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What’s on: December 2021

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas - Scrooges need not apply! We've got your diary sorted for the coming weeks with festive experiences galore.

KIDS: Robin Robin trail, RSPB The Lodge, Sandy, until 10 Jan

Seen Aardman’s latest animated adventure, Robin Robin, on Netflix yet?? If not, pop it on your watchlist for the festive period – it’s suuuper cute! This family friendly (ages 3-11) adventure trail invites little ones to ‘sneak’ like a robin (you’ll geddit when you’ve seen the film!), sing like a robin and find your own robin superpowers. Pick up an activity pack for £3, plus there’ll be an audio trail too.

THEATRE: A Christmas Carol, Wardown House, 2-18 Dec

This immersive promenade performance is a different take on the festive classic. Stuart Turner returns to Wardown as Charles Dickens for the fourth year, leading audience members through the beautiful rooms, whilst regaling the ghostly tale.

LIGHT TRAIL: Stockwood Illuminated, Stockwood Discovery Centre, 3-23 Dec

Explore the historic gardens of Stockwood Discovery Centre by twinkling light, as it’s illuminated for the festive season. Go on a sound and light journey as you follow the self-guided paths through the greenery. There’s also the chance to show off your photography skills. Post your pics online for the chance to be picked as the winner in January. FIND MORE TWINKLY LIGHT TRAILS IN HERTS, BEDS AND BEYOND, HERE.

FAMILY: The Magic of Christmas, Mead Open Farm, 3-24 Dec

After a fun family day out? Well this will be just the ticket… or magical passport, should we say, which you’ll be given on arrival for entry into all the festive fun. There’s a magical walkthrough (with a naughty or nice detector!), Santa’s grotto, Elf Academy Show, magical toyshop and little ones can take part in the gingerbread decorating, or make a teddy bear to take home. Plus you’ll get to see all the usual farm animals and attractions, too.

KIDS: Santa’s Grotto, South Mill Arts, 4-24 Dec

Santa’s coming to town! Bishop’s Stortford to be exact. Visit his grotto between to take part in some festive craft, then listen to a magical story and receive a special gift from the man himself before guzzling down a tasty hot choccie and Christmas cookie.

KIDS: Percy the Park Keeper’s Winter Wander, Ashridge Estate, from 4 Dec – 3 Jan

Nick Butterworth’s beloved character, Percy the Park Keeper is popping up at Ashridge this month, with a new trail for kids. They’re invited to help Percy complete his winter tasks with all sorts of activities, games and clues to follow.

THEATRE: Rapunzel, South Mill Arts, Bishop’s Stortford, 4 Dec – 2 Jan

Love a good fairytale at Christmas? Get the family over to South Mill Arts for this lively re-telling, with a feisty heroine, talking horse and a wicked witch, with plenty of adventure, dance and song to get those toes tapping. Read our review here.

FAMILY: Afternoon tea with Santa, Down Hall Hotel, 5, 11, 12 and 19-21 Dec

Like the idea of a festive afternoon tea with the family? For this special version Santa will be making an appearance to surprise little ones and bring a sprinkling of magic to their day. On the menu there’ll be turkey sandwiches (of course!) clementine trifle, mulled wine cheesecake, and scones. Childrens options include honey roast ham sanrnies, cinnamon buns and chocolate muffins and they’ll go home with a special gift from the North Pole. £35 for adults; £17.50 for children; £5 for 2 and under.

WILDLIFE: Christmas at Woburn Safari Park, 6-23 Dec

Head on down to Woburn Safari park this month to catch the residents enjoying some festive treats which kids can take part in some Christmas crafting activities and there’ll be fun photo opps in Santa’s sleigh.

THEATRE: A Christmas Carol, South Mill Arts, Bishop’s Stortford, 7 Dec

There’s nothing like a bit of Dickens to warm the cockles (or send chills down your spine!) at Christmas. Actor John O’ Connor takes on the man himself to tell the infamous ghost story – something that the author did himself with his stories, A Christmas Carol being his first public reading.

THEATRE: The Chimes, The Maltings Theatre, 9-17 Dec

Ever heard of The Chimes? It was Dickens’ second Christmas book that was written a year after A Christmas Carol and features just as many ghostly twists and turns. This production, based on the book, follows a poor, struggling young couple, Meg and Richard, on a dark and mysterious New Year’s Eve when the spirits show them visions of their future and restore their faith in humankind. Tickets are free and it’s being performed on St Albans High Street on 9, 16 and 22 Dec at 5pm, and the Maltings Theatre on 17 December as Part of the OVO at Christmas.

PARTY: Shuttlemas – A Christmas Party, Shuttleworth House, 10-11 and 17-18 Dec

Who’s up for a party? Ooh, pick me! I think we all need a good old knees up after the last couple of years we’ve had, and this one sounds just great. Forget formal dining – at this do, held on the ground floor of Shuttleworth House, you can pick your fare from a choice of street food vendors from wood fired pizza to turkey spit roast with all the trimmings. There’ll be a magician, glitter face painting, a bar and a DJ of course, so you can dance the night away.

