52 things to do in Berkshire in 2020
PUBLISHED: 09:39 08 January 2020 | UPDATED: 09:39 08 January 2020
Make this your best year yet with these ideas – one for each week of the year
1. Skip the pantomime
Start the year as you mean to go on with a trip to the theatre…possibly the quirkiest in the county. The Watermill Theatre in Newbury is where many shows begin before making it to the West End, so here's a chance to experience some of the finest theatre groups in action. 2020 promises a host of choices at the Theatre, in January and February see One Million Tiny Plays About Britain, then there's the brilliant Hamlet in April and May, and The Mistakable Sound of Ed MacArthur in July.
2. Take a walk
It's the New Year and that time when we all think it would be a good idea to start a new hobby. Walking just half an hour a day vastly improves your fitness and well-being, and if you don't fancy striding out on your own there are plenty of walking groups to try. There's the Berkshire Weekend Walkers, Loddon Valley Ramblers, the West Berkshire Ramblers, plus many more. You can try before you join the group too. There are also some spectacular day and multi-day walks to follow on the Great West Way touring route. For example, you can spend an entire week going for a long-distance march along The Ridgeway National Trail. You can go on a nature walk through some ancient woods or take a street art stroll. Or you can head to the Punch Bowl in Windsor Great Park. Pick your place and your pace and make a start!
3. Pick up a brush
Perhaps one of your New Year's resolutions was to nurture a talent you have. If you're an art lover and have always wanted to try being creative, Art for Calm could be the perfect class. It's over four weeks at the Lookout Studio in Newbury and starts on 25 January. It's run by their resident artist and professional counsellor Mary Sutton and costs £60.
4. Totally tropical
When it's freezing outside, what better place to go than a tropical rainforest? There's one right here in Berkshire at Hampstead Norreys near Newbury. There are guided tours of the Living Rainforest every day and at lunchtime you can watch the animals being fed by the keepers. Meet the armadillo, Goeldi's monkeys and a Channel-Billed Toucan.
5. Tie the knot
For those in the throes of planning their wedding this year, you won't want to miss the De Vere Wokefield Wedding Fair on 2 February. This fair is celebrating multi-cultural couples from the British, Asian, Afro-Caribbean and Jewish communities. There will be a selection of suppliers from each of these cultures, so there is something for everyone all in one place. Entry is free.
6. All day play
February is the month the brilliant Wellington Country Park starts welcoming visitors. There's so much to do here; if you want to keep the little ones entertained there are play areas, the animal farm, a giant jumping pillow and snakes and ladders. If you're leaving them at home, how about a spot of retail therapy in the farm shop, a walk around the lake, followed by a delicious local cooked dish at the café?
7. Be charitable
On 23 February, it's The Royal Berkshire Charity Winter Walk for Wards. Take an enjoyable winter stroll through the stunning Dinton Pastures while supporting your chosen ward or department. Choose from two, or four-and-a-half miles, then pick up your certificate and medal at the end.
8. Trace your ancestors
Ever thought of discovering your family's past? It's not as hard as you may think with the help of the Berkshire Family History Society. They run events all-year round, including one all about church records on 3 March. So if you're stuck on your family tree, drop into the second floor of Reading Library for a helping hand.
9. Ballroom bliss
Are you missing watching Strictly Come Dancing on a Saturday? You can get your fix if you visit the Hexagon in Reading on 14 March. The brilliant Anton and Erin will put on their special shoes to perform 'Dance Those Magical Movies', including classics like Titanic and Breakfast at Tiffany's.
10. Start a collection
If you're a lover of all things vintage and antique then head to Newbury Antiques and Collectors Fair at Newbury Showground on 30 March. There's also a two-day fair on 4-5 July.
11. Have a laugh
'Bosh'. That's the title of the brilliant Kerry Godliman's new tour for 2020. She's playing at South Hill Park on 18 March, but if you can't make that date, she's also at South Street Arts Centre in Reading on 5 and 6 June. Hear all about her needy cat, her campervan woes and mum guilt, told in a way only she knows how.
12. Yucky you
Over the Easter holidays there's lots to do at the Look Out Discovery Centre. Take the little ones along between 28 March and 10 May to experience 'Yucky you', where you can all find out snippets, like why mucus is not a bad thing, plus all the other yucky things your body does.
13. Race to Lambourn
Every Good Friday, the training yards used by some of the country's most famous thoroughbreds are open to the public to peruse. The Peter O'Sullevan Lambourn Open Day is on 10 April this year and over 10,000 people are expected to visit. Many of the yards feature special exhibits, plus there are demonstrations including horses using hydrotherapy pools.
14. Canal cruising
From Easter, the Kennet Horse Boat company runs trips along the canal from Kintbury. Climb aboard for a couple of hours' slow meandering and take in the stunning West Berkshire countryside.
15. Eat seasonal
Windsor, Reading, Newbury and Ascot all host farmers' markets each month. This is the best place to pick up some of the most delicious and sustainable produce from the Thames Valley's independents and farmers. Go along and chat to those who know exactly where their ingredients come from and discover some unique recipes and ideas.
