of two whites. CUNE is one of the great names of Rioja. Wines such as Vina Real and Imperial are the stuff of wine trade legend, and even their entry-level Crianza (Sainsbury’s £7.50. No, seriously £7.50, I couldn’t believe it either) is brilliant. Their whites can be just as compelling, and the Cune White Rioja is deep joy Barrel fermented; this traditionally styled white Rioja offers masses of peach, red apple, and honeydew melon fruit, with overtones of spicy vanilla. Versatile enough to partner with white meats, fish, or creamy cheeses, it’s also lovely on its own.

My second white couldn’t be more different. It’s the Wine Society’s Vihno Verde (£6. ) Portugal’s wines have been a trade secret for years, though attention has focused on the reds. I’ve had quite a few of their whites of late, and if you’re looking for value and excellence, look no further. The Society’s Vihno Verde is a wonderfully pure, clean, fresh-tasting wine that is light, delicate, and has a touch of spritz to it Fruit-driven; it has a pear and almond flavour to it that finishes with a twist of lemon. The perfect summer evening sipper or elegant aperitif.

If you’re looking for a serious rosé for summer sipping, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Domaine des Echardieres (£9.50). This is made by Vineyard Productions, which is headed up by Liam Stevenson, the youngest ever Master of Wine and someone who holds world records for rowing across the Atlantic. Hero worship is due, especially when you try his wines. The dedication to the cause of creating great wines with a ‘taste of place’ shines through this delicious Loire Valley wine. Made from Cabernet Franc, Gamay, and Malbec, it offers an intriguing blend of blackberries and green peppers from the Cabernet, cherries from the Gamay, and a richness and a hint of ripe plums from the Malbec. This is an outstanding choice in a cluttered and often disappointing rosé market, where presentation counts for more than contents.

And so to the reds. My first choice is a perennial summer favourite of mine, the Zuccardi Los Olivos Malbec (£11.50 Oxford Wine Company). I’m a massive fan of Argentinean Malbec, and Zuccardi is one of the finest producers of it. Inky purple, the sumptuous nose is a combination of stewed black fruits, offset by notes of raspberries and rose petals. In the mouth, it’s generous, full, multi-layered, and offers everything from blackcurrants and chocolate to red berries and charcoal. This is an absolute must for barbecued red meats.

And finally, another wine from Liam, the Petite Immortelle (£11.95 Vin Cognito). This hails from the South of France’s Roussillon region and is a traditional blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Carignan. Earlier this year, I tried this with its big brother, the Immortelle (£20.95 Dawe Wines), and I knew that both would make my top ten wines of the year. The Petite Immortelle is approachable now (its big brother is a beast that needs time to show its full beauty) and offers up masses of sweetly toned black fruits, plum skins, smoke, herbs, and a long minerally finish. This is another outstanding wine from a winemaking team that is doing some fantastic things.

Until next time...

Well, that’s me, for now at least. Given a following wind and an available glass, I’ll be back soon with a few words on affordable fizz.

Giles

Thame Food Festival bursary winner announced

Karen Neville

Genre

Popular food festival runs on September 24th & 25th and this year more than 180 artisan producers are set to take part

Hartley’s Cookery School, based in Haddenham, has been awarded the Thame Food Festival bursary for 2022.

The bursary, reinstalled after sponsorship by Pinkster Gin, was established a few years ago to celebrate and promote newly-formed artisan food business within a 30-mile radius of Thame.

Hartley’s Cookery School aims to offer cookery class and chef table experiences which explore food, why certain ingredients or techniques are used and how to prepare and cook it. While also creating an environment that is fun and appealing for everyone – whatever their ability.

Creating an environment that is fun and appealing for everyone

Simon Hartley, Chef and owner of Hartley’s Cookery School said of the win: “I am delighted to be receiving this bursary and the support of the team at Thame Food Festival. Since opening our doors at Bradmoor Farm in January it’s been amazing to welcome and cook with our first guests at the school. We want to be a community-led business and have so enjoyed building relationships with other food producers and suppliers. Our vision for the school is to share my knowledge and passion for food in a relaxed environment, offering fun-filled courses for all abilities. Whether you’ve never picked up a knife or are a seasoned foodie, there’s something for everyone!”

The bursary includes an award of £1,000, a free pitch at this year’s Thame Food Festival, content in the festival programme, the opportunity to have an interview in the Food Glorious Food marquee and help with PR and social media.

Previous winners have included Ozi Lala, who has gone on to win Great Taste awards for his unique food products and the original winner was Lisa Hartwright of Tess’ Brilliant Bakes. Both of whom are going from strength to strength and still play an active part in the food festival too.