KIDS: Frozen II: A Christmas Cinema Experience, Southern Maltings, 11 Dec

If your kids are Elsa-mad like my daughter, you won’t want to miss this screening of Frozen II with an extra bit of magic thrown in. Not only with the cinema room be themed (and dressing up encouraged), there’ll also be a chance to visit the magical forest and take home a special gift. Snuggle up with your own cushions or beanbags and get ready to ‘Let it Go’. Don’t worry mums and dads, there’s a pop-up bar to keep you going!

SHOPPING: Next Christmas Shopping weekend

Beauty buffs, listen up! Next Beauty & Homes store in Watford (yes, that Next) is hosting a Christmas Shopping Weekend on 11 – 12 Dec with 10% off in-store as well as goody bags for the first 100 customers who spend over £45 and discount at the RAWR beauty salon. Now that’s the kind of Christmas shopping we like!

MARKET: Made in Bedford Christmas Makers Market, Harpur Square, 11-12 Dec

This two-day fair is put on by artisan shop and café, Made in Bedford, showcasing work by the county’s best artists, craftspeople and makers. Find unique cards, gifts, decorations and confectionery, plus there’ll be free face painting, balloon artistry and music from a live rock choir to boot! 10am – 4pm.

MARKETS: Christmas Market Weekends at Rushmere Country Park, 11-12 and 18-19 Dec

Visit Rushmere Country Park during the three weekends running up to Christmas for craft stalls, locally sourced and Fairtrade festive food and drink, plus… Christmas trees! There’ll also be seasonal music and a festive fairy trail to keep the littlies occupied. AND Santa will be popping in on 19th! 10am – 4pm

KIDS: Robin’s Winter Adventure, The Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 11 Dec

This super sweet musical puppet show for littlies (ages 3+) by Pied Piper Theatre follows a young boy’s journey with a feathery friend that will help him to face his fears and discover his bravery.

FAMILY: Christmas photoshoot, The Ashridge Estate, 11 Dec

Fancy a festive family snap for the Chrissy cards? Book your place and head to the Ashridge Visitor Centre where there’ll be two festive sets designed for little ones to look extra cute and angelic in. Better dig those Christmas jumpers out of the attic then! And saaaaayyy cheeeeeese! £59 for 20-30 minutes including three digital images.

MUSIC: Jazz at Southern Maltings, 12 Dec

This is jazz, but not as you know it… Kind of Blur come to Southern Maltings this month bringing their unique seasonal mash-ups of tracks by the band, Some Kind of Blue and Blur. Think Freddie the Freeloader meets Parklife! There’ll also be 50’s-inspired festive classics where sleigh bells get the swing treatment.

MUSIC: Music for Christmas, Hatfield House, 12 Dec

If you’re after a rousing carol concert in a gorgeous venue to fill you with festive warmth and fuzziness, this has got to be it. The Hertfordshire Chorus will fill Hatfield Park’s medieval Old Palace – Queen Elizabeth I’s former banqueting hall. Enjoy some mince pies and mulled wine as you join the choir for all the festive faves, old and new.

FAMILY: Santa’s Fly-in and Snowball Hunt, Shuttleworth Estate, 12 and 19 Dec

Santa won’t be flying in by sleigh to this special event, but by vintage aircraft (well, why not?!) Watch him arrive in style in the morning then kids can take part in a fun snowball hunt around the pretty Swiss Gardens before claiming their gift from Santa and his elves. There’ll also be vintage bus rides around the estate happening throughout the day.

FAMILY THEATRE: Under the Frozen Moon, Southern Maltings, Ware, with Hertford Theatre, 14 Dec – 3 Jan

This gorgeous production by Half a String Theatre with Hertford Theatre tells the heartwarming story of little girl Amka and her family, who live in an icy wonderland where a dragon has stolen all the fire and light. Told with beautiful puppets and original music it sounds like it will mesmerise both young and old audiences alike. Read our interview with the Artistic Director, Peter Morton to find out more about the inspiration behind it.

THEATRE: The Borrowers, Abbey Theatre, St Albans, 17-28 Dec

The lovable story of unlikely heroine Arrietty and her miniature family who live under the floorboards is being brought to life by Company of Ten Theatre this month. As the little people ‘borrow’ from the ‘human beans’, while trying not to be spotted, they’ll face all sorts of challenges in the big wide world. Little ones will be enchanted and it might just bring back some memories for mums and dads too (remember the 90s TV series, anyone?).

FAIR: Broadway Gallery Christmas Fair, Letchworth, 18 Dec

Show your support to your local artists, designers and makers by buying your Christmas gifts direct from them at this festive fair in the town centre Arcade, from 11m-4pm. FOR MORE FESTIVE MARKETS AND FAIRS IN HERTS, BEDS AND BEYOND, CLICK HERE.

