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Christmas 2016 in Berkshire for people who hate it

PUBLISHED: 15:38 28 November 2016 | UPDATED: 14:51 15 November 2017

Blow away the cobwebs: Head up to Walbury Hill

Blow away the cobwebs: Head up to Walbury Hill


From Moaning Minnies to Christmas Grinches, there are those who grump at the seasonal build-up. Our Tinkerbell, Claire Pitcher waves a wand

They say: ‘It’s too cold’

Experience the tropical climes of the Living Rainforest in Hampstead Norreys, home to 700 species of animals and plants. Even if you arrive shivering and wrapped up you’ll soon be putting coats back in the car.

Go along to watch the birds, butterflies and lizards wandering free in the tropical glasshouses. There are even Goeldi’s monkeys jumping from branch to branch, and chatting using one of their 40 different calls. There’s a two-toed sloth, a Chinese water dragon and Harry the armadillo to spot too (his frenzied digging will have everyone giggling). It’s a great way to wile away the hours while it’s frosty outside. Once you’ve explored it all, there’s an excellent café too.

Find out what else you can spot at Entry costs £9.95 for adults, £8.45 for children (two – 14) and under-2s free. A family ticket is £33.35. Call them on 01635 202444.

They say: ‘I hate pantomimes’

High Society is at the Mill at Sonning from 24 November to 14 January. The champagne will be flowing after the evening’s performance of Cole Poster’s elegant musical. It’s the wedding of the year and you’re invited. Star Tracy Lord is planning her over-the-top High Society nuptials and there will be 700 guests. But who will be the groom? No really, we don’t know… so many to choose from. It’s a feel good romp based on The Philadelphia Story and the 1956 film staring the wonderful Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra. You can even go to see it on New Year’s Eve for £105 (includes dinner). Plus there’s a special ‘High Society’ Festive Menu if you want to make a real night of it and surprise the sulker. Tickets start at £45.50. Book online at or call 0118 9698000.

They say: ‘Turkey and brussels... Yuk!’

Everyone seeks a change from the traditional turkey from time to time. We even all fancy not having to cook for ourselves. Sometimes the festivities seem to last forever, with constant to-ing and fro-ing from the supermarket to the kitchen. How about shaking things up a bit and taking some time out with friends at L’ortolan instead? The award-winning restaurant in Shinfield has a Festive Midweek Dinner that’s not overly festive at all! There’s a chef’s appetiser followed by chicken terrine, leek, truffle. Then comes loin of venison, beetroot and chocolate. Next, blue cheese mousse, pear, pain d’epices and Chef’s pre-dessert followed by chocolate tart, salted caramel and popcorn ice cream. The six-course tasting menu costs £55 per person.

Book a table at or call 0118 988 8500.

They say: ‘I hate the crowds’

Wrap up warm and explore the highest point in South East England, Walbury Hill. There are a few downloadable walks online, ranging from three to seven miles. Whichever route you choose, the views are wonderful, worth the short, but quite steep climb at the end. Along the ridge you will find Combe Gibbet. The original structure was erected in 1676 and the one you see is a replica. Also, straddling its summit is the Iron Age hill-fort of Walbury. Don’t forget to take a flask of whisky-tinged hot chocolate for the journey – that should shut up the miseries!

Or head to a village such as Lambourn in the Valley of the Racehorse and explore the surrounding hamlets, looking out for the stables of some of Britain’s top trainers and trying the great pubs in this part of our county. Definitely call into the Café Lambourn, open seven days a week and offering delicious locally sourced, freshly cooked food, cakes and Lavazza coffee. And there’s free wifi for any grouches who can’t survive an hour or two without checking their online life!

They say: ‘Everything costs too much’

There are some wonderful green spaces to explore that take on a completely different feel during the winter months. The most well-known image of Windsor Great Park is arguably the iconic view down the Long Walk, towards Windsor Castle at the far end. This tree-lined avenue stretches down towards the ancient fortress, illustrating the regal grandeur and Royal heritage of Windsor Great Park. There’s a good chance of spotting a red deer, as there’s a population of around 500 roaming freely around the Deer Park enclosure. Don’t forget to visit Virginia Water, too. Explore the woodland shores of the lake and take in the ancient monuments, cascading waterfalls and stunning vistas. Find out more at

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