Supporting young businesses that have the same ethics as the festival is an important part of what we try to do

Patron and event co-ordinator Lotte Duncan said: “We are delighted to be in a position to offer a bursary again – thanks to Pinkster Gin. As a Community Interest Company, supporting young businesses that have the same ethics as the festival is an important part of what we try to do. It was such a pleasure to meet Simon and his partner and hear what they are trying to achieve by giving people friendly, fun cookery courses while learning about the provenance of their food.”

What will he spend the bursary on? Simon said: “As we have only been trading for just over five months, we are looking to use the bursary to invest in upgrading our website, signage and professional photography. Plus, use the support of the judges to broaden awareness of us and explore how we can potentially look at supporting initiatives in the community too.”

Find out more about them at Hartley’s Cookery School and to book tickets for the festival go to Thame Food Festival

Respect your elders! Five recipes

Liz Nicholls

Genre

August is the zenith of elderflower season, with this floral yet tropical flavoured plant gracing many a hedgerow in this gorgeous part of the world.

The plant is known for its white flowers which sprawl out of the stem and will begin to flourish from May lasting through to August, when it then begins to develop purple elderberries.

The fresh, floral, and slightly tropical taste makes the flower a great base for many recipes. The taste is often compared to a more floral version of pear or lychee.

Most commonly, elderflower is found in cordial drinks, but the versatile ingredient has far more to offer…

How to spot elderflower

Elderflower’s most recognisable element is its sprawling white flowers which look like a burst of small creamy petals. The tree itself will be small in size, often just a shrub. It is plentiful throughout the UK and often grows in woods, hedges or even in parks or on big streets. However, before you even spot the flower, you may be able to smell it! Elderflower has a distinctive aroma which many liken to ‘the smell of summer’ – it should smell floral and creamy. If the flowers have a brown colour or smell musty, it’s best to leave that plant. Lastly, be sure you’re not confusing elderflower with other similar looking plants like Pyracantha or Cow Parsley. If possible, take a photo of elderflower with you so you can compare. Remember that elderflowers grow from woody, leafy branches, have 5 rounded petals and yellow anthers.

How to prepare your elderflower

If you can, try to pick your elderflower in fair weather. The blooms will be packed with pollen and it’s this which gives the plant its signature taste. Poor weather can mean that the pollen has been washed or blown away, resulting in a less flavourful return. It’s also worth avoiding any elderflowers from beside road or railway lines as these can be tainted with fumes, instead try to wander farther afield for your crop. This is important as when you come to prepare your flowers, you shouldn’t wash them, as this will remove the aforementioned pollen.

Instead, pick off any bugs then trim the blossoms into a container ensuring you gather any pollen that falls away. Discard the stems. It’s best to use elderflower right away, but if you do need to store it, place your flowers in a paper bag and keep in a cool, dry place.

Recipe ideas

Champagne

Elderflower Champagne is the perfect, elegant use for these flowers. To make a batch of your own you’ll need sugar, lemons, and some white wine vinegar.

A simple recipe can be found from River Cottage requiring only basic equipment and some appropriate bottles of choice, just make sure these have a cork or stopper to create that fizz!

This recipe requires a little patience as you’ll need to wait at least a week before your batch is ready. If you plan on storing your champagne, you may need to pop the lid occasionally to release excess pressure from building up.

Once ready, the drink makes a perfect garden party tipple, ideal for sharing with friends!

Fritters

This recipe is much simpler than it sounds. All you need is flour, baking powder, icing sugar and sparkling water. Simply mix the first three ingredients together then add your sparkling water. Aim for a thick texture that is still a little runny. Once ready, dip in your elderflower heads then add to a pan of hot, but not smoking, oil. The fritters should turn golden brown and be ready to remove in under a minute. Once ready, remove and leave to dry on kitchen paper, then dust in icing sugar or serve with a drizzle of honey. For a more adventurous taste, swap out the sparkling water for beer or ginger beer for a different twist.

Sorbet

Sorbet is a simple and versatile way to use your elderflowers. Bring two parts water and one parts sugar to a boil, add in your ingredients, simmer, cool for at least an hour, leave to infuse, strain, then pour into containers to freeze.

The best thing about creating sorbet is that you can experiment with flavours. Some great options to add to your elderflower include lemon, gin, strawberry, or rhubarb. A perfect cooling dessert for summer that’s easy to make, store and enjoy. Top with fresh fruit, biscuits, or add to sparkling wine for a simple, yet elegant, cocktail.

Tea

One effortless way to use your elderflower is to make tea. All you need for this is your elderflower cuttings, a cup and something to strain the liquid. Once you’ve trimmed your elderflowers, hang them upside down in a light, airy place to allow the flowers to dry out. Once done, keep your elderflower in a tin and store for when you want to make a cup. To make the tea, all you need to do is add elderflowers to boiling water and allow it to infuse. After a few minutes, strain the liquid into a cup of your choice. Alternatively, if you have a tea strainer, simply put your elderflowers cuttings inside and cover with hot water.

