Loads and blooming LOADS of things to do with the kids this summer
If you’re coming out in a cold sweat at the thought of 6 weeks with the ankle biters in tow here’s your survival Muddy holiday guide. I’ve rounded up the best of the best going on in the county – there’s a fair bit to get through so grab a glass of wine, your diary and get booking, briiiiing! I’ll see you on the other side.
THEATRE, MUSIC & FILM
Around the World in 80 Days, Hamptworth Lodge, Landford, 19-29 July
Based on the novel by Jules Verne, adapted for the stage by Laura Eason, this play takes place in the open air at Hamptworth Lodge.
Illyria: The Lost World, Marlborough College, 25 July
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s thumping adventure first published in 1912 inspired the likes of King Kong, Godzilla, Alien, Jurassic Park and a host of other much-loved movies.Intrepid explorers travel to an uncharted plateau and find flora and fauna beyond their wildest dreams. Yet, how will they make anyone believe the wonders they have seen actually exist?
The HandleBards: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rockley Manor, Marlborough, 26 July
Join the HandleBards in the grounds of beautiful Rockley Manor for their all-male, bicycle-powered production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Four young lovers find themselves enveloped in the dream-like arms of a magical forest full of sprites, where a feuding Fairy King and Queen are at war over the possession of an Indian boy. A group of amateur actors share the same forest. They’re rehearsing for a play. Fairies and humans collide. Hilarity ensues.
The Emperor’s New Clothes, Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum and Village, nr Chippenham, 28 July
On Lacock’s beautiful South Lawn, Illyria will bring to life Hans Christian Anderson’s classic story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. A fast and funny family show for all ages.
Mamma Mia / Ghostbusters, Lydiard House, Swindon, 12-13 Aug
Watch a classic film under the stars in the gorgeous setting of Lydiard House.
Top Gun / Dirty Dancing, Salisbury Cathedral, 3-4 Aug
Sit down under the stars to watch Top Gun or Dirty Dancing in this outdoor cinema event at Salisbury Cathedral.
Shawshank Redemption / Pretty Woman, Stanton House, Swindon, 12-13 Aug
Bring your own blanket, find a spot, pop the champagne and enjoy movies under the stars. Or you can buy a chair, a run and a blanket. You can even buy an air bed, and take it home afterwards!
A Sublime Theatre, in the garden at Salisbury Playhouse, 17-19 Aug
Inspired by the current exhibition at Salisbury Museum British Art: Ancient Landscapes, Stage 65, Salisbury Playhouse’s Youth Theatre, will be working with Kazzum to create a special theatre performance in the beautiful surroundings of the garden at Salisbury Museum. British Art: Ancient Landscapes includes work by John Constable, JMW Turner, Eric Ravilious, John Piper and others, focussing on how our surroundings have been a continual inspiration to artists across the centuries.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Wyvern Theatre, Swindon, 28-30 July
Directed by Anna Friend, this well-loved tale of magic and mischief will be transformed into a Gatecrash classic, bringing their established blend of grit and wonder to the Arts Centre and giving you Shakespeare like you’ve never seen it.
The Mikado, Manor Farm, Corsley, 5 Aug
An evening of outdoor frolics and open air theatre with optional supper served by serfs and wenches. Apparently. In the town of Titipu flirting has been made illegal. The penalty, by order of The Mikado, is death. Too bad then that the main culprit is the Lord High Executioner Ko-Ko, who wishes to marry his beautiful young ward Yum-Yum, and who has no intention of executing himself. Can the itinerant musician Nanki-Poo be persuaded to be executed in his place? And what would happen if anyone should dare to tell the Mikado that an execution had taken place when in fact it hadn’t…?
Alice, Oxford University Parks, 15 July – 19 Aug
More from quirky Oxford theatre company Creation. This time they invite you to fall down a rabbit hole in the green gorgeousness of Univer
sity Parks for a family-friendly production of Lewis Carroll’s Alice. This particular wonderland is in a Big Top so inclement weather be damned!
