May half term sorted!
But Easter was only yesterday I hear you cry! Don't worry, Muddy has you covered with the best family-friendly things to do over May half term in Berks and beyond.
Fancy getting a new perspective on the world? The Great Big Tree Climbing Company will teach you and yours how to enter a tree’s canopy using ropes, knots and karabiners (no idea what that is, let’s move on) before doing the fun bit and taking the zip wire back down. Seeing Mr M land in the woodchips after a speedy zip wire descent still has my children in stitches. Coming to Cliveden, nr Marlow, (Mon 27 – Tues 28), Hughenden Manor, nr High Wycombe, (Thurs 30) and Stonor, nr Henley, (Fri 31). 6+
Cabaret for kids? Bear with us… Duckie, a re-imagining of The Ugly Duckling, is acclaimed cabaret star, Le Gateau Chocolat’s first foray into children’s performance (all family-friendly, of course), and it sounds faaabulous. A good moral tale about self respect, with a side order of glitz and glamour- showing at Muddy favourite Norden Farm, Maidenhead, Wed 29 May.
If you fancy a day out in Oxford, don’t miss Tarzanna, at The North Wall theatre, featuring dance and aerial acrobatics (Sat 25 May, 5-8 years) rap musical Mole & Geko: The Show (Sat 1 Jun) at the Pegasus Theatre. Word. Or Julia Donaldson’s kids’ classic Zog – about a young dragon eager to win a golden star at Madam Dragon’s school – at the Oxford Playhouse (Fri 31). If your kids have seen Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales and Tabby McTat, it’s a dead cert as it’s the same team behind the production.
Bucklebury Farm Park, Bucklebury, Sun 29 May – Sun 4 June
You are going to be overdosing on cuteness at Bucklebury Farm Park. Who an resist the lure of newborn furry friends – and they don’t get much cuter than Anglo Nubian goat kids and new deer calves. Early risers (is there any other type of child?) may get the chance to join a Spring Deer Safari. Email email@example.com for details.
Go Paddling Week, Advenure Dolphin, Pangbourne Sat 25 May – Sun 2 June
Did you know that hundreds of events and challenges are being organised nationwide to help encourage people give paddle sports a go? Nope, me neither – but we do now, so there’s absolutely no hiding behind the sofa! National Go Canoeing Week is being celebrated at Adventure Dolphin in Pangbourne with canoeing, paddle boarding and kayak trials on Weds 29 and Thurs 30 May for just £5. Check out their website for details. adventuredolphin.co.uk
You have to hand it to Legoland for continuing to come up with ways to sell the Lego dream to under-10s in ever-inventive new ways. This year’s attraction is the fangtastic Haunted House Monster Party, a brand new rotating ride and that’ll turn your world upside down (Best before lunch) There’s also the Ninjago World and Lego Miniland, which took three years to complete.
Highclere Country Show, Highclere Castle, Sun 26– Mon 27 May
The usual dog shows, bouncy castle, birds of prey and ferret racing but I’m particularly liking the look of the gold panning in the hope that Lord Carnarvon might have mislaid an Eqyptian treasure. Under 16s go free – result! Hang out at Downton before the bus loads of tourists arrive when the movie is out.
Nature Explorer Week, Wellington Country Park, Mon May 27 – Sun 2 June
Running throughout half term, simply collect your Nature Explorer Pack when you arrive at Reception, then use it to explore the Park. Discover birds, mini beasts and then head for the Pop-up Play Area for the Mud Kitchen, pebble painting and crafty stick men (stock up on Persil). Plus there’s a nature drawing competition with prizes up for grabs. Challenge accepted. Winner gets the last Chocolate Club biscuit.
Victoria and Albert 200, Windsor Castle, Sat 25 May – Sun 2 Jun
I think Queen Victoria would be chuffed to bits with her Jenna Coleman makeover as we celebrate what would have been her 200th birthday. While we’re busy blowing out all the candles and knocking back a celebratory champers, your kids can get stuck into the Windsor Castle fun – dress up, enjoy storytelling, falconry and more every day of half term.