Cake

Last but not least, elderflower has always been a firm favourite with bakers, giving cakes a sweet but subtle twist. Royal fans may remember that Harry and Meghan opted for a lemon and elderflower cake at their wedding, adorned with fresh flowers. There’s a wealth of options if you’re looking to use elderflower in baking from adding into the mix, creating an elderflower syrup, or mixing it into a buttercream filling or topping. When it comes to the perfect flavour pairings, lemon is often the most popular choice, but pistachio, raspberries, or blueberries also make great combinations. For the perfect summer showstopper, try drizzling your cake with icing and topping with edible flowers.

“Elderflower can be a wonderfully diverse ingredient, while its flavour is distinctive, it’s sweet and floral nature means it pairs well with a wealth of other flavours,” says Kate Cartwright of Burleigh Pottery.

“Luckily in the UK, elder trees are abundant, meaning it’s highly likely you’ll be able to forage some elderflower for yourself. Just look out for the bursts of white flowers which should be blooming anytime now. When done responsibly, foraging is a great way to take advantage of the wonderful wild plants and ingredients we have in our country. Using local ingredients allows us to be more sustainable and cooking with wildflowers such as elderflower embraces and celebrates the ingredients we have all around us.”

A final word

It’s important to be responsible when foraging and there are some basic principles you should follow:

• Don’t take more than you need.

• Be careful not to trample or damage plants.

• Leave lots behind.

• Be sure you have identified the plant before consuming.

• Seek permission on private land.

• Elderflower mildly toxic when raw. Cooking destroys the toxic chemicals.

Marlow Best Kept Village

Liz Nicholls

Genre

Congratulations to Marlow, Best Kept Village!

Marlow has been awarded a certificate of merit in Buckinghamshire’s annual Best Kept Village Competition — “fully deserved” according to the competition’s administrator.

The judges’ comments included: “Excellent floral displays – strong community effort – in Jubilee colours”, “Areas around shops and pubs were to a very high standard” and“Good evidence of community effort in the town”.

“Excellent floral displays – strong community effort – in Jubilee colours”, “Areas around shops and pubs were to a very high standard” and“Good evidence of community effort in the town”.

Mayor Richard Scott said: “We’re delighted with the merit for Best Kept Village — the competition is fierce. I’m particularly impressed with the judges’ comments about community effort and would like to thank residents, businesses and Council workers for keeping our town clean and beautiful.”

Founded in 1957, the Best Kept Village Competition’s objective is to encourage entrants to work together as a community, involving all age groups, to make villages and towns more attractive places, not only for residents but also for visitors. The winner was Stony Stratford, with Wendover the runner-up.

Music & magic this summer

Liz Nicholls

Genre

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy some wonderful outdoor entertainment and Chapterhouse Theatre Company have just the ticket with their open-air theatre and concert tours.

What’s more, we’ve teamed up with them to offer competition to win a family ticket to enjoy 21st Century ABBA! Read on for details of all the shows which are sure to delight you…

Chapterhouse have been touring open-air theatre since 2000, making this year’s their 22nd anniversary tour. This year the critically acclaimed company have concentrated on productions that have elements of romance, beauty and fine story telling. Chapterhouse present some of the most entertaining and exhilarating events of the summer with music from one of the UK’s finest ABBA, Elton and Queen tribute concerts.

21st Century ABBA

Following on from last year’s sell-out shows, this is an evening of hit after hit with songs you know and love from Waterloo, Mamma Mia, Take a Chance on Me, Super Trouper to many, many more?

21st Century Abba faithfully recreates all the greatest hits of one of the world’s most famous group combining stunning vocals, live musicians, and glittering costumes.

There are opportunities for pre-show drinks with family and friends, dressing up nights and singing along to favourite songs, join us for an exhilarating evening of the dancing queens of 21st Century ABBA performances.

21st Century Elton

21st Century Events presents a fabulous evening of one of the world’s greatest songsmiths Elton John with hit after hit including Rocket Man, Your Song and Candle in the Wind from one of the country’s finest performers as seen on Britain’s Got Talent.

We can’t wait to welcome family and friends to picnic in some of the UK’s and Ireland’s finest gardens and thrill to a wonderful performance of Elton’s greatest songs. Summer returns with magical music in magical surroundings.

