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35+ magical things to do on your doorstep this May!

Folk festivals, fairs, food, flowers galore and, er, singing frogs: we've got you covered for ways to spend your days in Wilts this month

OUTDOORS

Behind the Scenes with Head Gardener Steve Lannin at Iford Manor Gardens, Iford, 1 May

Image credit: William Cartwright-Hignett

Spend Bank Holiday Sunday morning on an intimate tour of one of Wiltshire’s most beautiful private gardens with head gardener Steve Lannin. Learn about key gardening jobs for this season and ask the expert for tips about your own patch. Finishes with a pot of tea or cup of coffee and the option to stay and enjoy the gardens until they close at 4pm. If you can’t make this one, they are held at the start of every month, so book your spot on 1 June instead.

Spring in the Park, Warminster Lake Pleasure Grounds, 1 May

Fingers crossed for sunshine for this fun family day out. There’s plenty on offer here, from a dog show to a raft-building race on the water, plenty of stalls (including delicious food and a bar), and the opening of a brand new space-themed splash pad for the littles.

Fonthill House Charity Garden Open Day, Tisbury, 8 May

Come and poke around the herbaceous borders, water features and sculptures of Fonthill House in the name of charity! Proceeds go towards preserving Beckford’s Tower and Museum (tickets cost £10 when booked in advance, £12 on the door).

FESTIVALS & EVENTS

Planted Country, Stourhead Estate, Warminster, 30 Apr – 2 May

Get back to nature over Bank Holiday weekend with this eco event in association with the National Trust. Held within the walled garden and stables at Stourhead, the three-day happening comprises a series of talks and workshops. Highlights include the Verve Wellness Tent which is offering a range of feel-good workshops like a Guided Nature Meditation and Gong Bath.

Swindon Festival of Literature, 2-8 May

After the Covid cancellations of the past few years, literature lovers will revel in this packed IRL programme of author talks, events and workshops which kicks off with a Celebration of Dawn on Monday 3 May at 5am (yes, really). It’s worth mainlining caffeine that day though, as poets, performers and musicians will be doing their utmost to take your mind off the early start.

Celebration: A Festival of Flowers, Salisbury Cathedral, 10 – 15 May

Well this looks bloomin’ marvellous! In celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and over 800 years of Salisbury Cathedral, thirty thousand flowers will be descending on the city in incredible arrangements (including a floral recreation of the Queen’s coronation robe). Book yourself in for the exclusive preview evening on 9 May for a sparkling wine welcome, dance performances and live flower arranging.

Chippenham Folk Festival, Chippenham, 27 – 29 May

With over 200 venues showcasing folk music and dance over the last weekend of the month, you’re bound to find something fun to do at this lively toe-tapping gathering. Bursting with colour, Chippenham Folk Festival also has a craft tent and plenty of workshops for adults and kids. Break out the boho skirt, because English summer’s here.

COURSES, CLASSES & WORKSHOPS

Build Your Own Swiss Roll , The Farm Cookery School, nr Chippenham, 5 May

Impress at the next bake sale with your made-from-scratch Swiss Roll. Your teacher, The Cake Lady, will show you how to make the perfect base and   customise the flavours to your taste by adding different ingredients like coffee and walnuts.  She’ll also teach how to make Chocolate Party Traybake and Apricot Bakewells. Safe to say you will NOT be counting calories that day.

The Summer Style Edit with Natasha Musson, Timbrell’s Yard, Bradford on Avon, Saturday 14th May

A Full English (or Avo on Sourdough) while learning all about this Summer’s trends from an expert? Sounds like the perfect Saturday morning to me. Spend two hours with The Secret Stylist, Natasha Musson, at her small, supportive style clinic and avoid that “Oh no I stand my summer clothes’ moment come the heatwave. Breakfast included. Book online.

Green Man Mask workshop, The Vaults, Bradford-on-Avon, 7 May

Using natural local wool and the technique of needle-felting, learn how to make your own individual Green Man mask in time for the town’s Green Man Festival on Saturday 14 May (or use it as wall-art, or to scare the neighbours, depending on your result). Suitable for beginners as well as those with some experience of needle-felting. Age 14+

Basic Bread workshop, Vaughn’s Kitchen, Devizes, 12 May

Estate agents swear by the smell of fresh bread in the oven to help a house sell quick – so why not skill up to bake your own for next time you go all Location, Location? Take this class and go home knowing how to make a white bread dough, a wholegrain spelt dough and an easy soda bread – all without additives or preservatives.