Go Ape, Swinley Forest Bracknell, open all year
No matter what the weather, if you want to get outdoors, get some fresh air and have some fun head to Swinley Forest and tackle the Go Ape course. You’ll enjoy a fun-filled hour exploring the canopy, trail blazing and tackling obstacles – finishing on the zip wire. The Junior Adventure is aimed at 6-12 year-old Tarzans, but if your child is under 6 but over a metre tall they can still join in. goape.co.uk
Wellies at the ready! Berkshire is a little dry of good family-friendly festivals, so you need to look a little further afield. First off the blocks is Cotswolds weekender, Lechlade Music Festival – Brit indie-pop crew The Feeling are headlining, plus there’s yoga, woodland skills workshops and storytelling (Fri 24 – Sun 26). Head over to Glos, as the Wychwood Festival pitches up at Cheltenham Racecourse, it’s another family fair with comedy, yoga and performances from Scouting For Girls, The Stranglers, ABC and, um, Basil Brush (Fri 31 May – Sun 2 June). Or, if you can’t cope with camping, there’s family friendly day fest All My People, in Chalfont St. Peter, Gerrards Cross– Soul II Soul headline and there’s also an Acoustic Garden showcasing emerging talent, yoga, wellbeing workshops, street food, kids activities and a vintage fair.
A nice counterpoint to the larger, big name festivals are a couple of slightly more localish dos. High Wycombe‘s biggest annual music festival, Frogfest, returns on bank holiday (Sun 26), taking over the town centre. Now in its sixth year, the festival gets bigger every year with local bands and those from further afield, craft workshops, fire shows and circus acts. Or, there’s Love Marlow (Sat 1 – Sun 16 Jun), Marlow, a two0week community festival with over 60 events including music, sport, workshops and kids activities across the town. For the last weekend of half term, you can catch Marlow Market (Sat 1), Brass on the Grass (Sun 2) and Marlow Beerfest (Sat 1 – Sun 2) which will be serving a selection of craft beer alongside a Gin Bar- grown ups need to enjoy half term too, right?
This is your moment to get your kids to eat their five a day (and pimp up your Champers, obvs). Pick your own season kicks off in time for half term. Gray’s Farm, nr Wokingham offers 24 different crops to get your mitts from traditional soft fruits to veggies. Over in Cookham, raspberries, strawberries and red cherries are grown for your picking pleasure at Lower Mount Farm. Alternatively, head to Merryfield Farm in Bradfield or Muddy Award winning Cobbs Farm Hungerford where pickers have been getting fruity since the 70s.
Cliveden, nr Maidenhead (25 May – 2 Jun) has acres of walks, formal gardens, a maze, and the awesome Anthony Caro sculptural art installation right now, but over half term it’s also running a sports themed trail to keep the kids busy. Over at Basildon Park, Lower Basildon, you can enjoy a wild themed trail and brand new area for little ones with ball run stations (25 May – 2 Jun).
Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, has acres of walks, kids’ playgrounds and the awesome art installation Colourscape is back. Hughenden Manor, nr High Wycombe, is celebrating bees with a trail around the grounds, beekeeper workshops and crafts (27 – 31 May) and there’s also a trail at Grey’s Court, nr Henley (25 May – 2 Jun).
Roll up, roll up!
And speaking of, it’s circuses galore this half term, with Gifford’s Circus pitching up its Big Top at Sudley Castle (Thurs 16 – Tues 28) and, just over the border in Glos, Daylesford Organic Farm in Kingham (Thurs 30 – Mon 3 Jun). This year’s theme is ’70s summer of love, so expect hippies and flower power amid the chaos and clowns. For a smaller affair, John Lawson’s circus return to Millets Farm, near Faringdon (Sun 26 – Sat 1 Jun).
Lemur Week, Cotswold Wildlife Park, Sat 25 May – Sun 2 Jun
How cute is this little guy?! Throughout half term, Cotswold Wildlife Park will be holding competitions, board games and talks in the walkthrough Lemur enclosure in aid of the Park’s Madagascan conservation initiatives. There’ll be a Lemur themed trail round the park too.
