Maestro Matthew Taylor of Farnham Sinfonia

Round & About

Old Woking

Diana Martin tells us more about Matthew Taylor, the man behind Farnham Sinfonia

There really couldn’t be a better time to write an article on local composer and conductor Matthew Taylor, for the Oscar nominated Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro is due to show at Farnham Maltings in February…Matthew was one of Bernstein’s protégées! 

Bernstein, who is known for composing one of the most successful musicals ever, West Side Story, had an inspired conducting style which led to his big break conducting the New York Philharmonic in 1943. He was one of the first American-born conductors to lead world-class orchestras and achieve success globally. Maestro tells the audience of Bernstein’s complex life, his musical fame and his marriage.

During his twenties Matthew was selected by Bernstein as one of three conductors to attend the Schleswig Holstein Musik Festival – when young musicians from all over the world are given the opportunity to study and perform great works from the orchestral literature with famous conductors.   During the summer Matthew continued to conduct concerts with Bernstein in Northern Germany. Matthew was a friend of Bernstein’s until his death in 1990.  He recalls with amusement Bernstein’s ability to put young musicians at ease by reciting limericks, some of which were quite risqué.

Matthew felt a passion for music at a very young age when his father would play Beethoven to keep him amused rather than playing nursery rhymes.  This led to his lifelong enthusiasm with music as he became both a conductor and composer.  He says, ‘Beethoven has always been central to all my thought processes as a composer.  I still find more life force in his work than in any living composer.’

Over the years, Matthew has appeared as Guest Conductor with many renowned orchestras both at home and abroad and which included many first performance pieces by Robert Simpson, Vagn Holmboe, David Matthews and James Francis Brown.  Matthew has also held significant roles such as Artistic Directorships, Composer in Residence and Lecturer in Composition at the Royal Academy of Music.  He currently works at the Yehudi Menuhin School, supporting the development of his students.

Matthew’s recent work includes his 6th Symphony which was commissioned by the family of Malcom Arnold for the composer’s centenary celebrations. Matthew has long been an advocate for Malcolm Arnold’s music. This work will be broadcast later this year with Matthew conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Having moved to Farnham in 2010, a town that he considered home to many artistic people, Matthew decided to form an orchestra and the Farnham Sinfonia was born. Over time, his vision became a reality, and the orchestra nurtures the next generation of musical talent by inviting young aspiring musicians to perform solo with a professional orchestra. This is a unique proposition for the students and graduates alike and underlines Matthew’s enthusiasm to promote young talent.

Sinfonia’s Outreach programme includes Matthew and Lead Violinist Elizabeth Cooney visiting local schools and colleges to fill the gaps in musical education. Matthew is keen to impart his musical abilities with the rising stars of the future as well as nurturing the orchestra to its full potential.

The next concert is on Saturday, 23 March at 7.30pm at St Andrew’s Farnham.

Mahler – (theme from Death in Venice)

Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 2 and Two Romances

Schumann – Fairytale (for Viola)

Hindemith – Trauermusik

Piazzolla – Spring

For further information on Farnham Sinfonia (CIO), please go to their website

Big Balloon Build raises over £10,000

Round & About

Old Woking

Local charities’ funds inflated by colourful display of more than 125,000 balloons with the help of Surrey’s Peanut Balloons

Surrey balloon artist Amy Brown has raised more than £10,000 for charity with her Big Balloon Build, an incredible festive display of creativity in December.

More than 1,000 people visited the Big Balloon Build created out of 125,000+ balloons and built in just under four days.

“I’ve seen such wonderful achievements from all the artists involved and incredible possibilities of what can be created out of the humble latex balloon on my journey with the Big Balloon Build,” said Amy, who owns and runs Peanut Balloons in Thursley. “Since my first build in 2017, I have wanted to bring this impressive world to the people in my area, so by bringing it home, I have not only been able to do this, but also help local charities within the community too.”

As a certified balloon artist, Amy has more than 15 years of balloon industry experience and loves the new challenges that balloon decorating brings. This was her sixth Big Balloon Build.

Seventy five of the best balloon artists were selected from around the world to come to the UK and transform the Charterhouse Club at Charterhouse School into a unique, walk-through balloon world, filling the 12,500 square foot Sports Hall.

The impressive display was created in just three and a half days although Amy worked for months behind the scenes with designers and organizers from the Big Balloon Build to bring this incredible event to Surrey.

Visitors were taken on a journey from London to the North Pole made entirely out of biodegradable, natural latex balloons and saw Big Ben, shops, enchanting elf villages, a ski slope with a skiing bunny, life-size reindeer ushering Santa’s sleigh across the winter sky and so much more. Paddington was certainly very popular.

One of those which benefitted was Meath Epilepsy Charity., Lucy Miguda, head of fundraising said: “This was incredible, it totally blew my mind!”

A VIP launch party was held with more than 80 guests including The Mayor of Waverley Cllr Penny Rivers, The Mayor of Godalming Cllr Adam Druce and The Mayor of Guildford Cllr Masuk Miah. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, and his family joined in on the fun stopping by for a look when the build opened to the public Friday 15th to Sunday, 17th December.

