Spring into Easter

Round & About


Easter comes early this year, March 29th – April 1st, which gives us an opportunity to enjoy the glories of spring as well of course, as eating chocolate!

There’s so much more to Easter than just choccy eggs, for many it has the deepest religious significance, for others it affords a long weekend of spending time with your loved ones hopefully with some bright cheery spring sunshine then and beyond.

This Easter pop along to a National Trust property near you for a family trail. Jam-packed with outdoor activities, games, riddles and crafts, every Easter celebration is different and ends with a chocolate egg.

Make your way along the trail and find nature-inspired activities for the whole family at The Vyne, Basingstoke between March 23rd and April 14th. Limbering up this Easter, families can get active in The Vyne’s gardens as they complete this athletics-themed trail. At 10 outdoor activity stations, enjoy fun challenges such as long jump, egg and spoon race and bean bag shot put before heading to the trail finish to collect your prize.

Go wild for the Easter Trail at Hinton Ampner as you don your bunny ears and take on the challenges the Easter bunny has left behind. A chocolate prize awaits for the best hopping, bouncing bunnies, March 29th-April 14th.

Discover the myths and legends of the Punch Bowl and look out for the Exmoor ponies at Hindhead Commons with activities and challenges for all the family on the Easter Trail, March 29th-April 14.

Thousands of daffodils (more than 40 varieties) are spread across the Pleasure Garden at Petworth and pack nearly 100 plant containers. A colourful free map and trail booklet will take families on a spring adventure that weaves through the gardens. Stop off at six wildlife-willow sculptures on the way – from slugs and frogs to bees and butterflies – for fun games and activities including daffodil hoopla target and butterfly noughts and crosses. March 29th-April 14th. Also shop at an artisan makers market. Full details and all event dates for Petworth Spring Festival, for more information visit the website.

Join the search in the grounds of Whitchurch Silk Mill on Wednesday, 10th April and see how many eggs you can find! Collect a bag on arrival or bring your own basket and hunt high and low around the Mill grounds to find the chocolate eggs left behind by the Easter bunny. Each child will be given a bag and sheet to collect 15 chocolates from different locations around the Mill grounds. £4.50 per child, charges apply to all children wishing to participate in the hunt. No booking is required for accompanying adults. Details here.

Bun & Ted are embarking on another Eggscellent Adventure at Milestones Museum, Basingstoke, in their spring challenge and they need you to help them save Easter. March 29th to April 14th.

A weekend celebrating the onset of spring is bringing together the very best of Surrey’s food, drink, art and crafts at the Rural Life Living Museum, Tilford. Visitors to the Spring Fair can experience a wide range of fun and exciting activities that celebrate spring and showcase the richness of the culture, heritage and natural beauty of the Surrey Hills. Traditional country crafts, live music, art demonstrations, local food vendors, and outdoor woodland activities can all be enjoyed on April 6th & 7th.

The Eggs-travaganza Easter hunt is back at Winchester Science Centre, March 16th to April 15th, but don’t expect to be on the hunt for brightly coloured eggs! In European folklore the Easter bunny was traditionally an Easter hare. Join the hunt around the Centre to find the rabbits and hares that are visiting. Explore the differences between our furry friends and solve the puzzles along the way in order to grab yourself a delicious chocolate treat. Spring also heralds a new season of exciting science fun at Boom & Bloom!

Follow the trail through Highclere Castle’s gardens and woodland, finding clues en route to win a chocolate Easter Egg at the end on Saturday, 6th April. Show off your creations in the Easter bonnet parade, meet some of the farm animals and take to the bouncy slide in a day of family fun for all ages. Please pre-book adult tickets and confirm how many children are coming with you so Highclere can ensure every child receives an Easter egg once they have completed the trail. Donations to the chosen charity on the day (suggested donation £5) are invited when collecting a map for the Easter Trail on arrival.

Visit Gilbert White’s House & Gardens this Easter, join family and friends for a walk through the beautiful spring gardens and try the ‘record-breaking birds egg hunt’ – there are some brilliant birds in the world and on this year’s egg hunt you will find out all about them – and finish the day with a lovely lunch or afternoon treat in White’s cafe. More here.

Image: National Trust/Paul Harris

Spring into Easter

Round & About


Easter comes early this year, March 29th – April 1st, which gives us an opportunity to enjoy the glories of spring as well of course, as eating chocolate!

There’s so much more to Easter than just choccy eggs, for many it has the deepest religious significance, for others it affords a long weekend of spending time with your loved ones hopefully with some bright cheery spring sunshine then and beyond.

This Easter pop along to a National Trust property near you for a family trail. Jam-packed with outdoor activities, games, riddles and crafts, every Easter celebration is different and ends with a chocolate egg.

Basildon Park is going to the movies, March 23rd-April 14th, as children and families become director of their own Easter movie in the parkland. Basildon Park is often seen on screen as a location in films and the 10 action stations of the Easter trail will help families create their own movie. There’ll be plenty of walking, fun games and photo opportunities to be had along the way. There are also two pre-bookable Easter wreath-making workshops on March 19th and 21st.

You may bump into some grazing sheep and early lambs on your springtime adventure across the country estate at Greys Court near Henley (March 23rd-April 14th) as you follow the Easter trail with 10 activity stations, showcasing the cheery signs of spring. Take part in an Easter wreath making workshop on March 20th and 22nd. Booking necessary.

Get ready for an egg-citing adventure at Stonor and Tumblestone Hollow this Easter when the popular Easter Trail returns to the gardens and adventure playground between March 29th and April 14th. Discover the nature walk, craft activities and storytelling sessions, all within the picturesque backdrop of the gardens and woodland adventure playground. Children are free to weave their way throughout the gardens, walkways, playground and woodland, solving riddles, spotting signs of spring, listening to stories and getting creative.

Wellington Country Park has fun activities for all ages including the very young (up to four) with the Mini Easter Eggstravaganza on March 26th to 28th. Enjoy Junk Jodie Easter crafts, interactive story time with Woolly the Rainbow sheep and Bo Peep and song and dance time with the Blossom Buddies, bubbles in the big top and the Welly Tots Showcase with six exciting new role play zones. From March 29th to April 7th, there are activities for children up to 8 with Easter crafts, singing and dancing with Canary Mary and friends, story time and Circus Wellingtonia.