Blenheim Palace Food Festival, Sat 25 – Mon 27 May
For a foodie family day out, there’s Blenheim Palace’s sixth annual Food Festival– a gastronomic weekender packed with talks, demonstrations, family activities and a hearty sprinkling of celebrity chefs, including Raymond Blanc OBE, Jean-Christophe Novelli and Celebrity MasterChef champion, Angellica Bell. There’ll also be up to 160 local and regional foodie and drink stalls with artisan bakers, craft brewers, gourmet burgers, international cuisine and, new for this year, the Vegan & Veggie Garden. Go stuff yourself silly.
Reading FC Soccer School, Nine Mile Ride Primary School Wokingham, Tues 28 – Fri 31 May
For footie mad children aged 5-12, this four-day course is for all abilities with skills and mini-matches. It’s 9am – 3pm so plenty of time to pop off and enjoy a couple of hours doing anything you like – shopping, quiet lunch, solo trip to the cinema, sneaky snooze. No judgement here.
Mud & Guts workshop, Stonor House, nr Henley, Wed 29 – Thurs 30 May
Wilts based outdoor adventure company Mud & Guts comes to Stonor to train the Bear Grylls of Bucks & Oxon- den building, fire lighting, tracking skills, bushcraft tutorials and woodland games. There’ll be two sessions per day, 10am – 12pm for 5-7 year olds and 1pm – 4pm for ages 8+. The Wonder Woods and adventure playground will also be open through the holiday.
Warwick Castle, War of the Roses Live, Sat May 25 – Sun 2 Jun
This spectacular castle just over the border is always a winner with Muddy and they are very good at luring us back. Not only is there the return of the live action show, War of the Roses (more stunts and tricks than you can shake a stick at) but there’s a new family-friendly challenge – The Escape Room. Set in an underground prison, actors lead castle visitors as they battle the clock to set a knight free through puzzles, clues and stories. Think Crystal Maze meets The Krypton Factor. Add the regular birds of prey demos, the mighty trebuchet, archery and ramparts to rampage and it’s good value. (Top tip: if it’s a sunny day it might be worth your while to bring a picnic, you can queue for ages for food). warwick-castle.com
Roman Gladiator day, Chiltern Open Air Museum, Sun 26 – Mon 27 May
Muscly men running around in tiny shorts. Nope, it’s not the rugby but, erm, Gladiators. Criminals, barbarians, prisoners and disgraced soldiers fight to the death to be crowned champion in full Roman costume. The event is run by Britannia, one of the oldest and largest re-enactement groups in the UK, who have worked on tons of TV projects from Ridley Scott’s Gladiator to kids’ favourite CBBC’s Horrible Histories. You’ll also be able to buy replica weapons, if that’s what floats your boat.
New Children’s Garden, Kew Gardens, London
As if it wasn’t already a prime spot for day tripping, the clever sausages at Kew Gardens have added a brand new Children’s Garden just in time for May half term. Two years in the making, the interactive garden (aimed at ages 2 – 12) has over 100 varieties of mature trees, bamboo tunnels, hammocks and in-ground trampolines all under the cover of a huge 200 year old oak tree.
Dino Week, Mead Open Farm, Beds, Mon 27 – Fri 31 May
I’m always slightly puzzled as to why kids are always so crazy about dinosaurs, but hey ho, they can get their fix over at Mead Open Farm as its dedicating a who week to T-Rexes, Triceratopses and the like. There’s dinos hidden around the farm, the Caveman Rock Show, Jurassic tractor rides and a Dino Disco at the end of the day.
Beasts of London, Museum of London, Fri 5 May – Sun 5 Jan
This looks amazing- a fully immersive, digital installation (see above for a sneak preview) exploring the role animals have played in the shaping of London, from the Roman era all they way up to present day. The interactive show uses video projection mapping to bring the beasts, from rats to lions, to life as they narrate a virtual tour of London. There are some major British celebs involved too, with Kate Moss, Brian Blessed, Pam Ferris and more voicing the beasts. museumoflondon.org.uk
Great Brick Safari, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Beds, until Sun 2 Jun
I’ll be a few of you have a LEGO obsessive under your roof. At Easter Whipsnade Zoo introduced its Brick Safari, with one million bricks’ worth of beasts and animals dotted around the mammoth zoo (it’s the biggest in the UK doncha know), as well as hands-on family activities. It’s included in entry price and running throughout this month. zsl.org