Give something back…volunteer!

Round & About


Find your perfect volunteering opportunity at OCVA’s Volunteer Recruitment Fair at the Westgate Oxford Shopping Centre on 20th March 2024

Oxfordshire residents are invited to pop into the Westgate Shopping Centre on 20th March (10am-2pm) to find out more about the huge range of volunteering opportunities on offer across the county.

Oxfordshire Community & Voluntary Action (OCVA) has been supporting the voluntary and community sector to flourish in Oxfordshire for 90 years and their Volunteer Recruitment Fair will bring together more than 20 different groups, including charities working in health and wellbeing, education, the environment and more. They are all keen to chat with potential volunteers.

With recent research from the National Lottery Community Fund finding that half of UK adults intend to take part in local volunteering activities in 2024 – and one in ten (14%) planning to volunteer for the first time – this is a fantastic opportunity to find the perfect role to suit you.

Jenny Bowley, Volunteer Development Officer for OCVA, said: “OCVA is delighted to be working with Westgate Oxford to raise the profile of volunteering in Oxfordshire. We know volunteering is a lot of fun, can help you to use existing skills and to learn new ones, and is great for health and wellbeing, so we hope this fair will link more people with some of the amazing charities working across the county.”

Brendan Hattam, Centre Director at Westgate Oxford, said, “By hosting the OVCA’s Volunteer Recruitment Fair, we hope that our guests will learn about the missions of an array of fantastic regional and national charities, and the tangible impact they have on their communities, whilst also encouraging them to get involved in volunteering.” 

If you’re interested in volunteering, why not visit OCVA’s website or the Oxon Volunteers website?

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.

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.

Embark on an Easter adventure in a neolithic landscape. Walk in the footsteps of dragons, warrior tribes and kings on this easter trail and explore the secrets of the White Horse near Uffington on March 29th to April 1st.

Explore the Wilderness Walk at Chastleton near Moreton-in-Marsh, March 29th-April 1st, and find out more about all the creatures and critters that call it home before heading to the house to spot the 10 Easter bunnies hiding there to claim your prize.

An egg-citing Easter weekend will fill the Walled Garden at Blenheim Palace with fun from March 29th – April 1st. Hop along to enjoy a whole host of egg-citing activities including circus skills, balloon modelling, bubble performances, bungee trampolines and a travelling vintage variety show, and look out for the Easter Bunny throughout the weekend too. Keep little ones busy with the Easter egg hunt around the grounds and why not visit the Walled Garden Pizzeria to refuel with a delicious wood-fired pizza afterwards.

Join the Big Easter Bunny Hunt around the ornamental Waterperry Gardens, April 1st-14th. £3.50 per child with a prize – children must be accompanied by an adult for whom the garden entrance fee applies. The gardens are open from 10am and close at 5.30pm daily, including over the Easter period, no need to pre-book, look forward to seeing you!

Get ready for an egg-citing adventure at Stonor and Tumblestone Hollow, Henley, 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.

Experience the magic of spring at Cotswold Farm Park whose annual lambing event is back and better than ever, with over 900 lambs and kids expected to be born on the farm. It’s a must-see for anyone who loves animals and the wonder of new life with a team of experts on-hand to share their knowledge with daily lambing talks to help you learn all about the new arrivals.

Millets Farm spring event is open daily from April 1st to 14th at the Millets Maze Courtyard… all the puzzling fun without the maize! Spring into the great outdoors to help Farmer Carter play our great quiz trails and activities within the three woodlands, courtyards and castle. Enjoy the go-karts, pedal tractors, sand pits, family games and much more!

Buscot Park house and gardens reopen for the summer season on Good Friday, 29th March, and will be open 2-6pm daily over the Easter bank holiday weekend. New for 2024 is a free sculpture trail around the gardens, featuring stunning glass sculptures by Gloucestershire artists Sally Fawkes and Richard Jackson. More here.

Instead of Easter bunnies how about Easter horses? Huntersfield Equestrian Centre near Faringdon hosts regular pony camps, days and rallies during holidays and mid-term breaks. Open to children between the ages of four and 16 years, no prior experience is needed, just a positive and eager attitude to learn more about horses and their care. And of course there’s loads of fun to the activities too. Find out more and book here.

If you’re looking for some entertainment over the Easter holidays how about a trip to a local theatre. The Cornerstone, Didcot invites you to visit The Museum of Marvellous Things on Sunday, 7th April, and watch the impossible happen with giant puppets, magical effects, interactive storytelling, live original music and a chance to make your own special puppet, all from the magic of your imagination. Book here.

