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Reader Treats Just For You!

August 2017

Art in Clay, Hatfield House, Fri 18 – Sun 20 August

Art in Clay is a serious exhibition for potters, sculptors and ceramicists, but it’s also a fun day out for young and old. 200 exhibitors gather in marquees in Hatfield Park and you can admire the artistry and buy the work. Expect demos from the experts but you can also roll up your sleeves and get stuck in, Great Pottery Throw Down style. Loads of activities for kids and the professionals will be on hand to offer advice.


Dinosaur World, Broadway, Letchworth, Tues 15 – Weds 16 Aug

Are they real? This will depend on how close to the stage you are. There are some ‘danger seats’ for Dinosaur World although the caring folk at Broadway Theatre say that while these seats are exciting and for the more intrepid, nobody will get hurt! There are opportunities to go up on stage to stroke the dinosaurs. This show has had great reviews and now here it is in Letchworth. Tues 2pm. Weds 11am and 2pm.


Classic Ibiza, Knebworth House, Sat 19 Aug

The Urban Soul Orchestra conducted by Stephen Hussey together with DJ Goldierocks are bringing strings and vocals to Knebworth! Get ready to dance to Right Here Right Now, Faithless, Blind Faith and Born Slippy. Pretend you’re in Ibiza with not a care in the world. Brilliant venue, dinosaurs on site, laser light show. Perfect. Doors open 6pm.

Classic Ibiza

Hatfield House gardens, until 30 September

Formal parterres and fragrant roses in a garden that was first planted in the seventeenth century in the childhood home of Elizabeth I. Robert Cecil commissioned John Tradescant to travel all over Europe and bring back plants to England. In the West Garden, the hydrangeas are in full bloom this month. Tues – Sun, 10am-5.30pm, until 30 September.

Hatfield House

Karl Blossfeldt, Broadway Gallery, until Sun 10 Sept

This Hayward Touring exhibition, Art Forms in Nature, is fab. I went along to see this and the gallery space – light, white and bright – is the perfect setting for these stunning botanical photographs. If you don’t know Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932), and I didn’t, he developed homemade cameras and lenses in order to magnify his subjects by up to 30 times. His photographs were celebrated by early Modernists and Surrealists during the 1920s. Definitely worth a visit. Great cafe, too.

Broadway Gallery Letchworth

Booking now: Ride the Mail Train, Postal Museum, London 

Not for the claustrophobic, but if you fancy exploring the former engineering depot of Mail Rail at Mount Pleasant, the one hundred year old Post Office railway, this could be for you. Booking now for the first ride that leaves the sorting office on Monday 4 September. The trains have been built for passengers, just so that we can imagine what it was like to be a letter or a mail sack, hurtling around underground. Double tracks and loops and an utterly immersive experience for the curious. The track criss crossed the Tube lines and at one point carried more than four million letters underground every day. 

Mail Train

Formentera in London, Aqua Nueva rooftop bar, Regent Street

If you happen to work in London, or even if you are going to the Smoke for a night out, you might like to head up to one of the rooftop bars that have popped up with optimism all over London. Take a minute, if you will, to admire these drinks. You will find them at Aqua Nueva on Regent Street. So central! So easy to get to! Kick off with Sunset on Regent Street: Ciroc red berry vodka, Aperol, raspberry, lime and probably a few other bits thrown in. The sun may not be shining, but I guarantee that a view over Regent Street with a cheeky cocktail in your hand will make you feel a lot more Med. 5th Floor, 240 Regent Street (entrance 30 Argyll Street), W1B 3BR

Book for: The Muddy Literary Salon at Thame Arts & Literature Festival, Thurs 12 Oct

Muddy Bucks/Oxon is opening a Literary Salon during the Thame Literary Festival. It’s worth a little jaunt into Bucks. Booking opens on Tues 1 August and there are only 120 tickets available to see 5 awesome authors at the inaugural literary event. Blogger/food author Sasha Wilkins (aka LibertyLondonGirl), Clover Stroud, Elizabeth Heathcote, Tamsina Perry and Alexandra Heminsley make up the line up, plus there’ll be more Prosecco than you can shake a stick at. Read all about it, or go straight for the jugular and book here now at a bargainous £10.