“We had a lovely time at the balloon event, we have never seen anything like it and had to go around twice,” said Kimberley Burmingham, an associate at Phyllis Tuckwell.

“We are so very happy to receive this wonderful donation, which we will use to provide vital play and leisure opportunities to local disabled young people across the South East, so they can have fun and enjoy new activities with their friends,” said Becky Cox from Disability Challengers.

All profits from ticket sales have been donated in an equal split between the five charity partners: Disability Challengers, Action for Children, The Meath Epilepsy Charity, Phyllis Tuckwell and Farnham Youth Choir. The five charities will split the $10,000 raised to help children in the greater Surrey area.

“The funds raised from the Big Balloon Build could support up to 380 children by paying for soft furnishings for a young person moving into care, helping them to make their room feel like their own,” said Sam Jones, regional manager at Action for Children.

Generous sponsorships were also given from Brewers Decorator Centres and Dominos Pizza Guildford-Stoughton branch who provided a group trip for the delegates to Wisley Glow and evening pizzas for them too. “We are extremely grateful as without the delegates, these fundraising events don’t happen!” said Brown.

Gemar Balloons, a leading manufacturer of 100% bio-based rubber balloons, donated all 125,000+ balloons to the cause and PremiumConwin, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality balloon  inflators and ecofriendly balloon accessories, provided all equipment to inflate the Christmas Wonderland.

A career in caring

Round & About

Old Woking

If you or a loved one benefit from care whether on a daily or occasional basis you’ll value the importance of the carer in your life

Rewarding is the word most often used to describe what it means to be a carer, whether it’s just playing cards, a trip to the shops or attending to medical needs, what you do as a carer can make a real difference to someone’s life.

As the population grows and we live to a greater age – there are now more over 65s than under 5s – there is an increasing need for carers in all sectors. Whether you are enabling someone to continue living in their own home or supporting an older person with greater care needs in a nursing home, as one carer puts it “you’re not just a care professional, you become part of a family”.

No two days are the same and while it may sound like a cliché, the constantly changing needs of those you care for make each day one of discovery as you learn more about them and make connections. You’ll soon find many have interesting stories to tell.

Caring is more of a vocation than a job, which is why Dianne Downard has developed a keen instinct when it comes to interviewing potential new recruits at Goring Care. She has worked with the family care business, owned and directed by the Northeys, for more than 25 years, covering caring, cooking and leading the specialist team.

“You are called to this work and have to care about it and be committed, otherwise it won’t work,” says Dianne. “We offer personal care for those who need it, whether that’s help with bathing, showering, managing continence, food or mobility. We also offer palliative care, so we can meet clients’ needs right to the end.”

Families make contact with the Goring Care team to see whether they can meet the needs of an older person, who is assessed to find out whether dementia is a factor and plan the earliest possible support. “I love working with residents with dementia,” adds Dianne, who lives in Didcot. “It’s about making them feel they’re still important and valued as human beings. Whether they remember your name or to say thank you doesn’t matter. You’ve done something to improve their quality of life. We call them ‘butterfly moments’. Everyone deserves to feel safe and loved all the way through their life, as you’d want for your parents or grandparents.”

Having worked in reablement, learning disabilities, end-of-life care, and dementia specialist roles, Susie Long chose to join BelleVie Care which operates across Oxfordshire, bringing two decades of experience to a rewarding role. She was drawn to BelleVie’s person-centric approach and commitment to exceptional care.

The team, carefully selected for their passion and alignment with BelleVie’s values, reflects a diverse range of interests, from studying environmental studies to participating in local drama groups, singing, dancing, cooking, personal development, and travel.

Susie emphasises the importance of recruiting caregivers exclusively from the communities served, fostering a strong local connection.

She envisions BelleVie Care as a beacon of hope, not only for those they support but for those aspiring to work in the care sector and aims to transform the perception of care roles by advocating for excellent working conditions, providing support and training, and ensuring fair wages.

For Susie, BelleVie is not just a care provider; it’s a community where caregivers go the extra mile to ensure the well-being and happiness of those they serve. The emphasis on quality mentoring, coaching, and training reflects the commitment to delivering first-class support and enabling caregivers to thrive.

This month sees You Can Care Week, an annual event dedicated to raising awareness about careers in social care and inspiring others to consider getting involved in the social care sector and embarking on a fulfilling and rewarding role.

The week-long campaign shines a light on the essential work carers do day in, day out and the immense influence they have on not just the lives of those they care for but on their families and communities too. There is a growing demand for care workers and the week aims to attract more to the profession and explore the career opportunities it presents not just as a care assistant but also as support workers and social workers.

