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The May Half Term Muddy Guide

Photo credit: Emma Williams 2012

Despite being in the throes of the Muddy Stilettos Awards (another Berocca/Gin mixer? Don’t mind if I do) I couldn’t possibly leave you out on a lonely activity-bleak limb over May Half Term. So I’ve rounded up a list of gems from around the county and further afield that I think shouldn’t be missed.

Pretty much every kind of experience is covered – whether your mudlets are into theatre, climbing trees, watersports or dinosaurs – there should be something here that jingles their bells. So, grab yourself a coffee, have a little peruse of What’s On then take a deep breath, pop a Nurofen (or two)… and let’s get out there and GET MUDDY!

Family Fun Weekend, Dinton Pastures 4 – 5 June, 10am to 4pm

Dinton Pastures’ annual Family Fun Weekend is a brilliant way to have a go at all the watersports and other activities it has to offer, including kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, powerboat rides, climbing, pond dipping and even human table football! And it’s amazing value too, with each 15 minute session costing just £2 per person. Simply rock up and register for your activities on the day. Full details on the spinky spanky all new Dinton Pastures website.

Open Farm Sunday, 5 June

Now in its 10th year this lovely event is a chance for farmers to shine, with over 400 farms around the country throwing open their gates to visitors in order to give us townies a taste of farming life. Depending on which farm you visit, you might enjoy tractor and trailer rides, milking exhibitions, fruit picking, or an endless supply of lambs to cuddle or chickens to feed. Farms taking part in Berkshire include Sheeplands Farm, Wargrave; Row Farm, Winkfield Row; Cobbs Farm, Hungerford – click here to find your nearest farm taking part.

Beautiful Life, The Living Rainforest, Hampstead Norreys, various

The Living Rainforest is celebrating the beauty of living things half term with lots going on including special guided tours of the rainforest with their experts, animal feeding sessions and talks, children’s craft workshops, rainforest music workshops and more. Full details on their events page.

Go Canoeing, Advenure Dolphin, Pangbourne 31 May – 2 June

Did you know that hundreds of events and challenges are being organized nationwide to help encourage people give canoeing a go between 28 May and 5 June? 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 FREE canoeing sessions on Tues 31 May, Weds 1 and Thurs 2 June. Check out their website for details.

Meet the wolves, The Wolf Conservation Trust, Wednesdays, 11am to 4pm

Wednesday is visit day at The Wolf Conservation Trust so during half term on Wed 1 June you can go and see the wolves *really* close up (gulp!). In the education centre you’ll find out about the Trust’s work with overseas projects aimed at keeping wolves in the wild. Tickets available on the gate: Adults £8; Children (aged 3–12) £5.

Nick Cope Family Music, Corn Exchange, Newbury, 28 May, 10.30am

Like a modern day Pied Piper, Nick Cope has a strong following of little people and their parents with his interactive music sessions. He’s a professional singer/songwriter and has over 20 years of experience in music (including international success with The Candyskins in the 90s, who knew?!). Expect fun songs about everything from counting to how plants grow. Perfect for younger ones, aged 8 and under.

The Grimmest of Grimm Tales, Firestation Arts, Windsor, 31 May

Did you know between them The Brothers Grimm collected over 200 different stories? So why do we only ever hear about Cinderella and Snow White? Were the others too scary? Too gruesome? In this brand new family comedy, with music and puppetry for ages 6+, The Story Squad introduce a whole new cast of Grimm’s characters. Meet Godfather Death, Hans My Hedgehog, and a deceased chicken in a comic quest to re-tell The Grimmest of Grimm Tales. Tickets: Adults £10.70; Children £8.70.

The Railway Children, Theatre Royal Windsor, 31 May – 4 June

Pulling into the Theatre Royal Windsor this half term is this brilliant stage version of The Railway Children – the classic tale of three children whose father is imprisoned as a result of being falsely accused of selling state secrets to the Russians. With the help of Perks, the station porter, and the Old Gentleman who regularly takes the 9:15 train, the children try to clear his name. Sadly Jenny Agutter won’t be making an appearance for old times sake (boo!) but it looks like a fantastic production nonetheless. Tickets: £13 to £29

Wild! and The Wizard of OzSouth Hill Park, Bracknell, 31 May and 2–5 June

Wild! Is a clever, brave new play for children 8+ celebrating all things ‘Wild’ with live music and some cool moves. 31 May, 11am and 2pm. Tickets: Adults £10; Children £6.50; Family £28. From 2 – 5 June BARTA returns to South Hill Park with the classic MGM musical The Wizard of Oz. Tickets: Adults £17.50; Children £14.00; Family £58.00. Mind you watch out for that wicked witch of the West, or was it East? Oh whatever, I was too busy being terrified of those hideous flying monkeys!