Iford Arts Festival, Iford Manor, Bradford on Avon, to 5 Aug
The internationally renowned Iford Arts Festival (opera, picnic proms and classical cloister concerts) takes place in the exquisite performing spaces of the Cloister and Casita in the Grade 1 Listed Peto garden of Iford Manor, 6 miles outside Bath. Opera is staged in the round and sung in English for a seated audience of 90. More importantly, don’t forget to bring the picnic and the Pimms.
Wind in the Willows,Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum and Village, nr Chippenham, 31 Aug
The quirky Oxford theatre company has two cracking outdoor shows this summer. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (5 July – 5 August) is a return for last year’s sell-out, interactive Shakespeare show. Part treasure hunt part play, it requires the audience to meet in small groups at a secret city centre location and follow clues… Alternatively you can fall down a rabbit hole in the green gorgeousness of University Parks for a family-friendly production of Alice (15 July – 19 August).
Oxford Castle, Oxford
History-themed creative family workshops every Wednesday at Chippenham Museum throughout the school holidays. Book ’em now as this gets pretty popular.
Children’s Holiday Workshops, Avebury Stone Circle, dates in July and Aug
- A programme of children’s workshops throughout the summer holidays, including Make your own Faerie, Unicorn Wands and Bracelets, and Hobbit Doors! Sound bonkers, or a lot of fun?
Summer Holiday Craft Activites, Wiltshire Museum, Devizes, dates in July and Aug
Craft sessions at the museum, every Wednesday throughout the holidays. Make castle models, dragon puppets and crowns; create art cave design and woolly mammoth badges; make a mini lighthouse and shell decorated frames, and much more.
Adult and child cookery course, Lucknam Park, Chippenham, 25-26 July
A half day cookery class with Chef Ben Taylor for a child with accompanying adult. Course runs from 9.30am finishing at approximately 2pm. Suitable for children aged 6-13 keen to learn about using fresh seasonal produce and learning new skills.
Summer Art Camps, The Holburne Museum, Bath, 24 July – 18 Aug
Four Art Camp weeks packed full of fun, creative activities inspired by the Museum’s collection and exhibitions and led by their experienced team of artists.
Animal Magic, Fisherton Mill, Salisbury, 1-29 July
An exhibition of wildlife sculptures, paintings and ceramics.
Lego dragon workshop, Victoria Art Gallery, Bath, Sat 22 July
Help create a giant Lego dragon based on Cressida Cowell’s Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus, which will be part of the gallery’s new Summer exhibition ‘Here be Dragons’. For ages 5+, from 10.30am–4.30pm. There are other dragon-related activities throughout the Summer hols, all of which are included in the gallery’s normal admission price, with no need to book.
Upfest 2017, venues around Bristol, Sat 29-Mon 31 July
Could be counterproductive if you’ve only just managed to stop your kids scribbling on walls but teens may love Europe’s largest, free, street art and graffiti festival. Over 300 artists from 30 countries paint on 30,000 sq ft of surfaces in 35 venues throughout Bedminster and Southville. Plus live entertainment, children’s workshops including Morph making sessions and an affordable art fair area.
Lacy Days of Summer, Fashion Museum, Bath, Tues 15 August
Design a fashion statement from lace inspired by the Lace in Fashion exhibition. 10:30am-12:30pm and 1:30-3:30pm. Free with normal admission. Lots of other family activities on other days.
Fantastic Beasts, American Museum in Britain, Bath, 27 July
Join them for a monster-filled activity inspired by the 1920s-set film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Drop-in, age 3+.