All the fun of the circus comes to The Beacon, Wantage on Thursday, 11th April when the laughter-packed stage show Cartoon Circus Live combines the comedy of pantomime with the thrill of the circus. Expect clowns, traditional slapstick comedy, illusions, the amazing girl in the spinning bottle, magic, a huge giant dancing bear, cartoon characters, an acrobatic human slinky, puppets, prizes and surprises and a performing piranha! Book here.

Image: National Trust/Paul Harris

Worth The Weight

Round & About


Share some love for preloved clothes on Saturday, 27th January at Oxford Town Hall at Worth The Weight’s Oxford Kilo Sale.

Sheffield based Worth The Weight was founded in 2018 as a way of fighting fast fashion. Experts predict 2024 will see the trend of shopping second hand increase dramatically – with the cost of living going up and worries about climate change, shoppers are keen to not only to save the environment, but save a few pounds by ditching fast fashion and opting for a preloved approach.
Events like Worth The Weight’s Oxford Kilo Sale offer a chance for shoppers to rethink their shopping habits and become part of the shopping revolution. The event will feature nine tonnes of handpicked vintage and pre-owned stock to have a rummage through, it’s a great way to start the new year with a clear conscience this January.
It can also be a tough time that’s why they are continuing to cap heavier items at £20. Even if it weighs over a kilo, you’ll never pay more than £20 for 1 item! Just be sure to point out heavy items to your server at the till to redeem the discount.
Chris Davies, Worth The Weight Organiser, said: “We’re noticing a change in shopper demographic during the events, Oxford has seen families of all ages coming together to help support the sustainable clothing industry.”
Worth The Weight will return to The Oxford Town Hall on Saturday, 27th January from 11am until 5pm. Entry is £3 for early bird and £2 after.
For more details about Worth The Weight and future events visit Worth The Weight Vintage

Social post – Rethink your shopping habits and share some love for the planet and your pocket at Worth The Weight’s Oxford Kilo Sale at Oxford Town Hall on Saturday, 27th January, 11am-5pm

Two operas come to Oxford

Ellie Cox


Award-winning producer Ellen Kent returns to Oxford’s New Theatre.

The Ukrainian Opera & Ballet Theatre Kyiv will be presenting stunning classical productions of Bizet’s Carmen on Wednesday 17th January and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly on Thursday 18th January.

Bizet’s masterpiece, Carmen, is packed with passion, sexual jealousy, death and unforgettable arias. The story of the bewitching gypsy girl whose tantalising beauty lures a soldier to desertion and leads to her own murder, Carmen includes some of the most evocative and best-loved melodies in opera.

The stunning set, built by Setup Scenery, who also build sets for the Royal Opera Covent Garden, reflects the magnificent architecture of Seville with its Roman and Moorish influences.

Carmen will star Ukrainian mezzo-soprano’s Natalia Matveeva and Irina Sproglis.  Sung in French with English surtitles.

Madama Butterfly, the winner of the Best Opera Award by the Liverpool Daily Post Theatre Awards, returns in a new production with exquisite sets including a spectacular Japanese garden and fabulous costumes including antique wedding kimonos from Japan. One of the world’s most popular operas, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly tells the heart-breaking story of the beautiful young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American naval lieutenant – with dramatic results. Highlights include the melodic ‘Humming Chorus’, the moving aria ‘One Fine Day’ and the unforgettable ‘Love Duet’.

In Madama Butterfly the fabulous Korean soprano Elena Dee returns alongside Ukrainian soprano Alyona Kistenyova and Ukrainian mezzo-soprano’s Natalia Matveeva and Irina Sproglis. Madama Butterfly will be sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Ellen personally hand-picks and directs all soloists to create visually beautiful and moving productions. She said of these productions, ‘I am delighted to be working with the Ukrainian Opera & Ballet Theatre Kyiv again after the huge success of the spring 2023 tour. I started working with Ukraine in 2000 and have continued these strong relationships ever since, working with the Odessa National Opera for which I was awarded The Golden Fortune Honorary Medal from the President of the Ukraine, as well as the Kharkiv National Opera and for the last couple of years with the brilliant Opera & Ballet Theatre Kyiv.’

Tickets for Carmen (17 January 2024) and Madama Butterfly (18 January 2024) at Oxford’s New Theatre are available here.

David Melling Paints Ox In Oxford

Round & About


Not as strange as it sounds (honest), the brains behind Hugless Douglas kicks off OxTrail 2024 in the Westgate next week.

Oxford is bracing itself for a stampede of brightly coloured bovine masterpieces next year.

