Christmas with the National Trust 2

Six more Christmas National Trust ideas for places to go, things to see. These are slightly further afield but make a great day out.

by Katy Dunn

The National Trust historic houses are decorated in the style of Christmases gone by.  Stroll through frosty winter gardens, discover festive crafts to try at home, and tuck into delicious seasonal treats.

Don’t forget about the special Percy the Park Keeper winter trails at 122 National Trust places. Nick Butterworth’s most beloved characters will help your little ones enjoy the great outdoors!

Each of your festive days out will support the National Trust’s work as a charity looking after special places for future generations to enjoy.

1. Hughenden (near High Wycombe)

Hughenden is celebrating the nature, beauty, and history of their gardens this Christmas. The gardens were created in the 1860s by Mary Anne Disraeli and the garden team of today continue to care for them.

Mary Anne’s love of bright, bold colours is reflected in the colour scheme of vibrant reds, iridescent blue, and gold. In the stableyard, the 15-foot conifer tree features garden icons in miniature. Look for the spades and trowels, wheelbarrows and wellies.

In the manor, wooden baubles in the library reflect Disraeli’s passion for trees and books. Volunteers hand-carved the baubles using wood from the Hughenden estate. The garden hall, with its beautiful views of the formal gardens, features the showpiece of the Christmas theme. The showpiece is a glittering red blue, and gold homage to Disraeli’s beloved peacocks who roamed the estate.

Opening times

10am-4pm, last entry 3.30pm. Saturday, 20 November to Monday, 3 January.

House – 11am-3pm, last entry 2.15pm. Numbers in the house are limited for safety, places available on a first-come, first-serve basis on the day only.

Percy the Park Keeper’s winter wander

From 10am – 3.30pm, Saturday, 4 December – Monday, 3 January. Pick up your trail sheet from visitor reception when you arrive. Suitable for children aged 3-8 years.

2. Cliveden (near Maidenhead)

Winter is a wonderful time of year to reconnect with family and friends on frosty walks in the great outdoors. Spend time making new memories or picking up where you left off in Cliveden’s 400 acres of gardens, woodland, and riverside .

Percy the Park Keeper’s winter wander

Saturday 4 December – Thursday 23, December. Meet by the Info Centre to collect a trail map.

3. Basildon Park (near Reading)

This year, Basildon Park is inviting the woodland into the house, and bringing lights to the wintry woodland. The walk up to the house is full of shadow and mystery throughout autumn. The lights transform it in winter into a twinkling promenade of hope and reflection. Inside the house, a forest of Christmas trees awaits to delight the senses. There are sounds of woodland animals, the smell of pine, orange and cinnamon and the gentle caress of cool, silky fir branches.

There are also wreath-making workshops to book onto at the Basildon Park website from 26 November.

Percy the Park Keeper’s winter wander

Sat 4 Dec – Mon 3 Jan, 10am-4pm

4. The Vyne (near Basingstoke)

This year, the mansion is luxuriously decorated like a Victorian Christmas. Glittering Christmas trees and traditional decorations fill the ground floor rooms. An indoor family trail takes children on an adventure back in time. Enjoy wintery walks with beautiful views across fields, woods, and wetlands. At the end of the walk, enjoy warm mulled wine and mince pies in the café.

27 November – 2 January (closed 24 & 25 December)

Percy the Park Keeper’s winter wander

Saturday 4 December – Monday, 3 January

5. Greys Court (near Henley-on-Thames)

Greys Court is celebrating a family Christmas this year with Brunner family traditions. Christmas dinner is on the dining table and handmade decorations are all around. There is the scent of real fir trees and music playing throughout the house. Sense the nostalgic feel of happy Christmas memories spent with loved ones.

Throughout December book one of the candlelit tours on selected evenings. It promises to be a cosy, festive experience in the house at Greys Court. If you’re lucky on your visit, you may be able to sample some of Lady Brunner’s gingerbread. Our volunteers lovingly bake them to her recipe.