- GET OUTDOORS
Cotswold Water Park, throughout July and Aug
Who doesn’t love an inflatable aqua park? On water. In the sunshine. Yeah, baby. My favourite of all the waterparks in the country (yep, I’ve seen a few) is bang slap in our county – the Cotswolds Water Park not only has a huge inflatable village but waterskiing, speed rides on inflatable doughnuts and bananas, sailing, swimming and wakeboarding. Fancy a trip a little further afield and you’ve got Dorset Water Park with jumps, trampolines, bridges, flip bags and ladders on this awesome floating inflatable obstacle course. The location is idyllic, too, set on two lakes surrounded by woodland at the foot of Corfe Castle on the Isle of Purbeck – check out our review here. The New Forest Water Park isn’t far either – at 80m long and 40m wide this inflatable park has 2 trampolines, monkey bars, flippers, slides, hurdles, rockers, rollers, an overhang climbing wall, a swing and giant iceberg. Hopefully no cruise liners around, then.
The Cotswold Water Park would also make for a great day trip to try every kind of water sport going, or just drift around on a pedalo – the Beach is now open for business, with some great new attractions such as the fabulous Wibit Aquapark, an inflatable watery playground on Lake 31, plus a new gelateria and coming soon….a new pizzeria.
Tisbury Lido, throughout July and Aug
Looking for a lido? There’s a fantastic one in Tisbury, or Sandford Parks Lido in Cheltenham will blow your mind – it’s one of the largest outdoor swimming pools in the UK, set in landscaped gardens in Cheltenham and not only boasts a 50-metre main pool but also has a children’s pool and paddling pool. The Bristol Lido, hidden in amongst the pastel coloured houses of Clifton is the closest you’ll get to the Med in the city – check out our review here.
Hands on History, Old Wardour Castle, nr Tisbury, 24 July – 31 Aug
Join the Hands on History Crew for a summer of fun-filled kids’ events. There’s something to see and do every day of the school holidays with castle building and have a go archery, and more hands-on fun than ever before.
Hands on History – Archaeology, Old Sarum, Salisbury, 24 July – 4 Aug
Join the Hands on History Crew for a summer of fun-filled kids’ events. With something to see and do every day of the school holidays there’s more archaeology fun than ever before.
Jurassic Farm, Roves Farm, Swindon, 29 July – 11 Aug
Join the Roves Farm ranger to detect and even discover a brand new species of dinosaur. Go on a tractor ride farm safari through their very own dinosaur territories…
Jungle Parc, Lydiard Park, Swindon, throughout July and Aug
Climb high with Lydiard Park’s very own version of Go Ape: Jungle Parc, an aerial adventure activity facility, operates a Children’s Adventurer and Xplorer course within the woodlands of Lydiard Park. Aimed at children over 3, the Adventurer Course offers a high wire tree-top adventure in the woodlands with 50 different activities, including rope bridges, zip lines and cargo nets. The Xplorer course for Big Kids & Adults is suspended high in the tree canopy with over 50 different challenging activities.
Womad, Malmesbury, Wilts, 27-30 July
Starting with a biggie, we’ve got to give a nod to Womad. In the warm blur of the festival season, this celebration of international music, arts and dance still stands out. Check out acts including Ladysmith Black Mambazo, listen to Benjamin Zephaniah’s tomes and take a World Rhythm’s workshop, then ditch the worthy stuff and join Steven Moffatt (of Sherlock fame) chatting about Dr Who, check out Matthew Bourne’s new ballet and stuff your face with the Hairy Bikers. Not literally, mind.
Charlton Park, Charlton, Malmesbury, Wilts, womad.co.uk
Camp Bestival, Dorset, 27-30 July
Argh! I hear you shout. Not Bestival! Go newer, go smaller, go funkier. But I’m afraid I still bow to the beast that is Bestival, or at least the little kitty cat that is Camp Bestival, Bestival’s family-friendly offspring. It’s just over the border in the luscious grounds of Lulworth Castle in Dorset, there’s loads for the kids to do and the bookings are tip top. This year it’s Mark Ronson, Madness and Brian Wilson headlining plus All Saints, Holly Johnson and Leftfield, plus its first big kids show has been announced as School of Rock – The Musical. No wonder it regularly snaps up the coveted title of Best Family Festival. Tip – don’t come without kids. This one really is for them.