Ring the changes with your wedding

Round & About

Old Woking

Celebrate your big day, your way, your wedding day should reflect who you are and with these trends for 2024 it shows you can ‘rip up the rule book’ and surprise your guests

Congratulations! You’ve celebrated your engagement and now’s where the fun / hard work starts. Planning a wedding is exciting and sometimes overwhelming. Why not take some inspiration from the trends for 2024 to kick start those plans for your ‘big day’…

Sustainability is a key consideration for many brides and grooms this year with couples becoming increasingly aware of the impact on the environment of ‘throw away’ items. Many will opt for biodegradable, recycled and upcycled decorations with ‘pre-loved’ dresses ticking both the eco and cost boxes. Charity shops are a great source of beautiful bargain dresses and Oxfam has a website dedicated to them, onlineshop.oxfam.org.uk/bridal

Hiring is growing in popularity too for all the reasons above, older readers will remember fondly popping into high street stores for tails and top hats. Searches for ‘wedding dress hire’ have increased with specialist shops offering the opportunity to rent designer or vintage dresses. It’s only worn for one day and if you’re on a budget or are trying not to splash too much cash on one item, it gives you funds to use elsewhere. One of the key dress trends for this year is colour, expect blush or champagne hues, bold brides may even try blue or peach.

Alongside alternative colours and styles are a move towards alternative venues allowing couples to be more creative and often offering a more personal choice – beaches, barns, vineyards and even industrial spaces are becoming increasingly popular as are outdoor options. During the pandemic many couples wishing to continue with their nuptials had no alternative but to say “I do” in the open air and this is continuing especially with brides and grooms wishing to get up close to nature and celebrate in the great outdoors.

Ideally positioned within the heart of the charming historic village of Crondall, Crondall Village Hall offers a perfect setting for your magical day. Opening onto the village green and able to seat 150 guests comfortably, offering a further smaller room which can act as a bar, buffet space or a further entertaining area, a large well-equipped kitchen, parking and competitive packages, making it suitable for all requirements. Please contact [email protected]

Hand in hand with the venue will go the choice of food and again, there is an increasing trend towards less formal fare with couples reflecting their personalities with sharing platters and grazing menus. Both provide a great way for guests to mingle and break the ice, chatting over the charcuterie and cheese, wandering among warm bread and olives. Dessert bars are an original alternative to the traditional cake, choose a variety of mini options that are sure to please even the pickiest of guests, bear in mind you’ll need to cater for different diets but the possibilities are endless.

After the day-long celebration comes that precious time for the two of you to be together and reflect but don’t despair if that bucket-list once-in-a-lifetime trip isn’t possible right now, opt for a minimoon instead. Choose a nearby location and enjoy just recharging and relaxing after the hectic past few months, perhaps extend your stay at your wedding venue and enjoy what that has to offer.

Explore a delightful array of wedding gifts at Culinary Concepts, crafted to capture the hearts of the newlyweds and be treasured for years to come. Whether you’re looking for the perfect gift or a stunning centerpiece, from beautiful barware to charming token gifts, our collection has you covered. Visit culinaryconcepts.co.uk for ideas.

Art & soul

Liz Nicholls

Old Woking

John Vardon raises a toast to Arts’ Society Farnham Evening who have been meeting for 20 years this month

Venice was the subject of the inaugural lecture given by Douglas Skeggs to the Cobbett’s Wey Decorative and Fine Arts Society on 14th January 2004. 

Eight months earlier, in April 2003, a group of like-minded ladies got together with a view to setting up a Decorative and Fine Arts Society (DFAS) that would meet in the evening, complementing the existing society meeting in the daytime, and giving an opportunity for working Farnham people to attend lectures.  There was much to do, from finding a suitable venue, through procuring audio visual equipment, creating a programme of lectures, finding a name for the nascent society, drafting a constitution and preparing publicity material to establishing a membership.  In the intervening period, the steering committee worked hard and with success; the society was born.

From the beginning, refreshments were served before the lectures, allowing members and their guests to socialise and the society’s meetings rapidly gained a reputation as friendly as well as informative events.  In the beginning, nine lectures were presented each year but, after only two years, this was increased to ten. The range of lectures has been extremely wide; topics covered have been as diverse as gardens, silver, furniture, tromp l’oeil, architecture, music, bricks and much else.

The society also arranges visits and study days for members, often related to a the subject of a lecture. Members have also been active participants as Church Recorders and Heritage volunteers. Church Recorders ensure that the contents of a church are meticulously described and fully recorded whilst Heritage Volunteers work to conserve artefacts in museums, archives, gardens and historic houses.  Another aspect of the society’s activities was the Young Arts Bursary designed to assist promising young students in their studies to support artists of the future; more recently, the Society has provided financial support to the Woodlarks Centre, specifically in support of the on-site Activity Centre.

In 2017, the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies rebranded as The Arts Society so, as an affiliated organisation, Cobbett’s Wey DFAS became The Arts’ Society, Farnham Evening (ASFE) but it still retained its reputation as a welcoming and friendly society offering an excellent series of lectures.  The COVID pandemic presented further challenges to the Society which went on-line enabling its programme of lectures to continue with only minor interruptions.  However, it was a real joy for Members to reconvene to socialise over a drink and listen to excellent lectures. Over the years, a hard working and cohesive committee supported by enthusiastic volunteers has ensured the success of the Society.  And so at the end of 2023, the Society celebrates the completion of twenty years with the return of Douglas Skeggs, speaking this time on the topic of James Whistler: The Gentle Art of Making Enemies

New members are most welcome or come to a talk as a visitor. Free parking and a glass of wine are included! For further information visit theartssocietyfarnhamevening.org.uk

Festive cheer with local beer!