6. Chastleton (near Stow-on-the-Wold)

This Christmas we invite you to imagine the festive season as enjoyed by the first owner of Chastleton House, Walter Jones.

See the house decked in traditional Jacobean style, complete with dried flowers and greenery from the garden. As you wind your way through the decorated rooms, you may notice the scents of Christmas; wood smoke, oranges and spices. Listen to the sounds of the fire crackling in the grate, traditional lute music and the bustle of festivities.

Along the way, you can discover stories of how the Jones family may have celebrated the season. Look out for the Great Hall, its table is laid with the family pewter, glinting in the firelight. The kitchen will be the heart of festive preparation, with ale and food arriving through the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Opening Times

11am – 3pm, last entry into the house at 2.30pm, Saturday 27 November – Sunday, 5 December

For more information visit

National Trust

stony lights

November What’s On Milton Keynes

The November What’s On Calendar Around Milton Keynes and South Northamptonshire is filling fast. Here are a selection of what we recommend.

By Emma Johnson

This selection of events means you’ll be supporting the community. At the same time you’ll find some lovely Christmas gifts and arts and foods. Take your friends and family and enjoy these fab local events.

Christmas Gift & Craft Sale

Christmas at the Old Bath House

11am-2pm, Sunday, 7 November

Stalls with Christmas gifts and crafts

205 Stratford Road, Wolverton

Moorgate Farm Tasting Days

10am-2.25pm, Sunday 14 & 21 November

Moorgate Farm, Potterspury

FB Moorgate Farm Vegetable Delivery

1. Christmas Fayre

11am-2pm, Sunday 5 December

Stalls, tombola, raffle and more. Fundraiser supporting The Old Bath House, activities, community fridge and more.

Christmas at the Old Bath House

205 Stratford Road, Wolverton

2. Christmas Craft Fair and Tree Extravaganza

11am-4pm, Saturday 20 November

Sale of local arts, crafts and gifts. Wander around the trees decorating the historic church.

Beachampton Church

3. Towcester & District Art Society

9am – 5pm, Saturday 27 & 10am – 4.30pm, Sunday 28 November

Christmas Exhibition 2021 For sale – over 150 original works of art in all media and greeting cards – great gift ideas

Towcester Town Hall, 86 Watling Street, Towcester NN12 6BS

Free Admission

4. Stony Switch-on Day

Saturday, 27 November

Stony Lights Switch-On Fun Day is back with a full day of entertainment for all the family. There’ll be stalls, a fun fair, dancing, the WatlingFest Music Stage and other fun to keep you smiling all day.

Rather than the usual procession, lantern makers will gather for the 5pm lights switch-on in the Market Square. After the lights go on communal singers will fill the air with festive carols.

Book the date for these seasonal frivolities.

For updates and more:

5. Towcester Mill Brewery Christmas Fayre

12-6pm, Sunday, 28 November

 Towcester Mill, Chantry Ln, Towcester NN12 6YY

Christmas gifts and ideas, Towcester Studio Band and street food

Ales, mulled wine and cider


Santa Dash for Willen

Santa Dash for Willen Hospice this Christmas!

The Dash For Willen Hospice is back this year on Sunday, 19 December at 10am. Best of all it won’t be virtual like last year’s was!

by Helen Winter

Willen Hospice hope that 1oos of people will once again dress as Father Christmas to walk, run or jog around Willen Lake North. Don’t forget – this event helps to raise funds for your local charity hospice.

The event is open to people of all ages, and dogs are welcome to take part too.

Tracey Jago, Events Manager at Willen Hospice, said:

“Our Santa Dash has become an annual favourite for many families and has become a staple in their Christmas routine as a great way to mark the start of their festivities. We truly missed not having it last year, and we can’t wait to see everyone dressed up in their Santa suits.

Whether your Dash is in memory of a loved one, a chance to do something fun as a family, or simply a change to your usual Sunday run, by taking part you’ll be helping to support our vital work.”