Thames Vale Vultures are back on their motorbikes for the popular Berkshire Egg Run on Friday, 29th March in support of disadvantaged children/adults/families in Berkshire. Meet at 11.30am, Stadium Way Industrial Estate, Tilehurst (Scours Lane end), for 12.30pm ride to the Abbey Rugby Club, Emmer Green and presentation. Please bring an egg or two to donate.

Be an Easter Egg-splorer at Windsor Castle, March 30th to April 14th. Get crafting in the Castle’s Learning Centre, enjoy Easter themed-activities and while touring the State Apartments become an egg-splorer and follow the family trail to find some tiny objects in the Castle. Many activities are related to the 100th anniversary of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. Book here.

Join BBOWT at Windsor Great Park this Easter holiday and eggsplore the wild woodland and muddy meadow in search of egg-laying creatures! Around the trail you can learn all about the exciting eggs you can find in nature, and crack the egg mystery to win yourself a tasty chocolate egg. There will be activities, games and take-home crafts along the way, April 2nd to 4th. Visit here to book.

Create and grow at Squire’s Garden Centre, Wokingham and keep the little ones entertained. Plant three colourful plants in a wicker basket, decorated with a raffia bow, to create a lovely gift or place in your garden. Advanced booking essential. Follow the clues around the centre to help find the magic word and receive a sweet treat in the Spring Flower Hunt. No booking necessary. Activities April 2nd to 5th and 8th to 12th.

Have fun at the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading and enjoy trails and activities in the galleries and garden, April 2nd to 14th. Have a go at a themed trail in the garden, free, discover the Spring Family Activity Packs, take part in a variety of gallery and garden trails including the woodland brass rubbing trail, ride on the fabulous wooden play-on tractor and wagon and bring a picnic or enjoy an Easter treat in the cafe.

Whether you’re in the mood for a thrilling night of drama, uplifting musical theatre, live music, or even standup comedy, Theatre Royal Windsor has a packed season, with something for everyone! Right in the heart of Windsor, they often host major shows before their national tours or West End transfers. Visit theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk for details of all their upcoming shows.

Image: National Trust/Paul Harris

Spring into Easter

Liz Nicholls


Easter comes early this year, March 29th – April 1st, which gives us an opportunity to enjoy the glories of spring as well of course, as eating chocolate!

There’s so much more to Easter than just choccy eggs, for many it has the deepest religious significance, for others it affords a long weekend of spending time with your loved ones hopefully with some bright cheery spring sunshine then and beyond.

This Easter pop along to a National Trust property near you for a family trail. Jam-packed with outdoor activities, games, riddles and crafts, every Easter celebration is different and ends with a chocolate egg.

Spring has sprung at Widmer Farm Park in Princes Risborough, with lots of cute babies due to be born in March and April, including lambs and kids.

“It’s definitely the season we all look forward to after a cold winter,” says Alice Paterson. “At Easter our focus is on new beginnings. We support rare breeds and are very proud to be contributing towards the conservation of Bagot goats, Golden Guernseys and Cotswold Sheep with our breeding programme.”

The farm opened more than 30 years ago and in 2022 the family business decided to reopen the farm park which sits alongside the pet and equine shop and horse riding school, making it a haven for all animal-lovers. A café is being built with an indoor soft play area in the pipeline. Right now there’s an Easter Trail included in ticket prices; all participants will receive a treat. Visit widmerfarmpark.co.uk

The Gruffalo is celebrating his 25th birthday at Wendover Woods and to celebrate, everyone is invited to take part in a brand new forest adventure. The family trail features all sorts of party-themed activities and games, along with fun facts to teach you about life in the forest for the Gruffalo and other creatures. Follow the trail to help find the missing party items to give the Gruffalo a birthday to remember.

Thomas the Tank Engine – a real steam locomotive – is offering rides at Buckinghamshire Railway Centre in Quainton. Plus, meet Sir Topham Hatt, Rusty & Dusty, Percy and Trevor the traction engine! (If you’re away at Easter, don’t worry; Thomas will be back in Quainton in May, July and October!).

Hughenden, near Wycombe, will welcome your little bunnies for an Easter trail, 10am-4pm from 23rd March to 7th April. Encounter life-size mythical creatures, solve riddles, discover hidden treasures and conquer Medusa’s snakes and ladders or engage in a playful game of Cyclops Eye Spy on the parterre (normal entry plus £3 per trail, including a chocolate egg). With its natural playground for climbing, balancing and make believe, picnic tables in the orchard, walled garden and exhibition about Hughenden’s secret WWII map-making history, a trip to Hughenden is always a great day out.

And there are more National Trust treasures worth visiting in Bucks, of course. Cliveden’s Easter trail will run 29th March to 16th April, 9.30am-5pm (and the Storybook Play Den is always a hit). Claydon near Winslow (former home of Florence Nightingale) will offer the Easter trail 29th March to 1st April and wonderful Waddesdon (whose popular Woodland Playground has just been refurbished) offers eggstra (sorry) fun, games and creative activities as well as the choccy trail, 27th March to 7th April. For more info please visit nationaltrust.org.uk

Peterley Manor Farm in Great Missenden, HP16 0HH, is a cherished local treasure and a great place to buy spring produce. Highlights this month include candlemaking & a Mother’s Day market. Visit peterleymanorfarm.co.uk

We love Kew Little Pigs in Old Amersham where you might be so smitten with the little porkers that you look into homing a micropig yourself! You can book a pigkeeper day for children aged between seven and 16 years on 1st, 2nd, 8th and 9th April.

Awesome Odds Farm at Wooburn Common, HP10 0LX, wins rave reviews for good reason with its super slides and indoor zone as well as livestock including goats, sheep, cows, ponies, donkeys and bunnies to meet.

Tot-friendly beauty Bekonscot model village & railway, HP9 2PL, the world’s oldest original model village, has reopened to visitors after the winter. Visit bekonscot.co.uk for more info.