Karen Neville

Old Woking

Hogs Back Brewery gears up for Christmas with new beer and parties at its Tap

Hogs Back Brewery is getting ready for Christmas! The Tongham brewery has a trio of festive beers, available from the Brewery Shop and Tap as well as local pubs. For anyone after some festive fun in the brewery, ‘Winter Wonderland’ nights in December offer delicious food, drink and a crowd-pleasing disco.

Newly brewed for this Christmas is Fairy Tale of New Pork, a 4% ABV amber ale available on draught. Brewed with authentic beechwood smoked German malt, English pale and crystal malts, it has flavours of cinder toffee, caramel, biscuit and warm smokiness.

Fairy Tale of New Pork joins two returning seasonal favourites: Mistletoe & Swine, a 4.2% ABV, full-bodied cask ale with subtle hints of sultana, peppery ginger, warm cinnamon and orange zest and Advent Ale, a 4.4% deep chestnut ale with notes of sweet liquorice and rich dark chocolate aftertaste, which is available in bottle as well as on draught – making the perfect stocking filler for a beer lover! 

Fun on Tap

The brewery’s Tap has become a destination for great beer, food and regular performances from local bands when it becomes a party space every Friday and Saturday night, offering a range of menus – including vegan options – and drinks packages to suit every taste and budget. And with a DJ playing all the hits through til midnight, it’s a great way to celebrate the party season with friends or work colleagues. Book your table and dust off your dancing shoes now!

Other festive events at the Tap include a special family-friendly charity quiz on Thursday 21st December. Or just book a Tap table with friends for any night and enjoy a Snorter – a refillable glass flagon containing 31/2 pints of any of Hogs Back’s festive or year-round favourites, fresh from the brewery.

And for designated drivers or those wanting to take a break from drinking, Hogs Back’s Little Swine 0.5% is a full-bodied, flavourful pale ale. Brewed with speciality malts and three hop varieties including Cascade from Hogs Back’s hop garden, Little Swine allows offers all the taste of a full-strength beer, without the alcohol. Available in 330ml bottles from the Tap or Brewery Shop.

Managing director Rupert Thompson said: “The run up to Christmas is always a busy time for us: we’re brewing flat out to meet demand from pubs and customers in our Shop, and at the same time we’re hosting parties and other events in the Tap. There’s always a great atmosphere with many of our regular drinkers popping in to pick up supplies for their celebrations at home, or to meet friends for a drink.”

For more details on events at the Hogs Back Tap, go here. The Brewery Shop will be open for extended hours from December, for details go here.

Guildford Fringe’s adult panto is back

Round & About

Old Woking

The sell-out professional adult panto Sleeping Beauty Felt A Little Prick is at The Back Room of the Star Inn, Guildford, from November 23rd to January 6th

Guildford Fringe Adult Panto returns for its 12th year, with Sleeping Beauty Felt A Little Prick the Adult Panto running from 23rd November – 6th January 2024 at the Back Room of the Star Inn.

The show is delivered by the creative team behind the company’s recent hit adult pantos Sinders, D!CK, Pinocchio, Aladdin One Rub Too Many and Throbbin’ Hood & his Little John. The production has a brand new script, written by Director James Chalmers with Assistant Director and Choreographer Charlotte Wyschna.

Charlotte Wyschna and Nick Wyschna of Guildford Fringe said: “Prepare for an uproarious spectacle as our yearly adult panto returns, promising laughter, mischief, and a stellar cast that will leave you in stitches. With a history of sold-out success, this year’s production is set to be a comedic masterpiece that’ll have audiences talking long after the final curtain falls.”

The professional cast (with character names kept clean here…) is:

Ciara-Alexandra Booker (Fairy): Ciara-Alexandra trained in Musical Theatre at Bird College of Performing Arts. Theatre includes:  Aladdin (DK Productions), Shakespeare In Love (Altrincham Garrick Playhouse) and Aladdin (The Empty Space).

Rosy Carr (Baddy): Rosy recently graduated from Performance Preparation Academy in Guildford.Theatre includes: Throbbin Hood and His Little John (Guildford Fringe Theatre Company) and RENT (Performance Preparation Academy).

Molly King (Princess):  Molly is training with Identity School of Acting, and is a 2022 Bird College graduate.Theatre includes:  One Week in Magaluf (Edinburgh Fringe Festival), The Business of Love (The Hope Theatre, London), Pippin (Doreen Bird Foundation Theatre) and Aladdin (Theatre Royal, Bath).Molly is the Founder and Director of Reclaim Productions (.).

Finan McKinney (Prince):  Finan trained at Arts Educational Schools London followed by the Performance Preparation Academy. Theatre includes: Viking Cruise Vocalist, Aladdin (Redhill), and In Pieces Workshop. Finan is delighted to be spending this Christmas making rude jokes in Guildford, a town in which he trained at drama school! 