Sign up for: The Mud Pack Challenge, St Francis Hospice, Berkhamsted, Sun 15 Oct

This is the biggest annual fundraising event for the much loved St Francis Hospice in Berkhamsted. The course is the Ashridge Estate and if it isn’t already muddy enough, this year a mud bath has been added for final ablutions. People are signing up now. Entry is £35 and Mud Packers are asked to raise at least £50 per person.

Mud Pack Challenge

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, outdoor cinema, Knebworth House, Thurs 31 August

Why didn’t we have outdoor screenings before? We’re suddenly spoilt for choice. The weather hasn’t exactly got warmer, at least not in the evenings. But who cares about the weather when you can hunker down in the grass, wrap yourself in a few blankets and sip your favourite tipple as you watch a film you’ve probably seen loads of times but this time it’ll be memorable thanks to the shared experience. This screening is from The Luna Cinema, which has screenings all over the country, from Somerset House to Camber Sands. Doors open 6.30pm; screening 8pm.


Bat walk, Sherrardspark Wood, Welwyn Garden City, Sat 26 Aug

One of the best hornbeam woods in the UK. If you don’t know Sherrardspark Wood you absolutely need to go and visit this month! There is a brilliant programme of guided walks, from foraging to the history of the trees. These events are incredibly popular and get booked up quickly. Dogs are welcome, but you need to keep them on a lead. The meeting point is at the Pentley Park entrance, near Templewood School. AL8 7SF. Donation £3 per person (under 15s free).

Bat walk

Plywood: Material of the Modern World, V & A – until Fri 17 November

I love a bit of ply, and I can’t wait to see this exhibition which promises layers of creativity. This is the world’s first exhibition celebrating plywood – why so long? – and it includes everything from furniture by Ray Eames to skateboards and planes. A must-see. You’ve got until November to get down (or up) to the V&A. Free.

V & A

Chilli Festival, Benington Lordship, Sat 26 – Mon 28 Aug

This has become a searingly hot annual event in the beautiful gardens of a manor house. Usually associated with winter walks and snowdrops, during the August Bank Holiday, Benington Lordship gardens sizzle, regardless of the weather. (And let’s face it, Bank Holiday Mondays can be dodgy.) Arrive hungry. It’s impossible to leave without buying a chilli plant. 10am-5pm.

Chilli festival

Be Magnificent, Walthamstow School of Art, 1957 – 1967, William Morris Gallery, until 10 Sept

Just one of the highlights of this exhibition is Sir Peter Blake’s 1961 Self Portrait with Badges. Walthamstow School of Art is now part of the University of East London, and it nurtured the talent of a some amazing and influential artists. The William Morris Gallery, in collaboration with Create, are looking back at this fertile decade with film, music, photography and original work. Worth a trip. E17 4PP.

Be Magnificent

Flower Power Bar, The Grove, until  Mon 28 Aug

I have to admit that I haven’t been to The Grove for ages but I’m going there this month. When it first opened it was described as ‘groovy grand’ and ‘London’s Country Estate’. It was unsurprisingly a Finalist in the Muddy Awards (Best Day Spa). This month it’s going back to the Sixties and celebrating The Summer of Love 1967, with this fab flower power bar. Open to non-residents, it seems like the perfect excuse to visit and be free – there are 300 acres to play in! New cocktails will be served, with some of the ingredients plucked from the Walled Garden. The Flower Power bar is open 5-9pm every day.

Flower Power Bar

Becoming Henry Moore, Perry Green, until Sun 22 Oct

Becoming Henry Moore is a wonderful exhibition and I urge you to make the trip to Perry Green and see this before it ends. And of course this month is the perfect time to visit Henry Moore’s former home. For anyone who remembers the shop in the car park, it’s now worth going just to marvel at the new visitor centre and wondrous cafe.