Bucks Goat Centre in Stoke Mandeville, HP22 5XJ, is a bucolic animal paradise with a cafe and the Bunny Brunch on Saturdays at 10.30am offering a chance to feed and cuddle the smaller animals. Also, Fox Cubs is a popular group for SEND children up to 15 years every Thursday. Visit thebucksgoatcentre.website

Hogshaw Farm & Wildlife Park in Claydon, MK18 3LA, is a wonderful space to recharge with animal and farmer encounters and a cafe. Find out more at hogshawfarm.co.uk

Families can explore some of the wonderful details of Amersham old town with a town trail created by the team at Amersham Museum. This has been beautifully illustrated by artist Livi Gosling, with the support of the Rothschild Foundation, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Chilterns AONB. For this & more highlights, visit amershammuseum.org

How about getting some fresh air with a Go Ape treetop adventure in Black Park or Wendover Woods offering a bird’s eye view of the forest. Ropes, zip lines, nets and walkways will take you on a magical journey through the tree canopies. Visit goape.co.uk for more.

The One World Animals team offer hands-on encounters with exotic animals including insects, arachnids and reptiles. Enjoy a workshop at Bourne End Community Centre, SL8 5SX, on 5th April; oneworldanimals.com

Happy Easter, and have a cracking time! LN

Image: National Trust/Paul Harris

Love, laughs & larks

Round & About


Boo, hiss, you won’t want to miss… It’s time to sprinkle the fairy dust and wave your wand to welcome larger than life characters and slapstick galore – pantos are back!

Find Pantos near you this winter


Our Q&A star this month Lucy Benjamin got into some scrapes during her time in EastEnders and as the Wicked Stepmother in Cinderella at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, this festive season will no doubt get into some more in the classic rags to riches tale. Radio’s Peter Gordon returns for his 18th year, this time in a hilarious Ugly Stepsister duo alongside Guildford Shakepeare Company co-founder Matt Pinches. It’s also welcome back to CBeebies star James Merry for his third Yvonne Arnaud panto! The godmother of all pantos, full of slapstick and slosh, music and magic runs from December 2nd to January 7th. For tickets visit yvonne-arnaud.co.uk

The story of a young girl’s journey from scullery to ballroom is also being told with tears, laughter, music and fun at Camberley Theatre from December 9th to 31st. This new, magical production of the timeless story of Cinderella will delight the whole family featuring a jukebox of much loved songs, beautiful costumes and a talented cast of actors and dancers. Will Cinderella be able to escape her cruel family for a chance of one night of fun, and maybe find love along the way? Find out more for yourself at camberleytheatre.co.uk

Holly, Santa’s newest elf and Trixie the experienced elf are busy decorating Santa’s workshop in the lead up to Christmas. Holly reveals Lapland’s biggest secret, that once a year Santa sends a magical gift to one person who deserves it the most. Holly writes her Christmas wish on a snowflake and places it on the window ledge, a gust of wind takes it, and in the morning a large golden gift appears in its place. Is it really Santa’s Magical Gift? Find out in this heart-warming festive story with audience participation, comedy routines and a present for every child in the audience from Santa at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, December 17th to 24th. Book at atgtickets.com

Aladdin may be poor but he has ambitions beyond Widow Twankey’s laundry where he helps his mum and hapless brother Wishee Washee. Enter stage left to boos and hisses, the evil Abanazar tempting Aladdin with untold riches. Add a wish or three of magic in the shape of an enchanted lamp, plus not one but two genies and you have all the ingredients for a traditional panto in this year’s offering from Godalming Theatre Group at Ben Travers Theatre, Charterhouse, Godalming, December 15th to 18th. Tickets from thelittleboxoffice.com

Meet The Society for Christmas Creatures at Farnham Maltings this December. They are the world’s only expert team of festive detectives, and they know a thing or two about Christmas. Armed with a taste for adventure (and a pair of knitting needles), they’ve trekked far and wide searching for Christmas creatures of every shape and size. Now they’re here in Farnham for their toughest mission yet: to find the elusive Christmas Lobster and maybe (just maybe) discover the true meaning of Christmas. Will they find him? Find out from 13th to 24th, exc 19th. Book at farnhammaltings.com

When Christmas is over there’s still time to enjoy a panto with The Quince Players’ who this year are staging Ba-Ba Land, a brand new story about the land of nursery rhymes, a budding romance between Bo Beep and Little Boy Blue and a competition that the Big Bad Wolf is determined to win. Performance dates are January 11th-14th and 18th-20th at Cordes Hall, Sunninghill. Tickets will be available from mid-November at quinceplayers.com


Pumpkin Pantos are back with another spellbinding pantomime and this year it’s one as old as time featuring a cursed prince, an enchanted rose and a magical castle. Can the cold-hearted Beast find true love before it’s too late? Is the beautiful Belle his chance of a happy ever after? Only time will tell in this spectacular production with stunning scenery, lavish costumes, memorable songs and laughs galore. Join Beauty and the Beast at Alton Assembly Rooms, December 9th and 10th and Forest Community Centre, Bordon, the week after on 15th-17th. Tickets at www.pumpkinpantos.co.uk

Dick Whittington, a plucky young man from the country, arrives in London to make his fortune, with his trusty feline sidekick in tow. Little does he know, his journey could fulfil an ancient prophecy and Queen Rat will do everything in her power to stop Dick in his tracks. Come along on a whirlwind journey through the streets of London and across the seas at the Harlington, Fleet from December 9th to 29th. Book here theharlington.co.uk

Cinderella is also looking for her lost shoe at Theatre Royal Winchester in this retelling of the greatest fairytale of them all. With original songs, loads of corny gags, audience participation and some surprising twists to the tale, the whole family is invited to the ball from November 30th to January 1st. Book at theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk

The swashbuckling adventure at The Anvil, Basingstoke this Christmas is The Further Adventures of Peter Pan: The Return of Hook starring Gavin & Stacey’s Melanie Walters as Mrs Darling and Ethyl Mermaid, Channel 5’s Milkshake! presenter David Ribi as Peter Pan, the ever-comical Chris Pizzey (CBBC’s Basil Brush) back by popular demand as Smee, Nickelodeon’s Holly Atterton as Tinker Bell, while Chris Fearn returns as Captain Hook. Check out anvilarts.org.uk  for full details.