Lulworth Castle, Dorset,campbestival.net
Great Big Tree Climb, NT Leigh Woods, Bristol, Mon 31 July
Climb up into a tree’s canopy using ropes, knots and carabiners (tho’ securely attached in a harness at all times!) then abseil to the ground. Suitable 6+. Booking essential.
Braydon Maize Maze, Braydon Manor, nr Wootton Bassett, throughout Aug
Get lost in Wiltshire’s coolest maize maze.
Cholderton Charlie’s Farm, Cholderton, Salisbury, throughout July and Aug
Meet, feed, cuddle and pet the piggies. Down on The Farm they have Pig Corner, Rabbit Village, Goat Mountain, Donkey Den, The Chicken Coop, Duck and Geese Ponds, Pony Pastures, Sheep Shelters and the Farmyard. In peak times they have Tractor-Trailer Rides around the Grazing Field. Can I use any more Capital Letters here?
Abbey House Gardens, Malmesbury, throughout July and Aug
With 1300 years of history, the first King of England buried somewhere in the garden, two saints thrown down the well, and now one of the great gardens of the world. The spirit of the place shines through and could be the best garden visit you ever make. Even the kids’ll love it.
Westonbirt Arboretum, near Tetbury
If you’re starting to feel summer in your bank balance, then consider Westonbirt as a cheapish day out with its Kids Go Free offer from Wednesday 26 July to Monday 31 August. There’s tons to do there including its Treetop Walkway, a 300m route in the sky with rope bridges to swing across, crow’s nest viewing platforms to scramble up and mesh-floored sections to peer through. Entice reluctant younger walkers with The Gruffalo Spotter app which you can download at home and then point at clues along the path and watch Mouse, Owl, Snake and the Gruffalo appear before your eyes. And if you are feeling flush, there is a hot-air balloon flight on Monday 28 August, which would be an awesome way to round off the summer.
Westonbirt Arboretum, Tetbury GL8 8QS. Tel: 0300 067 4890. forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt
Cotswold Farm Park, Guiting Power, near Cheltenham
A finalist in this year’s Muddy Awards for Best Family Attraction, Adam Henson’s farm is a bit of a dream day out for toddlers to tweens, with its Touch Barn where kids can get up close and personal with chicks, rabbits, kid goats and lambs (my daughter practically fainted with the cuteness of it all when the feeding bottles came out); a farm safari on a tractor; a rare breeds trail; play areas where kids can practise their driving skills at Tractor School, fly down a zip wire, scamper up a climbing wall, jump on bouncing pillows and, for the younger ones, fill their ears with sand in the sandpit. There’s also a maze with educational clues that test maths, observational skills and animal husbandry (no need to tell them that, but great to feel the glow of expanding the offsprings’ brain matter through play) and new this summer are one-day Bushcraft courses (minimum age 8). Aimed at everyone from kids to big kids, activities include learning basic foraging skills, shelter building, game preparation (that’s preparing and cooking wild food for lunch!), fire lighting and whittling a memento with your newfound knife skills. It’s like a chapter out of The Dangerous Book For Boys!
Cotswold Farm Park, Bemborough Farm, Kineton, Cheltenham GL54 5UG. Tel: 01451 850307. cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk
Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe
This fabulous castle, magnificent 1,200-acre estate and one-stop Tudor history lesson (it’s a bit of a star in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall) will easily reap a whole day’s entertainment. Once home to Henry VIII’s last wife Queen Katherine Parr (she’s buried in the grounds), the castle itself is stunning with a new visitor route taking in some rooms that haven’t been opened to the public before. If you’ve got grandma in tow, she’ll love it. My mother-in-law was in interiors seventh heaven. And there’s plenty going on outside to wow grandma and tire out the offspring too. The gardens are award-winning and there are ten of them – the Knot Garden is particularly pretty with its bijoux design is based on a dress worn by Elizabeth I in a portrait which hangs in the castle. There’s also a Pheasantry housing a collection of 16 rare and endangered birds from around the world. And the play area is ‘sick’, according to my mudlets, especially the wooden castle. Throughout the summer Wednesdays are children’s summer fun days with a bouncy castle, toddler’s activity centre and arts and crafts activities.
Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe GL54 5JD. Tel: 01242 602308. sudeleycastle.co.uk
Cotswold Wildlife Park, near Burford, Oxfordshire
Seeing rhinos, giraffes, zebra and camels wandering the 160 acres of landscaped parkland against a backdrop of a Georgian Gothic manor house is a wonderfully incongruous sight. The largest privately owned zoological collection in the UK, the Cotswold Wildlife Park is a fab day out for all ages. There are so many animals to look at – from the lions sunning themselves to the cheeky monkeys, meerkats, penguins, giant tortoises and reptiles – you’ll end up walking miles to see them all without even realising it. August is Rhino Month when every day at 2pm the keepers will be giving a talk about the beasts, the threats they’re facing and the conservation work that is going on to protect them. And on Sunday 13 August, Fairthrope Sports Car Rally comes to the park.
Cotswold Wildlife Park, Bradwell Grove, Burford OX18 4JP. Tel: 01993 823006. cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk
Fieldview, Chippenham, Wilts, 3-6 August
God, I love this one. Its non-profit ethos, the fact that it can be run solely on chip fat and solar power, the smell of burning joss sticks…takes me right back to my uni days. Sorry, back on track…if you can’t face the magnitude of size or price of Bestival, Latitude or Cornbury Park, Fieldview is a small but perfectly formed bundle of summer festival loveliness. Now in its tenth year, you won’t find Madness or Mark Ronson, celebrity chef feasts or pop-up spas here but there is plenty for the kids to get stuck into, it is small enough so you can stage dive into the mosh pits and you might even stumble across the next Ben Howard or Mouse Outfit. Workshops for littlies include jewellery making, treasure hunts and circus skills, with yoga and Tai Chi for you (helps the hangover, I’m told). So load up the happy campers and head down to Chippenham this August. It’s in a secret location, so shhh….
At a secret location near Chippenham, Wilts, fieldviewfestival.co.uk
End Of The Road, Tollard Royal, Wilts, 31 August – 3 September
Hopefully it won’t be the end of the road for us as we hurtle into festival season with a new pair of Le Chameu (I wish. How much?) but it is worth checking out this alternative music festival. It’s not a biggie – 11,000 bods tops – and if you like folk, Ameriana and alt. country (can anyone tell me what that is? Not Taylor Swift, then?) this one is for you. They get some good headliners here, we’re talking Bat for Lashes and the like, and this year they’ve got Jesus and Mary Chain (cue mega flashback to sixth form). 4 stages, secret sets, loads of stuff for kids and plenty of peacocks strutting around. It’s got it all, then.
Larmer Tree Gardens, Tollard Royal, Wilts, endoftheroadfestival.com
Field Trip, West Ashton, Wilts, 25-28 August
An electro fest with an earthy vibe. What? I hear you cry. What I mean is, it’s house, techno, drum and bass, electrofunk and breaks (Goldie Lookin Chain and Catz ‘N Dogz announced so far) serving locally sourced organic food in biodegradable packaging. You like?
West Aston, Wilts, fieldtripparty.co.uk
Devizes Fest, Wilts, 27-28 August
Is it a music festival? Is it a carnival? Is it a foodie feast? All three and more, I reckon, plus a picnic in the park, a parade and a confetti battle. This festival is seriously cool, with the best of the best street performers, contemporary circus acts, dancers, musicians and walkabout shows from across Europe and the UK. Line up not announced yet but it’s a good excuse to listen to some tunes while not wearing wellies.
Devizes, Wilts, docadevizes.org.uk
New Forest Fairy Festival, Burley, Wilts, 12-13 August
Young and old (and seriously unbalanced) will love this little gem. For the truly wacky this little number celebrates the essence of Fairies and Elves, with a massive line up of activities, live bands, Morris dancers, story telling, belly dancing, platform mediumship (yep, that kind of medium), a healing area with healing workshops, puppet shows, OK, stop! The line up is pretty sketchy as of now but they have signed some kid wearing pixie ears.