Aliens Love Underpants, The Hexagon, Reading, 29 May, 1.30pm and 3.30pm

Me and the mudlets can recite this entire book word for word, I kid you not. Aliens love underpants of every shape and size, but there are no underpants in space so here’s a big surprise! Based on the best selling children’s book and brought to live on stage for the first time, this show at The Hexagon (Reading’s most popular six-sided venue) apparently has great special effects and loads of crazy action going on, with original music too and A LOT of aliens. Should be a hoot! Stick some pants on your head and head over there. Tickets £14.50.

Dinosaur Park (The Jurassic Parody), Norden Farm, Maidenhead, 29 May, 4.30pm

An award winning and very funny spin on Jurassic Park the movie. In the unlikely setting of Lyme Regis Community Centre, the Park Family embark on a journey to a misty past… just like the film this is rate a PG. Tickets: £14; Under 16s £12. You can also catch Morgan and West’s Utterly Spiffing Spectacular Magic Show for Kids (and childish grown-ups!) on 30 May at 11.30am and 2pm, suitable for ages 5+ Tickets: £10; Under 16s £8. There’s also loads more going on at The Farm so check out their School Holiday Events page for all the deets.

Crowns and Coronations, Family week, Windsor Castle, Sat 28 May 2016 to Sun 5 June

To celebrate the anniversary of The Queen’s coronation, a whole week of sparkling crown making, activity trails around the State Apartments, storytelling and dress up at Windsor Castle. No nicking the ashtrays!

The Big Tree Climbing Company, Cliveden, 31 May

Up, up, up! Climb the beautiful trees of Cliveden (or watch someone else do it from the ground, coffee in hand). The mudlets have done this a couple of times and loved it. As well as using ropes and harnesses to climb up into the trees, there’s always a zip wire and a rope swing for added high jinks! Tickets: £18.50. For children aged 6+. A few time slots have already sold out, so be quick!

It’s worth seeing Basildon Park’s stunning sea of buttercup flowers across the grade one listed 400 acre parkland. Kids will love that The Great Ball Run is back at Basildon Park for 2016 created using upcycling materials. Buy a ball and use it all summer! The Muddy Berkshire mudlets LOVE this gentle challenge and we can easily spend the best part of a day walking the course and attempting all the challenges (with a generous chunk of that time spent in the tea rooms, naturally).

Larger than life! The Nature Discovery Centre, Thatcham, Wed 1 June, 10.30am to 11.30am

Discover a creepy crawly world close up during this hands-on microscope workshop at The Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham. Local Wildlife Trust experts will be on hand with microscopes and lots of specimens to explore. You can then design and make a bug of your own to take home. Children are even encouraged to bring something along that they’d like to see under the microscope (oh dear lord, the mind boggles). Suitable for children aged 6+. Tickets £4.50.

Wellington’s Woodland Week, Wellington Country Park, 28 May – 5 June

Running throughout half term, simply collect your ‘Wellington’s Woodland Activity Pack’ when you arrive at Reception, then use your pack to explore the Park with bird spotting, tree identification and animal tracking. Head to the different activities dotted around the park to collect your stamps and become a Wellington Nature Detective – woo hoo! I say it’s up there with a Blue Peter badge.

Highclere Country Show, Highclere Castle, 29 & 30 May, 9am to 5pm

A showcase of country life at the home of Downton Abbey, with field sports, competitions, displays and demonstrations, food festival, tree climbing championships, rural crafts, medieval jousting, falconry, have-a-go activities, children’s entertainment and stacks more. Phew! Dress code: Hunters and diamond tiara (in case you bump into Lady Mary). Tickets available on the gate: Adults £15; under 16s free.

Twyfest, Twyford, 27 May – 11 June

It’s Twyford’s second time running this village festival of comedy, drama and music with highlights including Twyford’s Got Talent, Comedy Night, Elsie Crumpet’s Bingo Bongo (I’m not even sure I want to ask…) and on Sat 4 June 80s alternative rock band Jesus Jones headline TwyFest’s band day! For tickets and all the details head to www.twyfest.co.uk

The Superhero Science Show, The Lookout Discovery Centre, Bracknell, daily

The Lookout’s new Superhero Science Show runs daily during half term with show times at 11am, 12pm, 2pm and 3.15pm. Come and find out about super strengths, invisibility and mind reading and have fun with lots of science experiments. Entry to the park costs £19.60 for a family plus an additional £1.95 per person for the shows. Suitable for children age 3+ who can sit still for half an hour.