David Scotland (Dame): David trained at Bird College. David is delighted to be working with Guildford Fringe again after appearing in Dick! – The Adult Panto previously. In 2022, David was selected for the Traverse Theatre’s Breakthrough Writers: Launchpad programme. His first play, I’ve Never Met Anyone Quite Like You Before debuted at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023, receiving fantastic reviews and a nomination for an OffFest Award. 

To book for Sleeping Beauty Felt A Little Prick the Adult Panto, strictly for over 18s only, visit www.GuildfordFringe.com or telephone the Box Office on 01483 361101. The show runs at approx. 1 hour (no interval). Strictly for 18+ audiences.

Tickets: £20-£21.50. www.GuildfordFringe.com / 01483 361101

Age Guidance: strictly 18+ only

Access: There is no step-free access to the venue. There are no disabled toilets at the venue.

 The most English Scotsman?

Round & About

Old Woking

Robbie James shares his love of his ‘homeland’ in his new TV show and invites you to join the journey up north

I’ve lived all but two years of my life in the south of England. I grew up near Winchester. Winchester! It doesn’t get much more English than middle class, oat milk flat white, Schoffel wearing Winchester. I’ve since moved to Farnham. Farnham! Middle class, oat milk flat white, Schoffel wearing Farnham.

Ok so maybe I’ve had a fairly English life so far, but at heart, I feel very, very Scottish. I know, you’re rolling your eyes as you await me to tell you about my great aunt’s, cousin’s, labrador’s, dressing table’s Scottish heritage, but let me explain.

My grandparents on my mum’s side came down to Aldershot from Glasgow when my grandad (Papi as we call him) was in the parachute regiment. Ever since, my family has been settled down south, but they’ve never lost their love and impassionment for Scotland, and that’s rubbed off on me. 

Watching Scotland play in the Six Nations from their south coast home has formed the nucleus of all major family events. Hearing stories of Jack & Betty’s less than glamorous upbringings in the Glaswegian tenements has humbled us through the years, and near enough everything I have in my life is thanks to their relentless hard graft. But anyway, we’ve always been brought up to be aware of our Scottish roots, and to feel them.

So when Travelxp asked me if I’d like to host a TV show taking you around Scotland for 10 days, I immediately said yes. We filmed it at the back end of the summer and it was the most fun. It felt like a form of homecoming, which even I struggle to comprehend given I’ve only ever lived in Scotland to study at Heriot Watt University for two years, but I feel at my most content in Scotland. 

Every country has a mixed bag of people; but the self-deprecating, warm, charming and often downright mischievous sense of humour from Scottish people is something I can really get on board with. The landscape is also just beautiful to the point where I feel drained from the emotion it somehow brings out in me. So romantic, curiously personable, and yes really cold, but that’s fine.

I think the show covers all bases when it comes to exploring the country. We of course take you through some of the most emotive landscape the UK (and in my opinion, the world) has to offer, but we also head into cities, touch on Scotland’s often traumatic history, and you bet we learn the bagpipes (which by the way is one of the hardest things to do, lots of blowing, to the extent I nearly passed out).

I think it’s important not to force any kind of #content down anyone’s throat. No one trusts a sales rep, so we wanted to give you some ideas of things to do if you’re visiting Scotland, but they’re only ideas. You’re grown up and can plan your own trip, you don’t need me to tell you how brilliant every single cafe or walk in Scotland is, because it’s not. That’s not the case anywhere, except maybe Farnham…or Winchester. Uh oh.

Watch Robbie James in 10 Days Scotland, which airs from 25th November exclusively on Travelxp.

Christmas crackers in Surrey & Hampshire

Karen Neville

Old Woking

December 25th is hurtling towards us faster than a child can unwrap their presents but there’s plenty to wrap yourself up in before the ‘big day’ with events to enjoy, markets to plunder, food and drink to tuck into and not forgetting Santa to visit…

Are you hanging up your stocking on the wall? Ok, perhaps a bit too soon but in the words of Noddy Holder ‘It’s Christmas’ and there’s so much to do before it’s stocking time.

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a bit of sparkle so how about starting off the season with a stunning light trail. Follow dazzling displays around RHS Wisley’s iconic sights through Seven Acres, the Rock Garden and Wisteria Walk and marvel at trees and shrubs bathed in a rainbow of light at Glow 2023 until January 2nd. Nearby Windsor Great Park Illuminated is back for its third year with installations featuring artistic projections and floodlit fountains. Go on an adventure surrounded by mythical creatures and dancing fairies. Also until January 2nd. Glow Wild returns at Wakehurst, celebrating its 10th anniversary with a new route and fresh installations. Enchanting winter lanterns and captivating light creations illuminate the gardens. Booking essential for all light trails.

The Christmas trail at Polesden Lacey takes you through familiar fairy tales, complete with a map and book to write your adventure. Ride the traditional gallopers in front of the house and meet elves and a tricky dragon. Booking advised for Santa visit and carousel rides. Enjoy a Nutcracker Christmas at Nymans where you’ll find glittering Christmas trees, colourful decorations, scenes inspired by the classic Christmas tale and giant Nutcracker soldiers. In the house discover ‘The Land of Sweets’ while a garden trail takes families on a voyage through this magical world.