Burley Park, Burley, Wilts, newforestfairyfestival.com
Musical in a Week, Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon, dates in Aug
Whether you were born to be on stage or this is your first step into the limelight, sign up for a fantastic five days – jam packed with singing, acting, and dancing – creating a brand new show-stopping mystery musical. Also, they are running Neon Dance Intensive, A Day of Son, Young Composers and Songwriters, and Street Theatre.
Rock It, Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon, 31 July – 1 Aug
Wanna play in a band? Form a band (fancy a rock orchestra?) and work towards a performance.
Marlborough College Summer School, to 5 Aug
Back for 2017, Marlborough College Summer School has grown beyond compare into one of the largest multi-generational learning experiences of its kind. A huge range of adult and child courses in art, culture and sport.
Junior Summer Golf Coaching, Bowood, nr Calne, dates in July and Aug
Junior golf coaching camps aimed at 6–16 years. Fun days of learning all the basics of golf, from the long game, to putting, pitching and chipping, as well as practise on their three hole Academy Course.
Starcast Summer Workshop, Salisbury, 14-18 August
The best possible summer experience within an educational and sporting framework, intended to help discover and explore academic and extracurricular interests. This is a unique programme of events, games and classes tailored to each age group that integrates an exciting academic programme with a focus on sports, culture and life skills. From public-speaking workshops, poetry club and persuasive debating to letter writing, lasagna making and local history.
Are your kids happy campers? Camp Wilderness have a range of stays from 2-5 days, hunkered down in the woodlands of Cornbury Park. Activities include fire-lighting, wild swimming and, but of course, marshmallows and hot chocolate around the camp fire. They’re also running camps in Herts, Cheshire and Kent this year if you fancy venturing further afield. Suitable for children aged 6 to 15.
Bear Grylls eat your heart out (actually, he probably would literally do this if he got hungry, he’s so hardcore), this camp is designed to teach kids aged 8-14 useful survival skills while fully immersed in the natural environment. Hill End has extensive wild woodland, designated bushcraft areas and a survival training forest and you can book in for the day or the week.
Young Film Academy Summer Courses, London, throughout August
Budding movie mavens (actors and film-makers) can pick from various options which span making a film in a day to a fully immersive two week residential course (better get saving though – it’s £2388). Just make them promise now that you’ll be their Oscars +1 in 2027.
You can always count on the National Trust and English Heritage to come up trumps when you’re looking for stuff to do. And there’s plenty going at all their properties throughout Wilts and beyond. Here’s our pick of the best.
Great Chalfield Manor and Garden, Melksham
A gorgeous 15th century manor house with stunning Arts and Crafts garden.
Stourhead, Stourton, nr Warminster
This Palladian house and world-famous landscape garden has loads of trails, games and family fun to fill a grand day out.
Stonehenge, Amesbury, nr Salisbury
This place is really special. Educational, fun, inspiring even – it’s a truly great family day out. And did you know (I didn’t) that they still don’t know who built it, or when, or why?
Avebury Stone Circle, Avebury, nr Marlborough
This world-famous stone circle and on-site museum is at the heart of a prehistoric landscape, and well worth a visit with the Mudlets this summer.
Old Wardour Castle, nr Tisbury
Set in the peaceful Wiltshire countryside beside a lake, Old Wardour Castle was once one of the most daring and innovative homes in Britain. It was built in the 14th century as a lightly fortified luxury residence for comfortable living and lavish entertainment. The castle was the inspiration for the one featured in the Kevin Costner film ‘Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves’. Children will love to explore the grotto and the castle rooms, climbing the circular stairs to the top where you can see for miles, across the lake and surrounding countryside. There’s plenty of space for children to play or for picnics under the cover of the age old trees.