Corked Bottle Terrarium Workshop, Botanic Folk, Salisbury, 17 and 24 May

Create your own mini-green landscape in a recycled glass, corked container in one sitting. You’ll receive all the materials and guidance you need so you can take your new little planet home afterwards. Participants also receive 10% any additional plant purchases made during the visit.

Butterfly Painting Workshop, Langford Lakes Nature Reserve, Salisbury, 18 May

Make like an Edwardian lady and learn to paint this pretty insect under the expert eye of botanical artist, Sally Pond. And because it’s at the Kingfisher Cafe at Langford Lakes (the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve), coffee and lunch are included during this peaceful way to pass a day.

Writing Fiction with Anna Vaught, Cassia Collective, Bradford-on-Avon, 22 May

Kickstart your novel or short story collection under the guiding hand of published author and creative writing teacher, Anna Vaught. She’ll give you all the tools you need and lots of support for you through ideas, exercises, advice and camaraderie.

MARKETS & FAIRS

Salisbury Arts Scene Market, Salisbury, 1 May

Image credit: Fiona Forbes

Now the weather’s getting warmer, it’s the ideal time to browse outdoor markets, especially if you make the most of pavement café society too. Salisbury’s art market happens on the first Sunday of each month from March to December, filling the market square with Wiltshire artists and artisans (like Fiona Forbes, above).

Spring Fayre, Salisbury Museum, 2 May

Bunting, analogue games, vintage tractors, local crafts and Morris Dancers – it might sound like a village fete a la Downton Abbey, but it’s all the ingredients of Salisbury’s Spring Fayre 2022. The fayre takes place in the museum grounds with added live music and children’s workshops – follow their socials for updates.

Local Makers BOA, St Margaret’s Hall, Bradford-on-Avon, 7 May

New to the artisan market scene this year is this intoxicatingly popular indoor makers’ market, packed full of talented creators and producers from all over the county (and some from nearby Bath too). Go early to get your freshly baked bread from WildRyeSourdough before she sells out.

Shop Small Swindon, The Hop Inn, Swindon, 8 May

Shopping in (or more accurately, above) a pub? Can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday in Swindon, especially when the booty for sale is all made by local indie makers and producers. Runs 10am-4pm.

ART & CULTURE

Cloth Road Arts Week, Bradford on Avon, Trowbridge, Melksham and surrounds, 30 April – 8 May

Image credit: Niranjana Girish

For the first week of the month, artists in West Wiltshire are opening their studios to visitors to come and browse as part of an annual arts trail. See their online brochure for all the details of who, where and when you can visit plus all the intel about special events too.

Wendy Thompson at the John Bowen Gallery, Malmesbury, 30 April – 27 May

Cotswold artist Wendy Thompson often works outside in the fresh air and uses nature as her inspiration, capturing landscapes and animals with pen and ink and a splash of colour. This three week exhibition will showcase the sketches of her work over lockdown and her original paintings too.

Sheila’s Island, Salisbury Playhouse, 3 – 7 May

When a play’s from the pen of the writer behind Kinky Boots, Calendar Girls and The Band, you know there’ll be laughs. And when the four main characters are women stranded on an island during their works’ Outward Bound course, you know there’ll be some home truths too. Catch this sharp-witted comedy while it’s in Wilts.

The Red in My Blood with author Clover Stroud, Messums Tisbury, 18 May

A few weeks before Christmas, Clover’s sister Nell Gifford, founder of the magical Giffords Circus, died of breast cancer, aged 46. Yet a few days before she’d been given years to live. Join Clover for a talk, supper and Q&A about her latest book which describes a journey into the shock of grief and back again.

Hardy’s Wessex: The Landscapes that Inspired a Writer, Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum, 28 May – 30 October

As Thomas Hardy is arguably the West Country’s most famous writer, it makes sense that a major exhibition about his relationship with Wessex launches right at the end of the month, continuing till October. It’s being simultaneously staged in four venues: Dorset Museum, Poole Museum, Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, which looks at the influence of ancient archeological sites like Stonehenge on his work, and Salisbury Museum, which examines the writer’s views on religion and feminism.

KIDS

Children and Families Day, Lower Shaw Farm, West Swindon, 8 May

Big or small, everyone will enjoy this storytelling celebration, with a day crammed full of inspiring entertainment. On the bill are tales around the campfire, writers talking about their work (including a story about a lonely onion), a Design and Print Your Own Bookplate workshop, puppet shows by Piggery Jokery and an Afro-Caribbean-inspired rhythm workshop. The day culminates in a Circus Performance, at which point it definitely will be time for a bedtime story.