Take a magical journey in to Narnia this Christmas with a visit to Hatchlands Park. In the house, enjoy the warmth and sparkle of a 1940s Christmas before stepping through the wardrobe to discover an enchanting world. Outside, enjoy the family parkland trail inspired by CS Lewis’s beloved story, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Petworth is every colour of the rainbow with show stopping trees and decorations bringing the house and collections to life. Watch out for mice hiding among the desserts in the historic kitchens! The Makers Market runs on December 2nd and 3rd and if you’re visiting over a weekend be prepared to give your vocal chords some exercise with choirs performing in the courtyard.

Join Uppark House this festive season to discover towering Christmas trees covered with twinkling lights and traditional decorations. The mansion’s enchanting rooms are filled with scents and scenes of the season. From glittering baubles to handmade paper decorations, experience an ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Christmas in this Georgian home.

Father Christmas has filled his sleigh with presents, fed all the reindeer, made a list and checked it twice and is getting ready to land at West Horsley Place on selected Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays in December. The house will be decked out with festive decorations and there will be lots to see and do before and after your visit with Father Christmas including biscuit decorating and crafts. Booking essential.

Have a Gilbert White Christmas this December at Gilbert White’s House and Gardens. Starting off on December 2nd with Gilbert White’s Christmas Craft Fair, entry grants you access to the fabulous local craft fair in the barn, plus access to the beautifully decorated house and gardens for a day of traditional Christmas entertainment.

Hop aboard the Santa Express at Denbies for a ride through the vineyards with a special passport from Santa, play the Reindeer game and take home a gift at the end of your ride. Early booking advised. www.denbies.co.uk/fc-events/santa-express

Climb aboard the Rosebud boat and take a gentle cruise along the Basingstoke Canal to the start of the tinsel trail in the woods at Mytchett to find Father Christmas in his grotto and receive a gift. You’ll then cruise back to Basingstoke Canal Centre and head into Santa’s Workshop for Christmas colouring activities, warm drinks and mince pies. Cruises available until December 23rd.

Join Santa aboard the Swingbridge Tranquillity broadbeam boat this Christmas (December 2nd to 21st) for a gentle family cruise along the River Wey. The boat will depart from Millmead Island, Guildford in search of Santa. Look for clues along the towpath as you pass by to find out where he’s hiding.

The animal barn at Chobham Adventure Farm will be magically transformed into The Reindeer Lodge, where Santa’s real reindeer including Rudolph will be staying while they get ready for the big day! Meet the Elves and The Reindeer Keeper and upgrade your ticket to meet Father Christmas where you’ll wander through the snow trail before choosing a gift in his Toy Workshop. Finish the day ice skating.

What better place can there be for a spot of skating than the grounds of Henry VIII’s former home, Hampton Court Palace. Wrap up warm, get together with your friends or family and take in the magnificent views of the beautiful Tudor palace as you glide around on the outdoor ice rink, open until January 7th.

Experience the Christmas story in a unique way as you walk with Mary, Joseph and the donkey on the winding road to Bethlehem with fellow travellers, Roman soldiers and shepherds for The Wintershall Nativity. Enter the stable and watch the miracle unfold bringing the true meaning of Christmas to life for the whole family. December 16th, 17th & 18th. Book at www.wintershall.org.uk/nativity-journey-0

There’s nothing like a bit of sparkle and magic at this time of year and the Watercress Line Steam Illuminations delivers. The incredible light show on and in a steam train is made up of thousands of coloured LED lights and LED wristbands to create a kaleidoscope of different colours and flashing patterns making the steam train look magical both inside and out!

This Christmas, West Green House Gardens in Hook again present their hugely popular light spectacular with giant dancing fountains and a mile-long trail around the illuminated lake, narrating the tale of Alice in Wonderland. The Five Bridges transform into light tunnels with creatures below, and the Paradise Garden becomes the flamingo’s croquet lawn.

Join Marwell Zoo for an immersive light extravaganza that will see the majestic grounds turned into a twinkling wonderland full of fairy lights, magic, and delight with more than 250,000 LED bulbs making up their wonderful illuminations you can marvel at while you can toast marshmallows around cosy firepits.

The Glimmering Gardens return to Chawton House. Enjoy the beautiful decorations in the House and then explore the Gardens as they come to life in twinkling lights and spot the woodland creatures that call Chawton House home from December 16th to New Year’s Day.

Take a Christmas journey to the North Pole at Mottisfont until January 7th and find luxuriously decorated trees, piles of colourfully wrapped presents, extravagant floral displays created by Mother Christmas and Father Christmas’s study piled high with letters. Board the Christmas Express into the North Pole for the polar bear’s ball and become an honorary elf on the family activity trail helping to deliver Christmas wishes.