Santa is determined to deliver the most fantastic Christmas present to Sarah, but he doesn’t get it right straight away! With the help of his cheeky Elf, he finally settles on something ‘perfect’, just in time for Christmas Eve. From the author of the well-loved children’s book Dear Zoo, Rod Campbell, Dear Santa, is an ideal introduction to theatre for those aged two and over. Meet Santa in his grotto after the show at The Haymarket, Basingstoke and receive a free gift. The show runs from December 7th to 10th, book at anvilarts.org.uk

The Phoenix Theatre in Bordon bring three classic tales to life this Christmas. A-Lad-In-Space is their adult’s only pantomime, telling the tale of Aladdin with a 1950s science-fiction feeling; you’ll rekindle your warp drive and be sent into orbit frm December 14th to 16th. For younger ones Oomph Theatre brings Hansel & Gretel on December 18th and 19th, a fabulous feast of festive fun. The Phoenix Players’ Red Riding Hood takes you on a journey through the deep, dark forest to Granny’s house. January fun on 19th, 20th, 25th to 27th. Book tickets for these at phoenixarts.co.uk


Get ready for a gigantic panto experience and climb new heights with Jack and the Beanstalk, a fee fi fo fun pantomime for everyone to enjoy at Oxford Playhouse, November 24th to January 7th. Poor Jack can’t seem to help getting into trouble with his mum. Now he’s really landed himself in it by selling the family cow to a stranger for a handful of old beans. But those mysterious beans have started to grow…and grow… and GROW! Full of infectious laughter, brilliant storytelling, singing, dancing, cheering for the goodies and booing for the baddies, an Oxford Playhouse pantomime is fabulous festive fun for everyone aged 5 to 105! Book tickets for this at oxfordplayhouse.com

Oxford’s New Theatre is home to one of the biggest shows in recent years, coming of age musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Sixteen-year-old Jamie doesn’t quite fit in, terrified but determined to be a sensation and with love and support from his mum and friends, Jamie beats prejudice and the bullies to step into the spotlight. A hit in the West End, see it for yourself from December 12th to 30th. Tickets at atgtickets.com

Join The Sinodun Players on an epic journey across the seas in The Adventures of Sinbad at the Corn Exchange Wallingford this January, 12th to 27th. With all the magic and fun of a traditional panto, be enchanted by the sparkling diamond cave, wonder at the magic carpet and the myriad characters that make up this exciting story, oh and there’s a baby elephant too! Intrigued? Full details and booking at cornexchange.org.uk

It’s the panto you’ve ‘bean’ waiting for! Immersion Theatre are thrilled to bring a giant amount of fe-fi-fo-fun to the Kenton Theatre as they present Jack and the Beanstalk, a magical pantomime of epic proportions from December 9th to 31st. Packed with comedy, music and audience participation, this hilarious and action-packed adventure promises to be a joyous and festive experience, oh yes it does! Book at kentontheatre.co.uk

The Henley Children’s Theatre’s annual panto is Beauty and the Beast. It may be a tale as old as time, but there is nothing outdated about this production, and certainly not the cast of enthusiastic youngsters! We meet our book-loving heroine Belle and Prince Perfect who is turned in to a Beast and must find someone to love him all while the clock is ticking! The cast of local children, aged 4-16, will delight with their joie-de-vivre (and questionable French accents) at the Kenton Theatre, January 3rd to 6th. Tickets at kentontheatre.co.uk

Deep in Sherwood Forest, local hero Robin Hood robs from the rich and gives to the poor. Will he rescue Maid Marion from the clutches of the money grabbing Sheriff of Nottingham? Packed with songs, slapstick, the most dangerous archery competition you ever did see and all the fairy-tale magic of traditional pantomime. Enjoy the merriest panto in the land at The Beacon Wantage on December 9th and 10th. For tickets visit beaconwantage.co.uk

Christmas is coming and Sally can’t sleep – it’s far too hot! The weather has gone topsy-turvy. Sally has a dream that changes everything – a mysterious silver spark transforms her bedroom into a glistening, white field where she meets the glowing Heart of Winter. The magical new musical show at Didcot’s Cornerstone (December 18th to 24th) celebrates family, friendship and the good fortune of finding the winter we really need and want…with the festive offering of lots of fluffy snow! Book at cornerstone-arts.org

Abingdon Drama Club are telling the story of Peter Pan, January 11th to 14th and 17th to 20th. Join Peter, Wendy and the lost boys as they do battle with Captain Hook in this comic caper. More details and tickets at abingdon-drama-club.com

Abingdon’s Amey Theatre offers a variety of seasonal shows to entertain, including The Snowman Live with Wantage Band on 3rd December. The concert will centre on a performance of the soundtrack to the 1982 film with a showing of the film itself. On 12th December, you can also join Clara, her Nutcracker doll and the Sugar Plum Fairy in the magical Christmas ballet in the Royal Opera House live performance of The Nutcracker. To browse and book events at the Amey Theatre, visit abingdon.org.uk

Kingston Bagpuize Drama Group present Cinderella, a pantomime by Tom Whalley. Forced to do all the terrible chores at Hardup Hall by her two awful, ugly stepsisters, Cinderella dreams of the day her Prince Charming will take her away to a happily ever after. With a little help from her Fairy Godmother and some magic it might just happen. November 23rd to 25th at Southmoor Village Hall, OX13 5BY. Tickets at tinyurl.com/3rzyccfa

Expect toe tapping songs, lots of audience participation, very corny jokes, comedy and even a bit of Carry On Camping thrown in to Snow White at the Corn Exchange Witney, December 14th to 31st (selected dates). The story has a host of colourful characters including a talking mirror. Join Buttercross Theatre Productions and find out if Snow White manages to outwit her wicked stepmother and bag her handsome prince with the help of her seven new friends. Book at buttercrosstheatreproductions.co.uk

There’s a Latin American twist to a traditional tale at the Theatre Chipping Norton this Christmas, where Cinderella promises to be the perfect panto for Encanto-loving families. Director John Terry calls it “a joyful blast of carnival colour and energy the likes of which neither Cinderella nor Chipping Norton has seen before!” The clock is ticking. Book your tickets now for the panto, November 15th to January 14th, at chippingnortontheatre.com