The Wave, The Rifles Museum, Salisbury, 19 May

Wear your waterproof mascara when you see this show about three buffoonish musical sailors, because you’re encouraged to bring your own water pistols (!). It’s meant to be riotous as they clown around, battling stormy seas, with a soundtrack of electric guitars, trembling drums and sea shanties.

Circus Fun Weekend, Lower Shaw Farm, West Swindon, 27 – 29 May

Pack your spangliest leggings and grab a bag of popcorn – the circus is coming to Lower Shaw Farm! There are workshops for everything from plate-spinning to tightrope-walking, for complete beginners all the way up to big top experts. There’ll also be a fire show, a mass fire club-swinging routine, and a giant fire sculpture – sounds hot hot hot.

Grow Your Own Sunflower, Roves Farm Visitor Centre, Swindon, 28 May

Make your way to the potting shed at this family-friendly farm during the May half-term and you’ll find everything you need to plant your own sunflower to take home. There’s plenty for you to do afterwards too, from visiting the cafe and farm shop, exploring the working farm and meadows and petting some of the animals. A real life Countryfile!

Summer Spices cookery workshop, Vaughn’s Kitchen, Devizes, 28 May

Give your kids a gift that will benefit you: Send them to this cookery class so they can learn to cook your dinner. This May, both Mini (6-10 year olds) and Young Chefs (11-16 year olds) will be taught how to make spiced roast chicken with cauliflower & almond couscous, green hummus and Anise cookies. Money very well spent!

Froggy’s Famous Fan Club, Salisbury Playhouse, 29 May

Your under-fives will love this participatory music show by Jake and Froggy that includes the ukulele, banjo and accordion. You, however, may not enjoy it quite so much, depending on how friendly you were with that Sauvignon Blanc last night.

MUSIC & DANCE

Charm of Finches, The Pound Arts Centre, Corsham, 7 May

Spend an evening submerged in other-wordly indie folk vibes created by award-winning Aussie sisters, Mabel and Ivy Windred-Wornes. The dreamy duo who grew up busking old-time tunes and singing at festivals down under are described as creating ‘gothic folk-noir’ but their haunting melodies are anything but spooky.

Bear’s Den at The Royal Oak, Marlborough, 15 May

Wind down from your weekend with an evening of acoustic folk from the much-loved local duo Davie and Kev. They’ll be sharing songs from their new album, ‘Blue Hours’ which tackles the theme of self-reflection.

FOOD & DRINK

No 3 Gin Tasting, The Royal Oak, Swindon, 4 May

Now here’s a skill we’re happy to practice! Join an expert No 3 Gin Ambassador at The Royal Oak in Swindon who will show you the best way to serve your G&T, along with demonstrating what experts consider to be the world’s best gin cocktails. The evening includes one perfect serve of No 3 Gin and Fever Tree Tonic, one Vesper cocktail and one South Side Cocktail. All for you.

Supper Club, No 10 Tea Gardens, Avoncliff, 20 May

To celebrate the launch of their new canopy space, the prettily-positioned No 10 Tea Garden is holding a special Supper Club. As you sit beside the canal at Avoncliff, you’ll be treated to four courses paired with wines from the Babylonstoren Estate (the official Chelsea Flower Show Sponsors), including Pea and Mint Soup and Herb and Crusted Parmesan Sirloin of Beef with Parmesan Puree. Say what now?! We’re in.

Cheese & Wine Tasting, Cru Wines, Bradford-on-Avon, 21 May

Fancy pairing five wines with some of the most delicious cheese Wiltshire can offer? Then you won’t want to miss this tasting session at Bradford on Avon’s glamorous wine emporium, Cru. Dairy delicacies are provided by Christoph from the town’s dedicated fromage HQ, The Cheese Shop. Zut alors, j’adore!

FUNDRAISERS

ACE SMA Launch Party, Messums Wiltshire, Tisbury, Saturday 7th May

Dinner, drinks, a live auction and dancing doesn’t sound like too stressful a way to raise money for a very good cause, does it? Held at Messums in Tisbury, this ACE (Awareness, Cure, Exercise) party is designed to not only raise awareness of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) but also to raise a significant amount of money to kickstart a research project with Oxford University.

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