Henry Moore Studios and Gardens

Kim Wilde at Goatfest, Codicote, Fri 25 – Sun 27 Aug

Well, hello Kim! Goatfest is one of those events that started in pub car park to become a three-day knees up with camping in a nearby field. Kim Wilde lives just up the road from here and naturally is headlining on Saturday night. And yes, there’s bound to be a singalong. SG4 8XE


Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent, Somerset House – until Sun 17 Sept

An exhibition about fragrance, with workshops, talks…you name it, you’ll find all sorts of olfactory delights and challenges at Somerset House. Set design by the fab Muf. Nuff said. I once went to a perfume house in France on a jolly press junket and we were blindfolded (steady) and had to sniff things like elastic bands and lemon peel without knowing what they were. It was all to show us how the top perfume potion people train their noses. It was quite an experience, I can tell you. I think it’s safe to say that this’ll be an experiential journey. Fasten your seat belts and flare your nostrils.


Gosselin Road open garden, Bengeo, Hertford, Fri 18 and Sun 20 Aug

Check out that echinacea! The reason it looks so perky is because this is the trial ground and showcase for the wonderful Daisy Roots nursery. There’s a sunken garden, and abundant borders with perennials and grasses. Fri 18 Aug, 6-8.30pm; Sun 20 Aug, 1-5pm. SG14 3LG

Gosselin Road

Living on the Veg’, Kerb, Fri 18 – Sat 19 Aug

Vegans unite! And non-vegans, prepare to be amazed by the creativity of Kerb food at Livin’ on the Veg. If your commute involves Kings Cross, it’ll be worth catching a later train to visit this food event on Friday. Granary Square is one of my favourite places in our wonderful capital city. Just standing watching children running in and out of the coloured fountains will make your spirits soar. This veg fest takes place in the West Handyside Canopy, in front of the gigantic Waitrose. 6-11pm Fri and 12pm – 11pm Sat.

Livin’ on the Veg

The Dark Side of Liberty, until Thurs 31 Aug

For me, a visit to Liberty has always felt like a trip to a gallery. This summer, the most beautiful department store in London (discuss) is going one step further, and its summer campaign includes work from Joris Van de Moortel, who has created a working recording studio in the windows. If you’re in town this summer, I suggest you go and have a look. I haven’t seen it yet, but I will definitely be popping in. Until Thurs 31 August.


An audience with Philippa Gregory, Rhodes Theatre, Bishop’s Stortford, Thurs 10 August

If you love Elizabeth Tudor, you may not love Philippa Gregory‘s latest book, The Last Tudor, published this week. This author continues to spin yarns about powerful women in history, and is brilliant at imagining the inner lives of famous women and drawing out their stories. This book is about Mary, the youngest sister of Jane Grey, although inevitably, the story is also about her cousin Elizabeth, who does not shine in this novel. 7.30pm.


Al Gore, Welwyn Garden City cinema, Fri 11 Aug

I was lucky enough to hear Al Gore talk about An Inconvenient Truth when he was in London, and was riveted. This is a live streaming of him introducing the follow-up, before the screening of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. The film will be on general release from Friday 18 August. 7pm.


 Writing the Garden, Gibberd Garden, Harlow, 11 Aug

The Gibberd Garden is just over the border in Harlow and easy to get to, depending on where you live in Herts. This is a one-day writing workshop led by local Derek Adams, the Essex and Suffolk poet £25. Includes coffee, lunch and tea.

Writing the Garden

The Mikado, Hatfield Forest, Thurs 10 Aug

Ko-Ko, Yum-Yum, illegal flirting, brightly coloured costumes and song. And hopefully the sun will shine. This production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado is from the wonderful company Illyria and is in the stunning National Trust location of Hatfield Forest, near Bishop’s Stortford. Hampers at the ready. Gates open 6pm. Performance 7.30pm. CM22 6ME


Meraki Festival, County Showground, St Albans, Fri 11 – Sun 13 August

Meraki is a new festival, but the name seems to have stuck early on and I predict that it will grow and grow. Nostalgia abounds, with Tony Hadley, Belinda Carlisle, Lemar, Odyssey and Jason Donovan. Sophie-Ellis Bextor takes to the dancefloor and stage on Saturday night. There is also loads of comedy, films and other festival stuff going on. Should be good.


Creatures of the Night, Ashridge Estate, Fri 4 Aug

Pack your torch and bat detector and join the night walk at Ashridge to look for bats, moths and all the other creatures that come out at night. A perfect family outing that’s completely different and extremely memorable. Booking essential. 8.30-11pm

Night Walk


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