Reading’s favourite panto star Mr Tumble aka Justin Fletcher is back at The Hexagon for Sleeping Beauty from December 9th to January 7th. The wicked fairy Carabosse’s evil curse causes the princess to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into an enchanted sleep, can anyone rescue her from a magical slumber before it is too late? Sleeping Beauty will have everything you expect from a pantomime at the Hexagon, memorable musical numbers, tons of fun and laughter and a happy ever after! Book at whatsonreading.com

Why see just one pantomime when you can see seven? A madcap ride through the biggest and best pantos is on offer at Reading Rep Theatre courtesy of Potted Panto. All the beloved pantomime characters arrive on stage in this wonderfully absurd festive treat. A dastardly double act dash from rubbing Aladdin’s lamp to roaming the golden streets of Dick Whittington’s London and making sure that Cinderella gets to the ball! This might not be the traditional panto you think you’re looking for, but it’s the panto you need, from November 27th to December 31st. Book your tickets at readingrep.com

Make all of your wishes come true and join Windsor’s favourite threesome on a magical (carpet) ride of adventure and fun! With traditional pantomime comedy capers, dazzling dancers, colourful costumes, and a sprinkling of magic, you won’t want to miss this ‘genie’-ous show! Due to popular demand, this year’s pantomime is being extended for an extra week from November 24th to January 14th – making Aladdin Theatre Royal Windsor’s biggest panto of all time! Tickets at theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

Magic and mayhem are the order of the day at the Wilde Theatre with a new version of the timeless tale of Sleeping Beauty. A young princess is cursed to die on her birthday by an evil witch. After pricking her finger on a spinning wheel’s spindle, she falls into an eternal sleep from which she can only be awoken by true love’s kiss. Will the Princess find her true love and live happily ever after? Expect laughter, silly songs, colourful characters, slapstick comedy, and dangerous dragons in this panto favourite full of creative sparkle. You’ll be enchanted! November 24th to December 31st. More at southhillpark.org.uk

‘Every time a bell chimes an angel gets it’s wings’ in this adaption of the seasonal classic It’s A Wonderful Life, November 30th to December 30th at Reading Rep Theatre. It’s Christmas Eve in Bedford Falls… Down-on-his-luck banker, George Bailey, feels life has passed him by. So when his guardian angel pays him a visit, George is amazed to discover what life in his beloved town would be like without him in it… Maybe it’d be a little less wonderful after all? Based on the critically acclaimed 1946 Frank Capra movie this reimagining is brought to life by four actors playing all the residents of Bedford Falls. Don’t miss this heart-warming tale; readingrep.com

Experience Aladdin, Jasmine, and Genie on their magical journey to find the lamp and defeat the evil sorcerer in the magical, musical and hilarious adventure for the whole family brought to you by Wokingham Pantomime Group. Book your tickets for The Whitty Theatre, Luckley House School on December 29th and 30th at ticketsource.co.uk

Riverside Players are bringing Old Mother Hubbard, the Lady who Lived in a Shoe to The Memorial Hall, Windsor from December 1st to 3rd and 7th to 9th. The show features all your favourite characters from the hard-working Dame, Mother Hubbard, doing her best for her mischievous orphans Jack and Jill. There’s a classic love story between Little Miss Muffet and Little Boy Blue, Wee Willy Winky has been up all night and needs help staying awake, and the evil Baron is intent on bringing the village of Lower Bottom to its knees. Plenty of other characters show up along the way too. Book at riversideplayers.com or call 07803 705437.

Panto continues into the new year with Twyford Drama putting on Treasure Island, January 12th and 13th. The nautical masterpiece combines a comical riot of piratical hi jinks, flying custard pies, suspenseful chases, ferocious fights and of course…a never-to-be-forgotten hair-raising haunted grotto. Tickets and more info at twyforddrama.co.uk


Strictly Come Dancing glitter-ball winner Joe McFadden will reprise his role of baddie, the arrogant Eugene, alongside Hear’say and musical theatre star Suzanne Shaw as the Enchantress in Wycombe Swan and Imagine Theatre’s all-star Beauty and The Beast from 8th to 31st December. Joe says: “I’m excited to be back at the beautiful Swan after having a brilliant time here earlier in the year with the tour of Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d.” Suzanne adds: “I couldn’t be more delighted to be in Beauty and the Beast in my home town, I’ve wanted to do panto in Wycombe for 16 years and finally my wish has come true!”

They will star, along with Wycombe favourite Jon Clegg and another vocal local, Britain’s Got Talent Favourite La Voix, who recently appeared in ITV’s Queens For The Night as well as starring in Queen Of The Universe, the international drag-singing competition from RuPaul. Currently touring the UK in her show, The Red Ambition Tour, La Voix is no stranger to pantoland, telling us: “I can’t wait to play Peggy, internationally renowned barmaid of the village tavern! “Now, it sounds like I’ve been round the block a bit but this must be coming up 20 years of panto… And I love it: Christmas and panto!” Book at wycombeswan.co.uk

The Young Theatre at Beaconsfield’s The Curzon Theatre, HP9 1RG, will dazzle you with Cinderella, directed by Emma McGrath, 21st to 24th December, with an original script and loads of great songs and music, as well as some “truly ridiculous” jokes. Book your tickets at youngtheatre.org.uk

At The Elgiva in Chesham, you’re invited to step into a world of enchanted pumpkins, a handsome prince and some very special footwear… The team are preparing the sparkly costumes for a dazzling Cinderella from 2nd to 8th December. Please book your tickets at elgiva.com

Maidenhead pantomime Beauty and the Beast, supported by Marlow FM promises to whisk you away, at the Baylis Theatre in Braywick Leisure Centre, 14th to 24th December; maidenheadpanto.co.uk Aylesbury Waterside Theatre brings you Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from 1st December to 3rd January. More than 50,000 people watched last year’s production, and sales indicate another record-breaking year in store. BBC3 Counties breakfast show star Andy Collins returns, by popular demand, for a 12th magical year, playing the role of Muddles. “Year on year I feel so lucky getting to do something I love, in a town that I love, and with audiences who are quite simply the best around. Every year I do my thing on stage and see the faces of school children, parents, grandmas and grandads having fun and making memories.” For info
& tickets visit atgtickets.com