Experience a Neverland Christmas at Hinton Ampner this winter, with a sprinkle of fairy dust on the Christmas trees. Step into the home of the Darling family and Nana the dog, where light, sound and movement bring scenes inspired by JM Barrie’s much-loved story of Peter Pan to life. Outside, the adventure continues – to the Wendy House, the Mermaids’ Lagoon and Nana’s dog house, where your pooch can pose for pics. A Neverland Christmas which runs until New Year’s Day is presented in partnership with Great Ormond Street Hospital. Booking essential.

The Vyne invites you to follow Clara and the Nutcracker as they fight the evil Mouse King on indoor and outdoor trails. Look out for plucky gingerbread men, pirouetting snowflakes and a bounteous banquet in the Land of Sweets as you explore the opulently decorated ground floor of the house. Enjoy the magical tale through to January 1st.

Step into Santa’s workshop, dress as an elf and look out for the naughty elves hiding throughout Winchester City Mill. Two twinkling trees frame the door and a crafted Christmas tree has garlands full of items found and made in nature through December.

One of the best places to shop for unique gifts is Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market (until December 21st). Recognised as one of the best in Europe, the bustling lively atmosphere, stunning location and high quality products make this a ‘must visit’. Festive lighting, carols and mulled wine abound amid the wooden chalets inspired by a traditional German Christmas market – make sure to visit band shop jewellers, painters, glass makers and textile artists selling one of a kind gifts and decorations.

From traditional to out of this world at Winchester Science Centre which is celebrating a cosmic Christmas as you blast off on a live-action immersive festive space adventure before meeting Santa and taking home a gift.

From the greatest story of them all to some very silly ones with pantos across the county. Catch EastEnder Lucy Benjamin in Cinderella at the Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford; waltz across the stage with Anton du Beke in Peter Pan at Woking New Victoria; Cinderella’s also going to the ball at Camberley Theatre and board the magic carpet with Aladdin at both Theatre Royal Windsor and with Godalming Theatre Group.

Discover Santa’s Magical Gift at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre and meet the Society for Christmas Creatures at Farnham Maltings in the company of surely the only Christmas Lobster!

Justin Fletcher, aka Mr Tumble, has written a new magical family show Santa’s on his Sleigh. Santa is just about to set off on his delivery round on Christmas Eve when he finds his sleigh has broken down, can you help him fix it before it’s too late? You may just recognise Head Elf Justy in this show at G Live, December 16th to 24th, full of singing, laughter and Christmas spirit.

Ready to boo, hiss and cheer – it’s that time of year. Pantos are back and there are plenty to enjoy including those from some of the fine amateur groups who work hard to rehearse and stage stories of slapstick and silliness for your pleasure. Among these are Pumpkin Pantos whose Beauty and the Beast gets an outing at Alton Assembly Rooms (9th and 10th) followed by Forest Community Centre in Bordon the weekend after. Dick Whittington arrives to make his fortune at the Harlington, Fleet while Cinderella is looking for her lost shoe at Theatre Royal Winchester. Over at The Anvil in Basingstoke enjoy The Further Adventures of Peter Pan: The Return of Hook. Dear Santa is the perfect introduction to theatre for children at The Haymarket where you can meet Santa afterwards. At the other end of the scale, The Phoenix Theatre, Bordon are staging an adult only panto and there’s fun for younger ones with Hansel & Gretel and Red Riding Hood.

Altogether now “I’m walking in the air…”, it must be Christmas if you can hear the sounds of The Snowman. You can join him and Wallace & Gromit who are still wearing the Wrong Trousers in the company of a live orchestra at Guildford Cathedral on 16th.

Shopping to do? Gifts to buy or just treating yourself (nothing wrong with self love) then be sure to visit Ramster Gardens Christmas market the first two weekends in December. Discover a unique collection of locally made gifts including food and drink, beauty products, art and homewares. Buy premium Christmas trees and beautiful wreaths from the Ramster Tea House where you can also enjoy mince pies and mulled wine.

Haslemere’s traditional Christmas market in the town centre offers 200 stalls of gifts and refreshments, you’re sure to find something for even the most difficult recipient here on Sunday 3rd.

There’s A Celebration of Christmas at Holy Trinity Church Guildford on December 6th when you can take part in a night of fun and warmth when the air will be filled with light and music.

Guildford Cathedral is the setting for John Rutter’s Christmas Celebration with a festival of carols and Christmas music for choir, brass, organ and audience on Saturday 9th.

Christmas with a much more relaxed elegant feel is being celebrated at Jane Austen’s House where you can enjoy an evening away from the hustle and bustle (December 2nd and 9th) and step back in time for a magical few hours discovering Christmas traditions and family pastimes with the house all dressed up for the season, complete with warming drinks and the chance to raise a toast to the much-loved author. Take a special Christmas virtual guided tour on 14th and celebrate Jane’s birthday on 16th with a virtual party.

Mulled wine and hot chocolate are on offer at Whitchurch Silk Mill as you celebrate a Victorian Silk Mill Christmas on 2nd and 3rd. The rooms are decorated to recreate the mill’s past with a seasonal make over replete with a table laid with gingerbread figures and figgy pudding – stop by and make a wish.