OxTrail is an exciting new project from Sobell House and Wild in Art and will be Oxford’s first ever sculpture trail. Starting in July 2024, you can expect to see delightfully decorated bulls adorning the streets of Oxford. The idea will not only brighten up the city but will help to fund Sobell House which is an important part of life in Oxford and has provided compassionate care to adults with a life-limiting illness and supported their loved ones since 1976.

As a precursor to the start of OxTrail, leading Oxford artist and author behind the famous Hugless Douglas children’s book series, David Melling, will be painting one of the first oxen in a special space that will be available for the public to view. 

You will be able to see the highly accredited artist at work on a special ox that will form part of the trail at the Westgate Shopping Centre from 18th – 21st December. 

David’s ox that will be taking centre stage at Sobell House Hospice until the event next summer. 

Amelia Foster, CEO at Sobell House Hospice Charity, said: “OxTrail aims to inspire creativity across Oxfordshire and what better way to kickstart that than being able to see such a recognised, local creative at work.

“In yet another huge show of support from local businesses for OxTrail, Westgate Shopping Centre has kindly provided us with a space during the key Christmas shopping period where people can visit and take a sneak peek of the amazing life-size ox sculptures that will form OxTrail.”

David Melling said: “I’m honoured to be part of the OxTrail project here in Oxon. As a book illustrator, used to working on flat surfaces, the idea of painting a life-size sculpted ox sounds challenging and fun. Of course, this wonderful project is about sharing the incredibly important work by the hospice, Sobell House, and to help raise funds to support its work in the local community.”

The OxTrail event pop-up space will be at Westgate Shopping Centre on the upper level, near John Lewis and Next, between 8am and 6pm from Monday 18th to Thursday 21st December. 

Shoppers at Westgate will also be able to support Sobell House Hospice by visiting the Charity Super.Mkt pop-up store which is open now until 23rd December. Sobell House Hospice is one of the three chosen charities that will receive support from the temporary department store that only sells second-hand clothes. 

For more information on OxTrail visit 

Amaze-ing round trip to the Ashmolean

Liz Nicholls


The Ashmolean Museum rooftop restaurant is the perfect setting to enjoy a selection of Greek-inspired highlights to enjoy to tie in with the LABYRINTH: Knossos, Myth & Reality exhibition until the end of July.

I’ve often thought that the rooftop restaurant on top of the Ashmolean – the world’s oldest museum, no less – occupies the most impressive spot in the city.

Perched high above the Dreaming Spires, within spitting distance of the grand old Randolph Hotel, it’s a dreamy space of blonde wood, fluffy globe lighting & trippy round window holes that’s bright, breezy & rather fabulous, even on a drizzy winter’s day.

So it’s wonderful that the new menu buzzes with Greek pizazz to tie in with the fabulous current exhibition centred on Knossos, especially that mythic beast The Minotaur.

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James Haskell stand-up tour visits Oxford

Round & About


The #1 podcaster & author of bestseller What A Flanker will deliver his debut comedy show at Oxford’s O2 Academy on 16th March

James, the star of The Good, the Bad and the Rugby podcast, is back on the road again with his new stage show Sex, Tries and Videotape.

This show chart James’ journey from his early days as mischievous schoolboy through his time as a professional rugby player, having played around the world including at Wasps, Northampton, Stade Francais, The Ricoh Black Rams, and The Highlanders.

“The idea to do a full tour came about after I did a five-date run and really enjoyed it, basically,” he says. “I’ve had lots of adventures in my career, which was very colourful to say the least. I worked under five different England managers, played in multiple different countries, I’m married to Richard and Judy’s daughter, I’m a DJ and producer, I host multiple different podcasts and obviously I’ve gotten myself into a fair bit of scandal over the years, so there’s quite a lot to talk about I think! So it’s a nice opportunity to entertain people and make them laugh. It’s not meant to be overly serious, but it’s a true reflection on my career, but just focusing on the funny bits!

“A lot of me setting the record straight was done in the book, to be honest. Obviously I’m going to touch on the fact that I’m a new dad, that I live with my in-laws and that I’ve been a victim of the media at times and I’ve caused trouble with them myself at times. So I’m not lecturing, I’m just giving people an idea of what I’m like. The real life stories might be shocking and even unbelievable, but they actually all happened and that’s what I’ll be telling people about.

