Uncover Oxford with a tour guide

Round & About


After deciding 30 years behind a desk was enough, Joanna Hamilton trained to become an accredited member of the Oxford Guild of Tour Guides. What will you discover on a tour of the famous city?

Do you know your own backyard? Oxford residents are bracing themselves for the summer arrival of visitors who flock to the city to find out more about the dreaming spires and their surrounds, but how much do you know?

Many of these visitors take a tour to learn about the city, it’s famous university, the great (and not so great) who have studied and worked here – and, of course, our literature and film locations from C.S. Lewis to Harry Potter!

But it’s often more local visitors, old and young, who discover the most and enjoy seeing familiar sites with fresh eyes. Members of the Oxford Guild of Tour Guides are all trained and accredited and offer a more personal experience for curious local as well as overseas guests. We also have exclusive visiting arrangements to some of our famous colleges.

No two tours are ever the same. All guides cater for people’s individual interests – be that history, architecture, famous books (from the Oxford English Dictionary, Alice in Wonderland and our own Inspector Morse, film locations (you can see me in the opening sequence of Mama Mia 2 which was filmed in New College’s stunning hall with Bjorn from Abba!) to the story of the City and the University from Saxon times, through the beginnings of the University (lots of violence as well as study and religion) through to the current day, the turbulence of the 16th and 17th Century when Charles I set up court here and what is going on in Oxford now…

And the stories can be told while wandering our lovely medieval streets. Even in the busy summer, you can organise a tour for early morning or later afternoon to avoid the crowds. Or wrap up warm and take a tour during the quieter winter months.

People often book tours as gifts for family and friends (I did a funeral party once and also a wedding group) or local businesses looking to treat their staff or VIP customers.

You’re sure to find out so much more about places that we all know – but do not always know much about.

Every day I learn something new, not just about Oxford, but about the history of our country and the rest of the world. I also get to meet such interesting people and have an excuse to immerse myself in the work of notable characters and scientific innovations connected with our beautiful City.

You can find a Guide (you may know some of us!) at www.oxfordguildoftourguides.co.uk 

The Cricket Professionals of Oxford

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They have been playing cricket in Abingdon for a long time, as local author Michael Stimpson tells us in his new book The Cricket Professionals of Oxford

The first Abingdon Cricket Club was established in 1821 and played at a ground in Shippon. It was very much a club for gentlemen of the neighbourhood and not for the riff raff.

Throughout the Victorian period, cricket was played at many places in the town, including the Race Course on Abingdon Common, in the grounds of Caldecott House, and on a meadow in Rye Farm.

It was not until 1892 that a new cricket and football ground was opened, just over the bridge on Culham Road, and cricket has been played there ever since.

In the 1920’s and 30’s, all sorts of cricket teams sprung up in the town. The Abingdon Pavlova Cricket Club was the most successful, winning several trophies. Other teams at this time included the Abingdon Police, Abingdon GPO, MG Athletic, Abingdon Imperials and RAF Abingdon, as well as sides from different churches.

Some notable cricketers have played at Abingdon, including future England captain Plum Warner, who turned out for the town club whilst at Oxford University.

Michael also tells us how in recent times, the Abingdon Vale Cricket Club has nurtured the development of young players passing through its youth section. Of these youngsters, six have gone on to become professional cricketers, with two sets of brothers, Ben and Luke Charlesworth, and Tom and Ollie Price, joining Gloucestershire, whilst Harrison Ward and Zach Lion-Cachet now play for Sussex. All of these young cricketers are showing promise, with Ollie Price having played for England Lions on a tour to South Africa last winter. Oxfordshire Head Coach Rupert Evans said: “Abingdon Vale have good coaches, but it is just amazing that one cricket club has produced all of these lads.”

Abingdon has a long cricketing history, but looking to the future, some of its former youth players could go on to make a name for themselves.

The Cricket Professionals of Oxford by Michael Stimpson is available in local bookshops and Ebay pp £14.

Six of the best from Nico

Liz Nicholls


Six by Nico is the newest addition to the Westgate in Oxford. Liz Nicholls was lucky enough to be among the first to try it at the weekend

As the city of dreaming spires (with a wondrous view of them from the top of the Westgate) Oxford is known for its old-school charm.

But when a newcomer to the foodie scene creates a buzz, it’s a real thrill. And when that newcomer is an original foodie fanatic who has made his name in other, bigger, brasher cities before landing here, I’m sniffing about for titbits and tasters.

This is how I found myself absorbing the neon genius of an Irn Bru sorbet with a perfect ‘deep fried mars bar’ (actually a very classy chocolate pave & associated bits) in the intergalactic bonsai zen den at Six By Nico.

If you haven’t been to one of Nico Simeone’s restaurants (there are branches in Leeds, Belfast, London, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester and his native Glasgow) the concept is magically enjoyable. For £50 a head you can sit back and relax while you’re served a six-course tasting menu (dietary requirements catered for if you’re that person) that changes every six weeks, drawing inspiration from a memory, place or idea. For an extra £39 you can enjoy an expertly matched wine with each course, which I highly recommend you do.