How to Book on Santa Dash for Willen

Click here for the Santa Dash Link

It costs:

  • £15 for adults including a Santa suit
  • £5 for kids including a Santa Hat
  • £7.50 for kids including a Santa suit
  • £2.50 for a ‘Yappy Christmas’ bandana for your furry friends

Willen Hospice is the only adult Hospice in the local area. The charity needs to raise around £9 every minute of the year from the local community to continue providing specialist end-of-life care in Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas. So go, Santa Dash for Willen!

About Willen Hospice

Willen Hospice provides complex and individual care to all adults affected by life limiting illness in our community. It also supports families and friends.  Our care is assuring, equally accessible and advanced and often takes place in people’s own homes.  It is free to the patient and provided by a highly skilled team of professionals. We receive less than a quarter of our funding from the NHS and need the support of the local community to provide us with financial stability to ensure that we are always there to care.


What's On Milton Keynes

What’s on Around Milton Keynes and Villages

Essentially Local and Stony Radio are the places to go to find out about What’s On around Milton Keynes and the surrounding villages.

by Emma Johnson

Over to Caz Tricks

We are so lucky to have persuaded the fabulous Caz Tricks to come on board and help us to gather together all the local what’s on. Caz comes with a wealth of experience in work, the voluntary sector, theatre and radio. Along with this, she has a great skill in connecting with people and promoting all the good things around the area.

If you have any events or groups you want to promote email Caz with the details. You can also send through any updates or requests for promotion or changes of contact.

Her email is


Yes, there is a cost for some of you. While we have always committed to keeping costs down or free, where we can, it’s just no longer feasible. It is time that we apply some small charges to cover some of our costs.

We offer a multi-media approach which helps to attract more visitors your cause or event. The costs we apply reflect only part of the things we do to help promote your activities.

What do you get for your money?

Print –   listing in what’s on in the relevant magazine. We also offer bigger adverts, if required, at reduced costs to certain types of organisations. Editorial space to describe what your group or event is about when available.

Radio Daily updates about local events and activities. Interviews with event organisers

Online – Bi-monthly updates about local events and groups on the website.

Social Media – Regular social media updates

About Stony Radio

At the beginning of the first lockdown some good friends of mine decided to set up Stony Radio. This local radio station has an amazing array of talented DJs who present different genres of music and chat. Over the last year and more we have looked at ways to add more connections between what we and the radio do. I am pleased to say that between us we will be promoting local events on the radio as well on line and in the magazine.

Website: Stony Radio

About Essentially Local

During lockdown we updated our website and employed a new member of staff. We are continuing to introduce innovative ways of helping to promote local businesses:

These include:

  • The magazine – it speaks for itself!
  • Website – where you read the fascinating, interesting and informative articles as well as find local businesses.
  • Articles – helpful articles for your website, blog or ours are a great way of promoting what you do, let us help!
  • Website design – we will update or create a website for an affordable price.
  • Design – from adverts, to flyers, business cards to comps slips, we can help you to create a new or enhance your image.
  • Video – some people don’t like reading but they love nothing better than to watch a short video about you.
  • Social media – from putting your information on our social media to us managing yours, we’re there to help.

Finally keep up-to-date with what’s on like the Essentially Local Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts!



Literary MK’s Lit Festival

This October, MK’s Lit Festival is, once again, in full swing with some more great talks available.  In September, Penn Vogler visited York House in Stony Stratford to give a fascinating talk about Edible England. The next offerings from the MK’s Lit Festival organisers promise to be equally as interesting.


With some sessions priced at Pay What You Can, it makes the talks very affordable for everyone. The prose writing workshop is priced at £2o a ticket and sounds perfect for anyone wishing to improve their skills.

Location – Zoom

At the moment, all the listed talks are Zoom based. Although I prefer to go to a proper venue, Zoom does bring the added benefit of less travel time and parking costs.