“I do a lot of speaking and I’ve always been fascinated by comedians, so any time I talk I’m usually trying to make people laugh. There was an opportunity to do this podcast, which would be ten episodes and an eight-minute stand up, then followed by another series of ten and do a 20-minute warm-up for Russel Kane in a comedy club, so I was really keen to do it. It was quite scary, but not completely out of the realm of what I’ve already been doing. Obviously if you’re recording the whole journey, it makes it a bit harder as if you end up failing and you bomb, which happens to all of us at some point, it’s out there for everyone to see, but it’s went really well so far. I’ve just started the second season and it’s been a great adventure, but it’s also been the most nervous I’ve been to do anything for a long time, which makes you feel alive!”

Tickets and VIP packages are on sale with prices starting from £26.50 via James Haskell – Sex, Tries and Videotape Tour 2023

Forest family fun at Hill End

Karen Neville


Celebrate the season in the great outdoors at Hill End centre just outside the city

Escape the hullabaloo of Christmas preparations with a day in nature to help you reconnect and chill out at a family forest day at Hill End. The outdoor activities base just outside Oxford city centre has been inviting people to take part in unique outdoor learning experiences for just over 100 years.

And at this chaotic time of year what could be better than releasing in the open air with the chance for children to run free and play games, follow the winter trail as a family, make creative crafts using natural materials and just sit around the campfire and toast marshmallows.

Enjoy the Christmas holiday fun on Tuesday 20th from 1pm to 5pm and on Wednesday 21st from 10am to 2pm.

These self-led open days are just £8.50 per person and include a jacket potato or soup and hot drinks in the Friends of Hill End pop-up café.

Booking essential. Visit and click on whichever date you wish to book.

The month starts with a fun evening keeping warm by the fire, singing carols and Christmas songs and festive story time on Friday, 2nd December from 4:30pm to 6:30pm.

Tickets, £6 Friends adult member / £3 child and £8 non-Friends / £6 child, include hot drinks, marshmallows and mince pies. Booking essential in advance, visit

A visit to Hill End offers visit the opportunity to be closer to nature, with the space and time to explore and appreciate the wonders of the natural environment.

A holistic approach = glowing skin

Round & About


Dr Seema Warner, skin expert & founder of Oxford’s YourSkinStory, explains why a holistic approach will add that vital glow to your skin

Your skin….

It is your barrier to the outside world. Standing up to attack from UV rays, pollution, bacteria, pathogens, dirt and grime and environmental toxins. It’s a powerhouse of immunity making hormones that are important for defence and physically keeping our internal environment of blood, tissues and cells protected. It has the power to change how we feel about ourselves. We wear it every day and if we don’t care for it, it won’t be able to care for us. The power of healthy, beautiful skin goes beyond just a great selfie – although that’s always a bonus!

“The power of healthy, beautiful skin goes beyond just a great selfie – although that’s always a bonus!”

Your skin is unique to you. Holding within it cells responsible for oil production, pigment, cell repair and turnover, as well as its own population of bacteria and microbiota known as your skin microbiome. No one else has skin like yours or receives the same sensory input, external stimuli or nutrition as you do. Which is why it’s so important to treat it individually with a personalised approach that fits into your life and addresses your unique make up. It is yours and yours alone.

We need to stop seeing skin as detached from the rest of our body. It’s very much part of our whole body. Blood flow, lymphatics and nerve cells ensure that there’s a constant connection between our internal environment and that of our skin. If skin care is not integrated, we are not treating our skin fully or adequately. We need to step back and see the whole picture. If you’ve seen the difference a really good night’s sleep can make to your skin, then you’ve already seen the power of integrating skin health care!

Get in touch

If you’ve tried many skin products with no luck or simply don’t know where to start. I’d love to help you find the ideal routine for your skin. Or if you’ve struggled with a skin issue that will not respond to other treatments or are interested in healing from the inside and out, please do get in touch. I run online skin programmes to help you virtually through product, nutrition and lifestyle advice, as well as treatment programmes from my Oxford clinic. I make my advice as practical as possible and personalised to your skin, body and lifestyle so you can put things into practice in a way that makes sense to you. Skin treatments focus on skin health as well as results and emotional well-being to give you whole body results.

New scientific research is emerging every day, with the realisation that we can control our health more than we initially thought. That although we’re born with a specific set of genes, it’s our environment and lifestyle that modify and switch these on or off. And that we’re connected throughout our body with an incredibly sophisticated system that relies on each aspect supporting the other. Each day will bring new elements for your body to manage and so your skin will change to accommodate this. It will tell the story of you and your life. It is your skin story.

Shooting stars in wildlife photo competition

Round & About


Well done to all the wildlife lovers who took part in the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) competition who snapped some beautiful sights at local nature reserves and green spaces and showed how nature can help our mental health

Winning entries include this stunning shot of a buzzard in flight, this pin-sharp picture of a tiny shield bug emerging from a garden flower and a portrait of a pensive kingfisher.