16. Go wild for animals
Ride the free train, visit the otters and marvel at the meerkats at Beale Park near Pangbourne. There are Thames boat rides to enjoy and plenty of opportunities for the kids to have fun in the play areas and paddling pool. Plus there's the gift shop and café to visit.
17. Don't forget the dog
On 18 and 19 April it's the All About Dogs show at Newbury Showground with arena displays, expert advice and enough stalls to keep your pooch happy for the rest of the year. Mingle with other dog lovers on the village green and even take home a rosette from the have-a-go activities.
18. Build a raft
This year's Crafty Craft Race is moving its date to 8 May to coincide with the 75th anniversary of VE Day. This really is a boat race with a difference as entrants frantically build the best raft to take them along the Kennet and Avon Canal from Hungerford to Newbury. This year's theme is Japan, so go along to witness the crazy raft concoctions from 8.30am.
19. Raise a glass
It's the 10th anniversary of the Bracknell Ale & Cider Festival and this year's event takes place at the rugby club on 24 May. With locally produced tipples on tap, plus live music and barbecues, this is one not to be missed.
20. Discover Downton
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a castle? Well, from 10-16 May, you have the chance to find out on a tour of Highclere Castle. There will be a talk, a guided tour of the Castle State Rooms and Galleried Bedrooms, Monks' Garden, Secret Garden and Wood of Goodwill.
21. Rock the Moor
Let's Rock The Moor is a family-friendly 1980s festival held in Marsh Meadow on 16 May. Bring your own picnic or choose from a wide variety of catering, including a barbecue and Indian, Mexican and Chinese cuisines. If you are looking for a fun event, jam-packed with your favourite stars from back in the 1980s, this is it.
22. Bow to Beethoven
To celebrate Beethoven's 250th anniversary, the Newbury Spring Festival will open with an all Beethoven programme from BBC Symphony Orchestra under their chief conductor Sakari Oramo, with Paul Lewis, one of Britain's finest pianists. And that is just for starters; expect some moving performances throughout the festival, in what promises to be the best one yet. Keep 9-23 May free in your diaries.
23. Works of art
Throughout May there is the opportunity to enjoy the talents of the county's most celebrated artists, as well as a few up-and-coming ones. The West Berkshire and North Hampshire Open Studios event is a regular one on the county calendar. Whether you enjoy sculpture, watercolours or even glass work, check out where you can find your favourite online.
24. Eat veggies
It's V Fest at Dinton Pastures Country Park from 26-28 June. Hosted by veggies.org.uk it's a massive vegan camping event. There will be live shows, celebrity chefs, stalls, outdoor activities and international food caterers.
25. Fit for a queen
No doubt one of the most important dates of the year is Royal Ascot, which takes place from 16-20 June. The racing is all very well, but have you heard who will be in the kitchens this year? Monica Galetti, Brett Graham, Raymond Blanc, Ollie Dabbous and Simon Rogan. It's going to be more popular than ever with this line-up.
26. Join the National Trust
It's easy to fill the calendar with events happening across the county just from the NT. There are chocolate egg hunts at Easter, outdoor theatre performances, guided garden walks and festive workshops to name a few. That's all before you've even stepped into the beautiful buildings themselves. The whole family can have a membership for £126 a year and pay monthly, making it a very reasonable way of exploring every single one of these fascinating sites.
27. Turn up the heat
From chutneys and plants to sauces and seeds, if you like some spice in your life, then the Reading Chilli Festival on 20 June should be marked on the calendar. This is the festival's fifth year in the town, so expect plenty of street food, chilli eating competitions and new produce to try on Broad Street.
28. Just for dad
21 June is Father's Day and if you're struggling with what to get Dad this year, how about a tour of Windsor & Eton Brewery? There's a choice of two, the Duke Street Experience (£12.50 per person) or The Brewmasters Tour (£30).
Buy gift vouchers at webrew.co.uk
29. Rev your engines
Thatcham's Classic Car Show will be pulling into Henwick Worthy Sports Field on 28 June. It's open to all classic, sports and rally cars, motorcycles, bicycles, commercial and military vehicles, and any other old vehicles. The best thing is entry is free.
30. Crush a grape
You might be forgiven for thinking you are in the Loire Valley, but at Stanlake Park this summer, you can explore all things grape on a fantastic tour. Visit the vines inside the walled garden before being taken through the winery to see the wine-making process. The tour includes the tasting of six wines and ends in the Cellar Shop.
31. Summer sounds
Reading Music Centre will again be hosting the Soundstage Summer Festival on 19 July. Bands come together from Windsor, Bracknell and Reading music centres for an outdoor gala event, showcasing their work from the last year. There are barbecues and refreshments; all you need is a camping chair.
32. Meet some alpacas
On a farm in West Berkshire there's an opportunity to go trekking with Huacaya alpacas. Take a stroll with your alpaca at Wyld Court through some of the county's best countryside and learn all about these gentle animals.
33. Culture outdoors
At the stunning Reading Abbey this summer, Progress Theatre will be performing Shakespeare's Richard III. Pack your picnic rugs and book your ticket to this epic open-air production.