Summary of Events

 1. Sam Lee – The Nightingale: Notes on a Songbird

8.30pm,  Thursday 7 October


2. Ian Dunt – In Conversation: How To Be A Liberal

7.00pm,  Thursday 14 October


For more information – read the full descriptions below

3. Charlie Hill – Workshop: Putting Poetry into your Prose

7pm, Thursday 21 October

Find out More

​To find out more about MK’s Lit Festival and it’s events go to:

MK Literary Festival

Sam Lee – The Nightingale: Notes on a Songbird

“Wondering and wonderful. The nature book of the year.” – John Lewis-Stempel

Sam is well-known as a highly inventive and original singer, folk song interpreter, song collector and successful creator of live events.  He is also a passionate conservationist.

Throughout history, the sweet song of the nightingale has inspired musicians, writers and artists around the world. In his new book, The Nightingale: Notes on a Songbird [Cornerstone, 2021], Sam reveals in beautiful detail the bird’s song, habitat, characteristics and migration patterns. Along with this, he looks at the environmental issues that threaten its livelihood.

From Greek mythology to John Keats, to Persian poetry and ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’, he delves into the various ways we have celebrated the nightingale. He reviews traditions, folklore, music, literature, from ancient history to the present day. The Nightingale is a unique and lyrical portrait of a famed yet elusive songbird.

About Sam Lee

Sam has spent the last 13 years working with some of the most exciting folk artists and industry professionals to re-galvanize the UK folk scene. He has used live events that challenge the ecosystem in which the music is fostered, the way it sounds and how it is presented. Not only is he Director of the Nest Collective and The Song Collectors Collective, he is also an award winning musician. Sam has been instrumental as one of the young activists shaping the landscape of folk, world and roots music. His three critically acclaimed albums include his Mercury Music Prize nominated debut and the newly released Old Wow. Sam works holistically in challenging the very nature of our heritage music in the 21st century.


Ian Dunt – In Conversation: How To Be A Liberal

7pm,  Thursday 14 October


“‘This is a history of ideas as it should be written – brilliant, vivid story-telling about the people who shaped liberalism, the challenges it has faced over the centuries, its commitment to the truth and why it’s now more important than ever to defend it.”- Caroline Lucas MP

Ian Dunt is a journalist and political commentator in the UK. He is a columnist on the inewspaper and appears as a pundit on BBC TV, Sky News and Al-Jazeera.

He writes across a range of issues, including immigration, civil liberties and social justice. His first book was Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? (Canbury). This revealed the difficulty of leaving the EU before it became apparent to many British politicians. His new book, How To Be A Liberal (Canbury), traces the growth of individual freedoms in western society. It looks at the threat posed by the new surge of nationalism. Prospect Magazine called it “required reading for anyone interested in politics and philosophy.”

About Ian:

Ian Dunt is the editor of In addition, he is the author of ‘Brexit: What The Hell Happens Now?’ and a host on the Remainiacs podcast. He writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines and appears regularly on TV and radio.

You can follow him on Twitter, where apparently he cannot keep his mouth shut, at @iandunt.

Charlie Hill – Workshop: Putting Poetry into your Prose

7pm, Thursday 21 October

​”‘Hill’s many notable gifts as a writer include his narrative economy, his honesty and his pin point clarity.”
— Jim Crace

This online workshop will teach you in a practical way how to write better sentences and make your writing sing, whilst avoiding cliché.

Your sentences are the building blocks – the DNA – of your prose. In this two-hour workshop, Charlie Hill will take you through:

  1. The importance of the sentence
  2. How to avoid stock phrases
  3. How to fit sentences together
  4. Applying the techniques of poetry to prose

​You will learn how to write better, as well as edit your work so you can get the best of your writing. This workshop contains practical elements and is open to writers of all genres of prose, at all stages of their careers.

About Charlie

Charlie Hill is the author of two critically acclaimed novels, a novella, countless short stories and a memoir, I Don’t Want to Go to the Taj Mahal: Stories of a Birmingham Boy[Repeater Books, 2020].