The winner of this year’s children’s category was eight-year-old Roly Lewis from Oxford. The North Hinksey Primary School pupil took his fantastic photo of a shield bug, poking its head out of a flower in his own front garden.

Roly said: “I wanted to enter the competition, so I took lots of wildlife pictures all spring and summer. I thought this photo was my best one because the blossom was a nice background, and the shield bug had an amazing colour and pattern. This made me look closely at shield bugs which are really amazing. My mum told me I had won when I came out of school, and I was so excited I jumped up and down. I really wanted to win but I thought there would be so many good photos that I wouldn’t.”

Children Winner – Roly Lewis (8) (Sheildbug)
Children Runner Up – Hayden Denham (7) (Hummingbird Hawkmoth)

The Wildlife Trust restarted its popular photo competition this summer after a three-year break because of the pandemic. The charity, which manages more than 80 nature reserves across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, challenged everyone aged six and over to take fantastic photos of plants, animals and fungi at its sites, or to capture action for wildlife in their local area.

Roy McDonald took first place with his crystal-clear shot of a buzzard in mid-air at the Trust’s College Lake reserve near Tring. The 45-year-old former courier driver from Berkhamstead revealed after winning the contest that he has struggled with his mental health for some years, and that wildlife photography had helped. He said: “Nature helps me so much, it’s honest and calming and it doesn’t judge you, and just sometimes, if you are calm and patient, it will allow you to get up close into their world. I always take great pleasure when a creature trusts you enough to not scurry or fly away. But you don’t have to take photos: just being in nature and observing it can give you something to focus on.

“I had my encounter with a majestic buzzard on a cold and beautiful winter day. I had seconds to react once I spotted it, and just as my focus locked on, it spotted me and flew directly across my path. So close to me. I chose the first image of the sequence because it had the most amount of action and sense of place. It is by far and away the best shot of a buzzard I have ever managed. They have eluded me for years. I’m quite stunned and delighted to have won.”

Flora and fauna Winner (and overall winner) – Ray McDonald (buzzard in flight) taken at College Lake
Flora and fauna Runner Up – Adrianna Bielobradek (Poppy seedhead) taken at Buckleberry Common)

As overall winner, Mr McDonald won a top-of-the-range Panasonic Lumix digital camera and a wildlife photography masterclass. As well as receiving a printed canvas of his picture and having it appear in BBOWT’s 2023 calendar.

This year’s contest had six new categories: flora and fauna; nature reserve landscapes; people in nature; children’s category (ages 6-12), teenagers (ages 13-19) and Team Wilder, for shots of action for nature in the community. Helen Touchard-Paxton, a mum who lives Buckinghamshire, won the Team Wilder category with a snap of a frog in a garden pond that she and her family dug during the coronavirus lockdown.

She said: “I believe this photo shows that you don’t need acres of land to create a successful wildlife area: if you are interested – no matter how small your space – just have a go and see what works. I don’t have high-end expensive equipment, and I have no idea how to use photo editing software – the photo is very much ‘as taken’. I was absolutely amazed to have won the Team Wilder category.”

Team Wilder Winner – Helen Touchard-Paxton (frog)
Team Wilder Runner Up – Peter Massam (bug hotel)

The Trust received hundreds of entries, creating an extremely difficult job for this year’s judges. BBOWT communications officer Kate Titford, Trust magazine editor Ben Vanheems and professional photographer Steve Gozdz, who runs local nature safaris in Berkshire through his business GG Wildlife Experiences.

Teenagers Winner – Zachary Osbourne (14) Kingfisher
Teenagers Runner Up – Lucy Colston (17) (marbled white on scabious)

Mr Vanheems said: “It’s been a really laborious process with lots of debate going on because we want to get it right, but the competition entrants haven’t exactly made it easy for us.”

People in Nature Winner – Petra Mohr (girl on decking) taken at Weston Turville Reservior
People in Nature Runner Up – Lorraine Clarke (man in hide) taken at College Lake

Mr Gozdz added: “What I was looking for was composition, good use of light – an action shot would have been fantastic. What we’ve found is something quite stunning. A real in-the-moment shot with perfect angles and perfect light, and actually something I would have been very happy to have taken myself. In fact, when I first saw it I was quite jealous.”

Landscape Winner – Charlotte Day (sunrise landscape) taken at Cholsey Marsh
Landscape Runner Up – John Kearns (Warburg trees) taken at Warburg
The trust is grateful to GG Wildlife Experiences, Panasonic and Chroma for sponsoring this year’s competition.