Family Activity Day, Shaw House, Newbury, 1 June, 11am to 4pm

The beautiful Shaw House is open over half term from 31 May to 3 June from 11am to 4pm. On 1 June you can join in the Friendly Fairies craft session – make a fairy or elf from a wooden clothes peg and craft materials to link in with A Midsummer Night’s Dream and this year’s Shakespeare celebrations. £2 per child, suitable for 4–11 year olds. No need to book, just drop in. There will be a new house trail available too.

Beale Park, Basildon, various

Loads going on at Beale Park over half term including the annual Boat and Outdoor Show from 3-5 June with boats to try and buy, boating displays on the lake, arts and crafts, specialist food produce, live music, a beer tent and children’s activities. There’s a Festival of Model Boating 28–29 May; a special May Half Term Trail to celebrate Love Your Zoo Week from 28 May – 5 June; Meet the Bugs and build a butterfly feeder on Weds 1 June. For all the details, times, tickets etc. click here.

Spring Deer Safari, Bucklebury Farm Park, Bucklebury, 4 & 5 June
Get up at daybreak to see the new deer calves and enjoy a woodland BBQ. Limited numbers so book early to secure your place. Email: [email protected] for more details.

FURTHER AFIELD

Udderbelly Festival, South Bank, London, now to Sun 17 July
Lots of quirky stuff going on at Udderbelly, the annual theatre, alternative comedy, dance, acrobatics and kids festival. Head down to the South Bank (Udderbelly has London’s longest bar – just saying), pick a couple of shows, and enjoy the river vibe.

Running Wild, by Michael Morpurgo, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
A boy escaping a tsnumani in Indonesia runs straight into the jungle, miles from civilisation. Wonder and adventure turns to thoughts of his mum left behind on the beach, tigers prowling, hunger, and Will must learn how to survive in the rainforest. A new adapation of Running Wild. Let’s be blunt, it’s not going to be laugh-a-minute stuff, but moving? Without doubt.

Longridge Activity days, Marlow, Mon–Fri
Hero over at Muddy Bucks & Oxon will happily admit she has booted her kids into these for years and they absolutely love them. Monday (Bank Holiday) is a Family Activity Day where you can try stuff out together (or encourage your children into the zorb while you knock back a coffee – mea culpa!). Then Tues-Fri children can go for the whole day – 8.30-4pm (£40) or 8.30 to 5.30pm (£50) doing a range of outdoor activities like wall climbing, the leap of faith, raft building, kayaking etc. It includes lunch too so it’s incredible value, and you’re literally tickling Marlow’s belly, it takes about 2 minutes to drive into town from Longridge.

Giffords Circus, Daylesford Farm, 3-6 June
This Cotswolds touring family circus is out of the starting blocks with a new show The Painted Wagon – a comedic homage to the Wild West. Tweedy the clown is back for another year, there are some new performers to keep things interesting, and as usual it’s live music and a whole load of quirky brilliance. No Berkshire dates sadly, but plenty in Oxfordshire over the next few months so it’s not far to go for such a fab show.

ZSL London Zoo, Sunset Safari, from 3 June

I think this sounds magical for children who love their animals – taking place on Friday nights from 3 June onwards you can explore the zoo at dusk on a Sunset Safari, how cool is that?! From 6pm to 10pm embark on your very own safari taking in over 700 species from ring-tailed lemurs to golden orb spiders to mighty Asiatic lions. There will be science stations dotted around so you can chat to the zoo’s scientists about the animals and the zoo’s conservation work, plus carnival acts, a world food market and a bean-bag strewn Base Camp where you can relax in the setting sun to some smooth jazz and acoustic jams (it was never like this in Out of Africa). Tickets: Adults £27; Children £20.25.

Horrible Histories and Terrible Tudors at Hampton Court Palace, Thurs 26 May – Thurs 2 June

Slightly out of the way but I like the idea of Terrible Tudors actually being performed in a Tudor palace! Performed by the Birmingham Stage Company, performances last one hour and take place in the East Front Gardens of the palace. Open air, unreserved grass seating, so bring a blanket with you!

Half Term at Warwick Castle, Thurs 28 May – Sat 5 June

Even though it’s expensive, I always think Warwick Castle is a good value day out because they’re forever adding to their offering. This year they’re performing a Horrible Histories Wicked Warwick Live Stage Show; sword skills taught by Warwick Castle’s own heroic knight; and a six-strong aerial birds of prey display, in addition to the recently-opened Horrible Histories Maze where visitors have to rearrange history into the right order.

Number Four Privet Drive, Harry Potter Studios, Fri 27 May – Mon 6 June

A limited opportunity to step inside Number Four, Privet Drive and peer into the Dursleys’ living room as the exterior set is opened especially for the Studio Tour’s anniversary celebrations of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. During production, set decorators had lots of fun sourcing the ugliest sofas, worst tiles and most vulgar curtains possible. See for yourself and rejoice in your good taste!

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Berkshire