At Aylesbury’s Norman Bragg Studio, HP20 1UG, there are the festive alternatives of A Christmas Carol, 12th to 17th December, and Santa’s New Sleigh 19th to 24th December; please visit atgtickets.com

Some different festive offerings from Norden Farm… Enjoy an evening of stories, flowers and fragrant festive designs on 16th November with Mig Kimpton In Floral Pantoland! Miki is a magical family show for ages 3+ following a polar bear and penguin, 28th November to 30th December. And The Hundred Watt Club bring you A Burlesque Christmas Special on 15th December. To find out more & book please visit norden.farm

The Lane End Players are an established amateur theatre group whose talented players are polishing up their Pinocchio, featuring the famous puppet brought to life and his subsequent adventures with a circus, mermaids, a whale and lots more! Shows at the hall, HP14 3JE, from 12th to 27 January; visit laneendplayers.com

And inclusive Iver Heath Drama Club will offer six shows of Dick Whittington over two weekends from 20 to 27th January 2024, written by Lee Hall and directed by Lee Hall and Kaia Barton. Tickets at available to book here

Whichever pantos you choose, we hope you enjoy the best of the season.
All together now.. he’s behind you!

Christmas fun with The National Trust

Ellie Cox


Hampshire’s National Trust treasures have lots of festive delights for all the family…

Christmas is the time for getting together, to feel the warmth of festive days out with family and friends. At National Trust places in and around Hampshire, you can do just that, with winter experiences to bring joy, sprinkles of magic, and for little ones especially, a tingle of excitement.

There’s a real variety of Christmas entertainment to discover this year, with plenty of spectacle and sparkle for those ‘wow’ moments and selfies moments. Decorated houses bring much-loved stories to life – kindling a glow of nostalgia. You’ll find family actives, storytelling and crafts. Outside, frosty landscapes offer an uplifting escape for those who want winter nature, views and festive walks.

Here’s a roundup of the National Trust’s best Christmas events in an around Hampshire.

The magical one

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Christmas at Mottisfont

Mottisfont, near Romsey

Step into a Narnia-inspired world at Mottisfont this winter, with scenes and a family trail inspired by C.S. Lewis’s much-loved story, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The magic begins from the moment you enter the gardens, where Narnia’s famous black lamp post illuminates your way to the house, transformed for a 1940s Christmas. Inside, follow wartime evacuees Edmund, Lucy, Susan and Peter into the kingdom of the White Witch – a landscape of snow and Turkish delight. An enchanted woodland scene introduces more famous characters – look out for Lucy having tea with Mr Tumnus the fawn – and a display of exquisite Narnia illustrations by Pauline Baynes, the original artist of C.S. Lewis’s children’s books. There are plenty of ‘wow’ moments, from walking through the wardrobe into Narnia, and seeing the White Witch in her sleigh, to sitting on a throne with Aslan at the crowning of the young kings and queens. Outside, families can collect their Narnia-style map to continue the adventure. Life-size wardrobes frame iconic scenes, there are story-themed activities, and loads of great ‘selfie’ opportunities as you enter the Beaver’s cottage, find Father Christmas’s sleight and sit in the throne room at Cair Paravel.

26th November – 8th January (closed 24th & 25th December). Normal admission charges apply plus £1 per trail including members.

The cosy one

The Wind in the Willows at Christmas, Hinton Ampler

Hinton Ampner, near Alresford

The much-loved World of The Wind in the Willows comes to Hinton Ampner this Christmas. Inside the house follow Mollie, Rat and Badger as they leave their sheltered lives in the woods and along the riverbank to rescue incorrigible friend Toad from his wild adventures. Rooms are beautifully decorated to tell the story, from Toad’s motor car exploits to the friends’ stand against the mischievous weasels. Outside, you can visit the characters’ homes, dressed in charming seasonal displays, including Mole’s sweet little burrow among the trees and the grandeur of Toad Hall in the walled garden. Storytelling: enjoy Wind in the Willows storytelling on selected dates, in the cosy setting in Hinton’s second-hand bookshop (subject to volunteer availability).

26th November – 2nd January, Wednesday to Sunday (closed 25th & 26th December). Normal admission charges apply. Storytelling in the bookshop: 4, 11, 18, 20, 22, 27, 29 December, 11am-12pm & 1-2pm, free (note: these sessions are subject to volunteer availability). Pre-booking for Hinter Ampner essential, at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hinton-ampner or call 0344 249 1895.

The glamorous one

Christmas at The Vyne

The Vyne, near Basingstoke

This Christmas, the atmospheric interiors of The Vyne are decked out in Victorian festive finery, with twinkling lights and glittering Christmas trees. Inspired by the mansion’s 18th century ‘Grand Tour’ treasures, which include an incredible casket encrusted with semi-precious stones, you’ll also find decorations that celebrate Christmas in Europe. Look out for sumptuous Venetian masks, mini ‘Colesseums’ and intricate Moravian stars. A special ‘Passport’ takes families on their own ‘Grand Tour’ adventure in the house and gardens, with actives to try that explore festive traditions in other countries.

26th November – 3rd January (closed 24th & 25th December). Normal admissions charges apply plus £2 per family passport including member. If arriving by car pre-booking is essential, at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-vyne or call 0344 249 1895

The handmade one

Christmas at Uppark

Uppark House and Garden

Celebrate Christmas at Uppark and see the mansion adorned with natural and handmade decorations. Pretty festoon lights illuminate the approach to the mansion. Inside, you’ll find the entrance hall beautifully dressed and festively scented with winter greenery, pinecones, citrus fruit and cinnamon. Above and below stairs, each room has its own crafted theme, from music to haberdashery. Made by local community groups and including sparkling Christmas trees, the result is a unique and joyful Christmas experience. 