21st Century Queen

Prepare for the concert of a lifetime as 21st Century Queen recreates many of the bands best known and loved hits including We Will Rock You, Radio Ga Ga, and possibly the best known single of all time Bohemian Rhapsody

Performing hit after hit of arguably the greatest rock bands of all time and combining stunning vocals and live musicians, 21st Century Queen promises the thrill of hearing the music in an exciting and extraordinarily atmospheric concert performance.

Head along with family and friends, picnic in some of the UK and Ireland’s most beautiful gardens and surroundings and enjoy a wonderful performance of Queen’s greatest hits! What could be more fun in the summer sun!

Romeo & Juliet

Chapterhouse Theatre Company are pleased to announce a wonderful new production of Romeo and Juliet. This best-loved story of star-crossed lovers and feuding families shall be performed in the gardens of some of the UK and Ireland’s most glorious country houses throughout the summer and promises to be one of the most sought after events of the open air season.

Dressed in beautiful Elizabethan costume and performed by a fine troupe of Shakespearean players join Chapterhouse for the greatest love story ever told as we perform magical theatre in magical surroundings.

Pride & Prejudice

Take a step back in time as we meet Elizabeth Bennett and her sisters. While their interfering mother engineer’s various courtships, Elizabeth and Jane must pursue their own quest for true love.

Amid mistakes and miscommunications, can Elizabeth finally surpass her prejudices to see past the proud exterior of the enigmatic Mr Darcy?

Join family and friends for what promises to be the most splendid evening of the summer as you picnic under a beautiful summer sky and lose yourself in this unforgettable love story.

Cinderella

In an enchanted kingdom in a faraway land magical creatures and fairy godmothers come together to tell the best loved of all fairytales.

Full of song, mirth, and joy for the summer ahead, join us on Cinderella’s journey of a lifetime to a magical ball where nearly anything is possible especially if it is before midnight.

Family and friends are welcome to picnic in the grounds in some of the most beautiful gardens in the UK and Ireland.

Children old and young alike are invited to dress in their favourite fairy tale characters and join for the midsummer ball dance.

Win tickets

We’ve got a family ticket to 21st Century Abba to give away! Click here to enter


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Gardens to visit this summer

Liz Nicholls

Genre

Kate Harrison of the National Open Garden Scheme invites us to enjoy some pockets of paradise in West Sussex.

Whitehanger

Marley Lane, Haslemere, GU27 3PY

National Open Garden Scheme_Whitehanger

Thanks to The National Garden Scheme, last year garden-lovers helped raise more than £3 million for charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Hospice UK, The Queen’s Nursing Institute, Carers Trust & Parkinson’s UK.

Whitehanger is just one of the beautiful gardens open this month. Set in six acres on the edge of the South Downs National Park and surrounded by NT woodland, this rural garden was started in 2012 when a new Huf house was built on a derelict site. There are now lawned areas with beds of perennials, a serenity pool with koi carp, a wildflower meadow, a Japanese garden, a sculpture garden, a woodland walk, a large rockery and an exotic walled garden.

Plan your visit

Whitehanger is open on Sunday 7th & Sunday 21st August, 10.30am-3.30pm. Entry is £6.50 and you need to book here. Groups of between five and thirty can also visit by arrangement throughout August, September and October.

Details of all the gardens open in West Sussex can be found on the National Garden Scheme Website or in the National Garden Scheme yellow booklet.

54 Elmleigh

Midhurst, Sussex, GU29 9HA

National Open Garden Scheme_54 Elmleigh

Another lovely local garden opening is at 54 Elmleigh, this property has a terraced front garden leading to a heavily planted rear garden with majestic 120-year-old black pines, shrubs and perennials, packed with interest around every corner, providing all-season colours. There are many raised beds, sculptures, vegetables in boxes, a greenhouse, pond and hedgehogs in residence as well as a large collection of tree lilies, growing 8-10ft.

Plan your visit

Open on Saturday 13th & Sunday 14th August, 11am-5pm. Entry is £4 (children free) and you’ll find homemade teas: It’s also open by arrangement throughout August; click here.

Fittleworth House

Bedham Lane, Pulborough, RH20 1JH

National Open Garden Scheme_Fittleworth House

This three-acre, tranquil, romantic, country garden also a walled kitchen garden growing a wide range of fruit, vegetables and flowers, a large glasshouse and old potting shed, mixed flower borders, roses, rhododendrons and lawns. There’s a magnificent 115ft tall cedar overlooking a wisteria-covered Grade II listed Georgian house (not open), wild garden, long grass areas and pond, stream and rock garden.

Plan your visit

Fittleworth is open on Wednesday, 10th August, 2-5pm. Entry is £5 (children free) and you’ll find homemade teas: Pre-book or pay on the day. It’s also open by arrangement: book here.

Details of all the gardens open in West Sussex can be found on the National Garden Scheme Website or in the National Garden Scheme yellow booklet.