More nostalgia awaits amid the cobbled streets, seaside pier, teddy bears and vintage vehicles at Milestones Museum in Basingstoke. The period streets will be decorated for the season and the giant Christmas tree will give a warm, festive welcome until 23rd. Children can help Father Christmas find his lost reindeer with the special Reindeer Spotter trail, while the smell of mulled wine and the taste of mince pies will transport adults into the atmosphere of a perfect Christmas! Don’t miss the chance to meet Father Christmas from December 9th to 23rd. Booking essential.

The festive season wouldn’t be the same without glorious uplifting music so let the choirs of Winchester Cathedral entertain you on December 15th with traditional favourites, exciting new pieces and much-loved audience carols to sing along with.

Here’s a different way to mark the season, join the 5k Jingle Jog and run in festive fancy dress around Frimley Green and Frimley Lodge Park to the tune of a thousand jingle bells and if that doesn’t get you in the festive spirit nothing will! Medals, Santa hats, jingle bells (more of them), a mince pie and festive drink are included as part of your entry fee and new this year is the 2k fun run route. Run in aid of Frimley Health Charity’s Golden Christmas Appeal and help give a very special gift this Christmas.

If you’re looking for somewhere to socialise with your family and friends, or to make new friends, then head to the ‘hive of activity in the local community’ – West End Social Club in West End, Woking, (GU24 9PL). Two comfortable bars, regular live music (including Tributes), dancing, many other social and indoor sporting activities, Festivals and Seasonal events. New members and guests welcome, (bookable space for members private events). www.westendsocialclub.co.uk

There’s more to Christmas than just turkey and sometimes a change is good so how about fish from Surrey Seafood Emporium, an independent family-run business recently opened in Downing Street, Farnham, offering the freshest fish caught daily in Cornwall and Devon and brought straight to Surrey. The fantastic pre marinated and ready to cook selection are perfect for both the BBQ or in their oven bags. And if fancy a break from the kitchen, the chef there is busy on a daily basis making artisan fish pies, lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, fish cakes and many more fabulous fish dishes.

Struggling for gift ideas? Triple fff Brewery have a large selection of award winning beers in fun, festive, sustainable packaging – guaranteed to make any beer lover happy. You could also grab T shirts, caps, jackets, hoodies, gilets, glasses, Beer Growlers, subscription offers, brewery tours, bottle openers and gift vouchers!…And if you are having a party, a polypin of Brewery fresh beer is certain to go down a storm! Come and visit us in Four Marks!

Give a gift that shows how much you care this Christmas. A pain relieving muscle rub is the perfect gift for anyone looking to genuinely improve the lives of their loved ones. Soothe this season with a groundbreaking anti-inflammatory gel that got Ian Botham back on his feet. Give the gift of relief, with EthicaCBD Sports Gel, for muscles, joints, and tendons. Visit www.ethicacbd.com

Looking for Christmas gifts that show you care? Bordon-based eco family firm LittleLeaf Organic designs beautiful homeware, gifts and baby wear in the very finest certified organic cotton. Everything is made in a solar-powered Fair Trade factory, so your gifts can be eco as well as luxurious! Proud winners of the 2023 most sustainable UK small business award, www.littleleaforganic.com

Rick Wakeman hosts charity dog concert

Karen Neville

Old Woking

Actor Peter Egan stars at concert in aid of Saving Strays at Guildford Cathedral on November 24th

Christmas will come to Guildford early this year when keyboard maestro, composer and renowned raconteur Rick Wakeman CBE headlines a very special pre-Christmas concert.

The event at Guildford cathedral on Friday 24th November will raise funds for Saving Strays, the all-volunteer UK charity which rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes abandoned and abused dogs.

Get in the festive mood while raising money for a worthwhile cause with an evening of music and fun, as Rick plays old favourites from his own repertoire and those of other artists, plus seasonal tunes, all adapted for piano and keyboards and interspersed with hilarious anecdotes and stories that tickle his sense of humour.

Rick, who along with his wife Rachel has adopted Saving Strays’ rescue dogs, says: “Dogs have so much love to give and it upsets me that humans are not always reciprocal. If you let a dog into your life, then from first hand experience, I can guarantee that you will have a very special life.”

The bill for this exclusive evening will be completed by:

Musical comedy trio Triple Cream

Singer-songwriter Mim Grey

New vocal talent Nicola Olsen

Choir from Godalming-based music school, A Touch of Musicality

Peter Egan, screen star of Downton Abbey and Unforgotten, and co-chair of Saving Strays.

Join this wonderful evening while raising money to help lost and abused dogs around the world!

Co-chair Maria Slough says: “To be able to host this concert with Rick and Peter and everyone who is taking part is such an incredible way to close out the year. We will raise the roof for the dogs in need and it will be an experience to remember for everyone.”

Ticket prices: Standard £30-50. Meet & Greet and Premium Ticket £80. All tickets include souvenir programme.

Doors open: 6.15pm (for Meet & Greet Ticket holders), 6.50pm (for Standard Ticket holders), Showtime: 7.30pm

Box Office: https://www.guildford-cathedral.org/events/boxoffice/695