 19th November – 1st January, Thursday to Sunday (closed 25th & 26th December). Normal admission charges apply 

The medieval one

A Tudor Christmas

Winchester City Mill

Celebrate Christmas with Winchester City Mill as we go back to Tudor times, when Queen Mary I gifted the Mill to the City of Winchester. This ancient building is set for a royal feast, with festive decorations, costumes to dress up in, and a throne to sit on for a unique Tudor ‘selfie’. Our café is serving festive specials such as marchpane and gold leaf shortbread, as well as lots of other seasonal treats, many made using the Mill’s own stoneground flour. At weekends you can watch our volunteer millers making fresh stoneground flour, which is available to buy too, so that you can get baking at home. Pick up a pack of recipe cards, for some seasonal inspiration (for a small donation).

12 November – 2 January, Wednesday to Sunday (closed 25 to 27 December. Free entry. 

Craft workshops

Christmas dinner set ceramics class with Tash Fry

Local ceramicist Tash Fry will introduce you to the art of hand-building ceramics this Christmas, as you sculpt your very own tableware, for yourself or for gifts. Using hand-pinching and slab rolling techniques, you’ll create several pieces, from dinner plates to candlestick holders. The choice is yours. Allow up to four weeks for pieces to be fired. No previous experience necessary.

22 & 23rd November, 6-8pm, £45 per person, book on 0344 249 1895 or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winchester-city-mill

Christmas wreath making workshop with Field Farm Project

Join us inside ancient Winchester City Mill to make your own natural festive wreath using a base of willow and selected greenery. There’ll be a wide assortment of decorations to use, including fragrant pine cones, seed heads, teasels and berries, finished off with pretty ribbons to create a really eye-catching rustic design. All materials are supplied by Field Farm Project.

28 & 29 November, 4.30 – 7pm, £45, book on 0344 249 1895 or at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winchester-city-mill 

Discover dog-friendly venues in Newbury

Round & About


Newbury Business Improvement District are launching a new Dog-Friendly Trail Map in time for National Dog Day

The handy pocket Dog-Friendly Trail Map has launched online in advance of National Dog Day on Friday, 26th August, to help raise awareness of Newbury’s dog-friendly venues in the town centre.

The guide also supports the national and independently owned cafes, coffee shops, pubs, and eateries.

Copies of the map are due to be distributed in matching display boxes to all 20 independent businesses and some of the national brands featured, as well as at the 48 independent businesses included on the Independent Retail Map, launched in July.

There will be a further map in late summer / early autumn, this time sporting a vegan-friendly theme

The Dog-Friendly map includes a brief description of each venue and is set to become a useful resource for dog owners to discover the best dog-walking routes within walking distance of the town centre, while signposting to dog-waste bins in and around the area to encourage keeping Newbury clean and tidy. View the map online at: visitnewbury.org.uk/maps.

The themed maps produced by the BID are the second in a series of town centre maps for Newbury under the umbrella term ‘Newbury Town Trail Maps’.

Newbury BID, the not-for-profit organisation behind the Visit Newbury brand will also be releasing a further map in late summer / early autumn, this time sporting a vegan-friendly theme. This map will promote 59 vegan-friendly businesses extending from hospitality to retail and hair and beauty venues across the town centre.

The aim of our beautifully illustrated pocket guides and online interactive Town Trails is to help support our local businesses and raise the profile of our wonderful town centre

Kirsty Lemberger, Marketing Manager at Newbury BID, says: “We’re so pleased with our dog-friendly trail maps and hope the handy pocket-sized format will encourage dog-walkers to use the map on a regular basis to locate dog waste bins in the town centre and enjoy exploring new dog-walking routes in the area.

“The aim of our beautifully illustrated pocket guides and online interactive Town Trails is to help support our local businesses and raise the profile of our wonderful town centre. Launching our dog friendly map in line with the nationally recognised National Dog Day will help to increase awareness further while supporting a cause important to dog-lovers in West Berkshire and beyond!”

Maps are available to collect across the town centre at most businesses featured on the map, and from Newbury Library, West Berkshire Museum, and in the Old Town Hall.

If you run a business in Newbury Town Centre and would like to be included on an upcoming map, please email: [email protected].

To find out more about what’s happening in Newbury, please visit: visitnewbury.org.uk/newburys-calling.

School ready? Tips for parents

Liz Nicholls


Starting school can be a nervous time for children and their families. Local early years specialist Hayley Fuller offers these words of wisdom to allay some of the most common fears.

With the end of an academic year rapidly approaching, you may find yourself asking if your child is actually ready for “big” school? Your child may be moving on from a nursery, childcare or your home setting where everything has been a regular routine, having had consistent and familiar educators or family members supporting them.

You could be worrying about your summer born child starting school at the tender age of four and questioning yourself, are they emotionally or physically ready yet? Or maybe you have a child who still needs support with their speech and language ability? With over 20 years Early Years expertise, I am here to answer any questions or concerns you may have along with some ideas to support you and your pre-schooler.

“My child doesn’t show any interest in writing or drawing”

Do you have a child who would rather be outside kicking a ball or climbing a tree than sitting down to draw or write? Well good news, because these physical activities that your child shows more of an interest in now are actually helping them to be able to draw and write in the future (when they are ready!)

Helping your child develop strong core muscles and gross motor skills is the BEST thing you can do to help your child sustain the strength to hold a pencil later on. The gross motor muscles in turn, then support the fine motor muscles in the wrists and fingers for example, to become stronger and more sustainable.

So keep taking your child to the park, keep letting them climb the climbing frame and allow them to choose the outdoors! When their muscles and minds are ready, they will be interested and happy to write and draw.

“I am worried my child will find it hard to detach from me”

If your child has had trouble in the past settling into a different setting or being left with “new” people you may worry that your child will struggle to detach from yourself when they get to “big” school.

Keep all talk about starting school very positive, have active conversations with your child about how much fun they are going to have and how many wonderful new experiences they are going to take part in. If you are positive and demonstrate that you are not worried for them, your child will pick up on these mannerisms and will hopefully have more positive ‘self talk’ when they think about starting school.

Allow your child to bring in a ‘transition object’ such as a small soft toy, for the first few days as this could comfort them and bring some of ‘home’ into the new setting. If you can, arrange some playdates with some new class mates before they start school so your child can see a familiar face or two when they get there.