COMEDY: The 12 Days of Jessmas, The Quarry Theatre Bedford, 18 Dec

Spitting Image star Jess Robinson brings her incredible vocals to Bedford this month, with uncanny and hilarious impressions of divas of today and yesteryear, from Lady Gaga to Judy Garland.

FAMILY THEATRE: The Elves and the Shoemaker, Hat Factory Arts Centre, Luton, 18-24 Dec

We all know the original story, but this version has a bit of a twist. Retired shoemaker Geoff is struggling to recall the past when some magical friends step in to help. There’s puppets and original music to make this an extra special show.

KIDS: Christmas Adventure Quest, Wrest Park, weekends throughout Dec then daily from 26 Dec – 2 Jan

Kids at a loose end during ‘twixtmas’? They’ll enjoy following the clues on this festive family adventure trail and learning all about Wrest Parks fabulous themed parties. They can even have a go at designing their own party.

BOOK NOW: New Year’s Celebration, Saffron Hall, 2 Jan

Whip those gladrags back out of the wardrobe and ring in the New Year with this classical celebration of the music of Debussy, Ravel, Tchaikovsky and Strauss, with performances by pianist Louis Schwizgebel and and soprano Soraya Mafi, accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Michael Seal.

ONGOING

EXHIBITION: Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Natural History Museum, Tring, until June 2022

© Stefano Unterthiner, Wildlife Photographer of the Year
© Stefano Unterthiner, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Can’t make it to London for the annual exhibition? See the highlights of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition closer to home this month including 34 images demonstrating the fragility and beauty of wildlife, from miniscule insects to mighty beasts.

KIDS: Santa Spectacular, Willows Activity Farm, 10-13 and 16-24 Dec

Ok it’s only November but the jingle bells are ringing already. Book the little ones in for this special festive event and they can meet Santa in his grotto, where he’ll give them a key to his toyshop and they can choose a gift. There’ll also be soft toy making, gingerbread workshops, festive singalongs and films, as well as ice skating on the synthetic rink and magical woodland tractor rides.

KIDS: Meet Santa, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, until 24 Dec

Here’s another chance to meet the man himself (he’s a busy guy, right?!) He’ll be hanging out with the wildlife at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo during the weekends from 20 Nov and every day from 18-24 Dec. Go and grab an early Christmas pressie and enjoy some festive magic!

FAMILY: Shuttleworth in Lights – a festive special, The Shuttleworth Estate, until 19 Dec

Photo: Darren Harbar

Ooh I love a festive light trail to get me in the mood – this one starts in the famous aircraft hangars, leading you through the pretty Swiss Garden, before you’ll take in a special display, wander round the Shrubbery, past the Summer House and down to the Lakeside Parkland – where you’ll see some lovely reflections. Cameras at the ready!

FAMILY: Enchanted woodland walk, Ashridge House, until 9 Jan

The gorgeous grounds of this former royal residence will be transformed into a super sparkly winter wonderland this month. Twinlking light installations and a magical musical score will lead visitors through the gardens, via glittering arches and uplit tree-lined avenues to a hidden Christmas scene in the woods. You had me at twinkling lights… READ THE MUDDY REVIEW HERE!

OOPS! You’re too late for these…

CHRISTMAS FAYRE: Bishop Stortford Christmas Fayre, North Street, Market Square, Potter Street, and South Street, 4 Dec

This year’s fair is slightly reduced in size yet will still have 100 stalls selling Christmassy wares alongside the usual Farmer’s market and Craft Market vendors. There’ll be everything from food to fashion and even gifts for furry friends as well as plenty of hot food stalls to keep up your spirits in the winter chill. There’ll be live entertainment on the Community and Busking stages, and Santa might just be making an appearance, too. From 9.30am-4.30pm

FOOD: Eat Feast, Riverside, Bedford, 5 Dec

Food trucks and stalls will be flocking to Merchant Square for a day of deliciousness, hawking all sorts of dishes with international flavours and festive tipples, from 12-9pm.

WORKSHOP: Festive garlands with artist, Anna Ray, St Albans Museum + Gallery, 5 Dec

Join textile artist Anna Ray as she talks you through creating a beautful colourful festive garland inspired by a vintage French decoration, made out of rope and scraps of cloth. The groups work will be photographed together as a final piece of art and you can take your decoration home with you at the end. You’ll also be invited to join Anna at her exhibition to ask her questions about her work. £25 per person.

MARKET: Christmas Farmers’ and Craft Market, Southern Maltings, Ware, 5 Dec

This arts venue in Ware will play host to a lovely artisan market as part of its ongoing schedule of markets through the year. There’ll of course be plenty of festive goodies to nab and a glass of mulled wine to keep you going! 10am-3pm.

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