34. Fun at the fair
Shaw House will be holding its ever-popular Summer Fair on 19 July. There will be an artisan market, kids' zone and open-air food court, plus you can practise your circus skills with Circus Scene.
35. Send in the cavalry
Flags at the ready! It's Battle Proms at Highclere Castle on 1 August. Expect Spitfires, The Red Devils, a gun salute and a music programme that will bring out the best of British. You could bring your own hamper and table and chairs with you or hire them at the event. Either way, leave plenty of time to arrive and pick your perfect picnic spot.
36. Relax with royalty
Frogmore House has been a Royal retreat for over 300 years and is open to visitors during the summer months. Walk in the steps of Queen Charlotte on selected Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays throughout August during a group tour.
37. In the swing
If you love your vintage scooters, clothing, music and performances, then the Retrofestival at Newbury Showground will be your kind of heaven. It's on over three days, 7-9 August. There's camping available so you can make the most of your time exploring and there's even a hair salon, which means you can really get into the swing of the 1950s and '60s with a makeover.
38. Festival fever
Block out August bank holiday weekend for the Reading Festival at Richfield Avenue. Liam Gallagher will be playing at this year's festival, which takes place from 27-30 August.
39. Be even more adventurous
Archery, laser combat, zorbing and the trapeze 'leap of faith' are just some of your options if you feel you haven't fulfilled your adrenaline quota by the time you reach the summer holidays. At Unique Outdoors near Reading you can even try a free-fall adventure if you're feeling particularly brave - step off the platform and close your eyes!
40. Monkey around
If you've never experienced the tree-top adrenaline rush that is Go Ape, 2020 should be the year. At Swinley Forest there's the Treetop Challenge to tackle as well as the less frightening Treetop Adventure. If you're a little wobbly at the thought of heights, you could always try the off-road Forest Segway experience instead.
41. Explore history
Visit Pangbourne's old village gaol, discover South Hill Park Mansion, climb the Greenham Control Tower and take a tour of the wind turbines at Green Park. These are just a few of the places across the county open for Heritage Open Days from 11-20 September.
42. Enjoy the show
Arena displays, dog shows, archery, vintage steam engines and enough shopping stands and food outlets to keep you occupied for the entire two days... It's the Royal Berkshire County Show from 19-20 September.
43. Challenge yourself
Set in the beautiful Windsor Great Park, this year's half marathon is planned for 27 September. Entries are already open so if you want to set yourself a goal for 2020, this could be it. Run past The Royal Chapel, Cumberland Lodge and The Royal School before reaching the finish line in the shadow of Windsor Castle.
44. Turn up the heat
As the days turn colder, it's surely time to indulge in some you time. Luckily, Berkshire is home to a plethora of luxury spas. Try The Vineyard at Stockcross, or the various experience rooms at Nirvana Spa in Sindlesham. Then there would be the ultimate treat to yourself - an indulgent spa package at Cliveden House.
45. Food, glorious food
Hungerford Food Festival is a firm date on everyone's calendar in West Berkshire, and this year's event takes place on 4 October. There are usually around 50 stalls set up along the High Street and in the town hall, selling everything from bread to beer.
46. Grave the date
Every year, residents of Maidenhead dress up as the undead for the annual Zombie Walk through the town. A themed family evening out for Halloween, it's all for charity and a great excuse to get out the white face paint. The date for this year's event hadn't been announced at the time of publication so keep an eye on their Facebook page.
47. Light up the sky
At Newbury's fireworks spectacular last year, visitors weren't only wowed by the display, there was also a zombie maze to try and funfair rides to enjoy. The Lions Club know how to throw a fireworks party.
48. Discover a magical Christmas market
The festive season officially begins when the Christmas markets serve their first mulled wine. Wherever you live in Berkshire, there is a market or fair to enjoy. Beale Park hosts a fair, as does Norden Farm in Maidenhead, and Windsor Racecourse. There's a winter carnival in Wokingham and another fair in Ascot. There really is no excuse for not finding that perfect gift.
49. Become a chocolatier
This Christmas, why not make your own presents to give family? At Rosie's Chocolate Factory in Wargrave, Rosie runs workshops for you to learn the art of chocolate making.
50. Take to the ice
If you've ever wanted to try ice-skating, Christmas is the time to do it. With the backdrop of Alexandra Gardens, Windsor on Ice is the perfect chance to get the whole family together for some festive falling over.
51. Decorate your door
Each year from the end of November, Norden Farm Centre for the Arts organises a wreath-making workshop run by a local expert. This year, why not have a go yourself, with lots of festive materials to choose from? Also take part in Norden Farm's community lantern parade, an annual event that brings people together in celebration to light up the town centre of Maidenhead. The project runs across a six-week period, giving the community opportunities to take part in arts workshops and join in a spectacular parade and enjoy a celebratory concert.
52. Enjoy the game
Every year, community group the Kaffirs of Cookham Dean organise the Boxing Day Games on Old Cricket Common. Hundreds of villagers turn out to watch the teams take part in various challenges and obstacles. It's time to organise your team of eight and enter the games so that you can have the best Boxing Day yet.
Have a wonderful 2020!