“My child is very shy, I am worried they might find it difficult to settle”

The most important thing to know though, is that it is completely normal if your child does need some extra support to settle. Never feel embarrassed by your child showing their attachment to you. Your child’s teacher will be well versed to this and will know a range of strategies to support them. Always say “goodbye” to your child (even if you think they will be upset to see you go) and never just “disappear” without your child knowing or lie and say you will be “back in a few minutes”.

Although this seems like a good idea, this ultimately prolongs your child’s attachment as they will be thinking about you returning soon. When you say “goodbye, see you after school” give a big hug to them and then go, you set a strong, clear message to your child that you are leaving now, you will be back and it is time for them to go into school. In the long run, this will help your child to settle more quickly.

“My child is very shy, I am worried they might find it difficult to settle”

The most important thing to know though, is that it is completely normal if your child does need some extra support to settle. Never feel embarrassed by your child showing their attachment to you. Your child’s teacher will be well versed to this and will know a range of strategies to support them. Always say “goodbye” to your child (even if you think they will be upset to see you go) and never just “disappear” without your child knowing or lie and say you will be “back in a few minutes”.

Although this seems like a good idea, this ultimately prolongs your child’s attachment as they will be thinking about you returning soon. When you say “goodbye, see you after school” give a big hug to them and then go, you set a strong, clear message to your child that you are leaving now, you will be back and it is time for them to go into school. In the long run, this will help your child to settle more quickly.

“My child still struggles to dress and undress independently”

Independence is an important part of starting school. Naturally, you would have supported your child heavily with this. Please do not worry if you child still struggles with buttons and zips, it is very normal developmentally for your three or four-year-old to need some support.

When you can encourage them to put their coats, shoes and socks on independently, then each morning throughout the summer or first half term at school, encourage them to attempt to put their uniform on and off on their own as much as possible. Once your child is at school and can see other children being independent with their dress they will naturally want to copy and will be more self-motivated to do this independently.

“My child is a fussy eater, I am worried they will not eat their school lunch/lunch box”

If your child is having school dinners, make sure you go through the menu with them together. This will help them feel more prepared for what will be on their plate. It is amazing how a fussy eater suddenly starts trying new foods because their friends are eating the same thing next to them. Try introducing one new food from the school menu, alongside their usual ‘safe’ foods when you are at home every day.

Even if they refuse for the first few days, you usually find after about eight attempts at looking and smelling the new food they will then move on to trying. If you are providing a packed lunch for your child, try this method also in their lunch box. You may be surprised! Think about cutting a little opening on difficult packets so your child can open it themselves more easily, and have a test run of them opening and closing any food boxes and drink bottles before they start.

Make sure to bring a snack when you pick up your child after school, they always leave hungry no matter how well they have eaten during the day. Busy minds require lots of food after all!

“My child still needs help to use the toilet and wipe themselves”

Toileting is again, a big part of starting school and your child’s teacher should be able to still support and help with this when needed. Keep practising as home and encouraging them to try and wipe by themselves.

Please do not worry if your child has a few accidents in the first term, when they haven’t had any for a while. I tend to find that some children get so “busy” with their activities they simply leave it too late to go. They will get used to this as time progresses and it is very normal for this to happen initially.

Make sure you pack plenty of spare underwear, socks, and bottom layers for you child in their school bag to help with this. Most Reception teachers will encourage the children to use the toilet very often throughout the day, especially in the first term.

“My child doesn't know anyone else at the school, I am worried they will feel left out”

Children are beautifully adaptable at this age, and they will make new friends extremely quickly as most children are naturally curious and talkative at this age. Even if you child ends to be quite shy, I have always found, in the first few weeks, they will gravitate towards “like minded” children naturally.

Social development is one of the biggest and most important parts of Reception so it is natural for your children to still be learning how to socialise and make friendships at this age and stage of development.


For more support, information or questions please do feel free to get in touch!

Hayley Fuller, EYFS specialist hayleyfuller.co.uk

Happy 5th birthday to The Lexicon

Karen Neville


Bracknell’s fabulous shopping centre is celebrating and you’re invited to join them

Celebrate The Lexicon’s fifth birthday with forest giants, seedling sprites, night forest theatre and a special birthday proms taking place in the town centre from August 24th to September 4th.

The Bracknell Giants, so popular last year, will return with two new friends. Bracknell Forest Guardian Elderma and the adventurous Will Wildwood, boasting an integral slide.

Also new for this year is The Night Forest theatre show, where younger visitors and their families will meet five fabulous forest creatures. Using holographic technology, these characters will appear to come to life as part of this interactive show. Places to attend The Night Forest Show can be pre-booked, with all proceeds going to The Lexicon Charity Fund.

Younger visitors and their families will meet five fabulous forest creatures

There’s also a Seedling Sprite Trail to follow, pick up a trail sheet and unlock the secrets for the chance to win some wonderful prizes, a host of fun entertainers, giveaways, a special birthday Proms taking place on Saturday, 3rd September and much much more.

The birthday proms will feature performers giving away birthday badges, tote bags and cupcakes.

From Monday, 5th September The Lexicon will be giving away five fabulous prizes donated by Beaverbrooks, Pandora, Marks & Spencer, Wagamma and Primark so keep your eyes on their Facebook page!

They will also reveal which local community groups have been awarded £5,000 each from The Lexicon Charity Fund.

Bracknell Forest Council and The Lexicon have teamed up to create the Bracknell Forest Festival so make sure that you put a note in your diary now.

Find out more

Find out more by visiting www.bracknellforestfestival.com

What’s your favourite local park?

Round & About


Love Parks Week runs from today until Friday 5th August, organised by Keep Britain Tidy.

The charity wants us all to enjoy our green spaces, whether it’s walking the dog, picnicking with friends, or pushing our little ones on a playground swing.

There are lots of events going on and the week is also set up to celebrate and support the efforts of the volunteers who maintain and protect our green spaces.

Buckinghamshire has so many wonderful parks to enjoy, including Guildford’s Loseley Park, Frimley Lodge Park in Camberley, Lightwater Country Park and Gostrey Meadow in Farnham… Which is your favourite? Make sure to share it on social media #LoveParks

We’ve also teamed up with Keep Britain Tidy to call for dog-owners to bag and bin their pooch’s poop!