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What’s On: Muddy Herts Guide 3-9 Dec 2015

December already, eh?  Well, what the heck.  That means it’s party season, right?  On the nights you’re not knocking back prosecco in a sparkly dress, there are all sorts of bits and bobs going on to tempt you off the sofa.  And a whole heap of tinsel-strewn festive fun, too.

An Evening With Noel Fielding, Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage, 12 Dec, 8pm

noel fielding

Noel Fielding – yes, him from The Mighty Boosh and Never Mind The Buzzcocks – is heading out on his first live tour in 5 years.  And he’s stopping off in Stevenage.  Sounds brilliant, if he’s your cup of rather odd tea.  And fancy dress is apparently optional, although you probably should.

Branagh Theatre Live: The Winter’s Tale, Grove Theatre, Dunstable, 5 Dec, 7pm


If you’ve not been able to get tickets to the sold-out production of The Winter’s Tale, you’ll be pleased to know that there are loads of encore screenings of the live stream that went out last month.  They’re selling out quickly, too, so don’t leave it too long to book – and definitely don’t assume you can just rock up on the night.  This weekend, you can see it at the Grove Theatre in Dunstable, and next weekend at the Garden City Cinema in Welwyn Garden City — although the showing on 12 Dec is already sold out and tickets are going fast for the 15 Dec.  If you’re in Watfrod, you can catch at the Palace Theatre on 20 Dec, or you can book ahead for a Christmas Eve treat at Vue Cinemas Watford, and they’ve got another showing on 3 Jan.   The Odeon Hatfield will be showing it on 3 Jan, too, as will Cineworld  Stevenage and it’s at the Broadway Cinema in Letchworth Garden City on 2 and 3 Jan.  And if you can wait a few more days, you can see it at Hertford Theatre on 7 Jan.

Jane Eyre Screening, Watford Palace Theatre, Watford, 8 Dec, 7pm

 jane eyre

And if you fancy a bit of culture, but just not Shakespeare, Watford Palace is screening the National Theatre’s production of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.    The production had some cracking reviews, and sounds original and fierce – a bit like the novel, to be fair.  It’s a novel that tends to get remembered – and pigeonholed – as just a love story, but there’s so much more to it than that.  I’m very curious to see what this staging makes of it.

Christmas Fair, Ashridge Estate, Berkhamsted, 6 Dec, 10am-3pm

chilterns xmas fayre

Always a good one, this – as long as the weather plays its part.  The Ashridge Estate is always good for an afternoon tromping through the woods – and a proper mug of tea at the cafe – and at the annual Christmas Fair Fill you get to browse all sorts of festive goodies as well.  Usually a big range of stalls: some country-ish, some not.  And the little National Trust shop there is good, too.

Ashridge Estate, Moneybury Hill, Ringshall, HP4 1LX

Christmas Starfish Workshop, Natural History Museum, Tring, 10 Dec, 11am & 2pm

xmas star fish

Because, of course, everyone loves a traditional Christmas starfish…  No, I have no idea either, but a spot of messy play – with something to take home at the end – usually goes down well with the under-5s, right?  And the museum – free to get in! – is always great for a morning of looking at interesting things in the warm.  The workshop will cost you £2 and about 30 minutes.  And they’ll love it.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Natural History Museum Tring, 12 Dec-28 Feb


And if you don’t make it to the museum in Tring for the whole starfish thing, you might want to pop over later (I’ll get the kettle on, shall I?) for the annual collection of images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.  It’s generally an amazing selection, and I’m always in awe of the patience – or astonishing luck – that the photographers must have had to catch such incredible moments out in the wild.

Christmas Street Food Garden Party, Anniversary Gardens, Welwyn Garden City, 3 Dec, 4pm start

xmas food

It’s food festival time in Welwyn – with a Christmas Street Food Garden Party.  Expect the usual – mince pies, mulled wine, and so on – but with some international choices to spice it all up a bit.  Get your eating boots on, wrap up warm, and head on over.  There’ll be live music, too, to accompany your scoffing, and what more excuse do you need to eat, drink and be merry?

Anniversary Gardens, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6AE

Santa Spectacular, Willows Activity Farm, 25 Nov-24 Dec


Santa’s working hard over at Willows Activity Farm – as are his elves.  You can say hello to his reindeer, make your own Christmas bear, ride through the Festive Woods, enjoy a nativity story with real animals, write a letter to Santa, and take up the Snowball Shootout Challenge.  Book in advance and you’ll save a sack-load, too.

Willows Activity Farm, Coursers Road, London Colney, AL4 0PF,

Christmas Kingdom, Mead Open Farm, now until 24 Dec


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere – but there are elves a-plenty and Santa and a Christmas Kingdom over at Mead Open Farm.  There’s a 3D movie, the elves have their own Christmas village, real reindeer are on hand, and the big bloke in red is waiting in his grotto – as well as all the usual fun stuff: the play barn, the animals, the climbing bit, the go-karts, the lot.

Mead Open Farm, Stanbridge Rd, Leighton Buzzard, LU7 9JH,

Christmas Market, St Albans, 26 Nov – 20 Dec

st albans

Still not Christmassy enough for your?  The Christmas Market in St Albans should sort that out. The gorgeous location of the Vintry Garden, a walled garden next to St Albans Cathedral, makes it extra-special – and all those twinkly lights, little stalls in cutesy little wooden chalets, and the wafting smell of mulled wine will work together to get you properly in the mood.  And then you can pop into the cathedral on the hour, every hour, between 11am and 6pm for traditional carols in a setting just oozing with tradition.

I’ve Seen Santa, Sandpit Theatre, St Albans, 6 Dec, 11.30am and 2.30pm

sandpit theatre

Little ones getting excited?  Hopped up already on advent-calendar chocolate?  Bring ‘em  to St Albans and the Sandpit Theatre for ‘I’ve Seen Santa,’ a very lovely story about Little Bear and the agonising wait for Santa to arrive.  Looks super-sweet, and just the thing to whip them up even further in their ‘how-many-sleeps-now-Mummy?’ frenzy!

Sandpit Theatre, The Ridgeway, St Albans, AL4 9NX,

Mindfulness for Modern Living, Friends Meeting House, Watford, 5 Dec, 10am-1pm


If all this festive hoo-ha is getting too much, you can always take a morning out and tune in to the current trend for mindfulness at the Friends Meeting House in Watford.  Guided meditations, explanations about how to practise mindfulness in your own life, and – if nothing else – a nice quiet sit-down.  You’ll need to book in advance, though.

Dawn French, 30 Million Minutes, Vaudeville Theatre, Charing Cross, 1 Dec – 9 Dec, 7.30pm & Sat matinee 2.30pm

 dawn french

Ah, Dawn French.  National Treasure?  Yeah, probably.  She’s taken to the stage recently in her very first (can you believe it?) solo show based on her life and career called 30 Million Minutes.  It’s a very limited run – so book tickets quickly, if there are any left.

Vaudeville Theatre, 404 Strand, London, WC2R 0NH

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