Now, you might hate a ‘tasting menu’. Weeny portions and a lack of imagination at other restaurants might have given them a bad name, but not here. Thanks to hard graft, his Italian heritage, a flawless service team and a real passion for food, Nico knows exactly what he’s doing. The first menu is ‘the Chippie’, a nostalgic chip shop-inspired half dozen.

This is no bodged assortment of battered bits, instead you’ll find the courses deconstructed and dreamed up as better variations. From the starter, a mindbending parmesan and tatty concoction with curry oil, through the mains including a ‘steak pie’ of meaty magic which arrives in a smoke-filled cloche for a theatrical flourish to that incredible pud, you’re taken on a journey. But, amid a stonking interior (top marks for the amazing banquettes and yellow leather scalloped sofas) the food manages to sing. It’s not fancy for the sake of itself, either, but the flavours and originality should, hopefully mean this place is here for many changing menus to come. Oxford is stony ground for people to take root (as I know, 12 years after landing here myself) so I hope the Westgate crowd take it to their hearts.

I can’t wait for the next one. And, take it from me, you won’t leave hungry or hammered but with a spring in your step.

Bookings from 20th May. Visit Home – Six By Nico

Nik Kershaw comes to Oxford

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Nik Kershaw and his full band announce June & July 2024 shows coming to Oxford – O2 Academy on Friday 28th June.

Nik Kershaw and his band are excited to announce intimate festival warm-up shows at O2 Academy, Oxford on Friday, 28th June, Epic in Norwich on Saturday, 29th June, and Roadmender in Northampton on Friday, 12th July.

The performances will be devoid of dance moves, lasers, pyrotechnics, or any other showbiz elements. Instead, attendees can anticipate a focus on exceptional music, with minimal sartorial extravagance and a close-up, high-energy experience.

The setlist will feature Kershaw’s hit songs such as ‘Wouldn’t it be Good’, ‘The Riddle’, ‘I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’, among others, along with selections from his extensive discography and possibly a few surprising cover versions. This presents a rare opportunity for fans to witness the acclaimed songwriter, once praised by Elton John as ‘the best songwriter of his generation’ (with a disclaimer acknowledging Elton’s possibly altered state when making the statement).

June & July 2024 shows include:
Friday 28th June: Oxford – O2 Academy
Saturday 29th June: Norwich – Epic Studios
Friday 12th July: Northampton – Roadmender

All tickets are priced at £32.50 advance plus any BF’s/levy’s that may be applicable.
Tickets are available from Nik Kershaw (thegigcartel.com)

Minster Mill

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Indulge in unforgettable moments at Minster Mill

Minster Mill is just located 15 miles from the dreaming spires of Oxford & 11 miles from Blenheim palace. The charming Cotswold stone building and barns are flanked by 65 acres of idyllic grounds, set in the picture-perfect Oxfordshire village of minster lovell.

Beautiful gardens, you can find wildflower meadows, woodland and in the summer months enjoy fishing, walking croquet and tennis. As the winter comes you can enjoy the hearty food and cosy interiors enjoyed by the roasting fire.

You have so many locations near-by:
• Witney Lakes Golf Course – 6 min drive
• Crocodiles of the World – 8 min drive
• Cogges Manor Farm – 9 min drive
• Cotswold Wildlife Park – 10 min drive
• Blenheim Palace – 22 min drive

Drinking and Dining with impressive, vaulted ceilings and original oak beams, the three AA rosette Mill Restaurant & Bar provides a wonderfully atmospheric backdrop for exceptional seasonal food and drink.

The garden spa – wash away your worries in this tranquil heaven, set in the heart of our landscape’s grounds. Including a plunge pool, Rock sauna, Aroma steam room, ice fountain and tropical rain forest showers. Highly recommend the Unique RASUL mud therapy. A traditional, ancient, Middle Eastern ritual where mineral-rich mud, heat and steam will leave your skin beautifully soft. This indulgent treatment will awaken your senses. Mineral muds are presented to smooth onto the body and face, steam infused with relaxing aromas is then gently introduced to the room to help soothe tense muscles and open the pores, allowing the enriched muds to condition your entire body. After approximately 20 minutes enjoy the induction of a warm mist as it descends within your rasul to gently soften and help wash away the remaining mud, leaving your skin feeling conditioned and your mind clear.

Overnight stays at Minster Mill start from £170 per room, two sharing including breakfast. There are also packages regularly offered, including delicious meals, spa experiences or treats, so do keep an eye on the website for the latest offers. Minster Mill / 01993 774 441

Many exciting events coming up: Latest Events Diary – Minster Mill

Give something back…volunteer!

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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

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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 www.oxtrail2024.co.uk