Things to do: Heralding spring, rose-pruning workshops and 500 years of garden history

Country Life rounds up the best things to see, do and book over the next few weeks.

Follow our quick links to find things to do by region:

South East and Home Counties
Northern England
Cotswolds and the Midlands
West Country
East Anglia



February 4th – 8th – The Country House and Stables exhibition, Gallery 8, Duke Street, SW1

A variety of paintings, prints, photography and sculptures all celebrating equestrian and country life. The exhibition supports two charities; The Brooke, which improves working animals’ lives and the Alexander Devine Hospice for Children, treating children with life shortening illnesses and supporting their families.

February 27 – Late Night Jazz: O’Higgins and Luft Play Monk and Trane, Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London SW7

Dave O’Higgins and Rob Luft pay tribute to Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, with rare cuts and a special focus on the late 1950s. Doors open at 9.10pm, tickets from £12.

Until February 28 — ‘William Van Sommer: Colour in the Garden’, RHS Lindley Library, Vincent Square, London SW1

See photographs that were among the first to capture gardens, plants, flowers and landscapes in colour.

January 8–February 2 — London International Mime Festival, various venues

Featuring theatre, dance, music, moving animation and puppetry performances. Ticket prices vary, see website for full programme and to book.

January 25–February 2 – Heralding Spring, Chelsea Physic Garden, Royal Hospital Road, London SW3

The garden reopens after winter with walks, talks and workshops, plus a snowdrop trail. Guided tours available each day. Tickets from £8.50.

January 29 – Orchestre National de Lille: French Landscapes, Cadogan Hall, Sloane Terrace, London SW1

The only French orchestra to tour the UK in 2020 brings to life the works of its nation’s best composers, from Ravel to Debussy, as well as a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 4 by Eric Lu. From 7.30pm, tickets from £18.

Until February 9 – ‘Play, Protest and Pelicans: A People’s History of London’s Royal Parks’, Garden Museum, Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1

Paintings, drawings, photographs and memorabilia telling the tales of our capital’s green spaces, from royal hunting grounds to wartime training venues, scenes of political protest and debauched pleasure gardens

Until February 16 — ‘Kate Bright: Deadhead’, Van Gogh House London, Hackford Road, SW9

Featuring ceramic and bronze sculptures, plus colourful paintings. Open Sundays from 2pm–5pm.

November 15–May 4, 2020 – ‘George IV: Art & Spectacle’, The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London SW1

Exploration of the monarch’s public image and the art that inspired him against a backdrop of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Includes Dutch masterpieces, French porcelain, books, drawings and watercolours. Adult tickets £13.50.

Until August 31, 2020 – ‘Abba: Super Troupers the Exhibition’, The O2, Peninsula Square, London SE10

Immersive experience bringing to life the Swedish pop sensations through their music, costumes, gold discs, memorabilia and lots more, delving into the story of each band member. Adult tickets £27.

South East & Home Counties

January 25–March 1 – The Giant Houseplant Takeover, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey

The Victorian glasshouse will be overrun with houseplants growing in unusual places – such as up the staircase, in an armchair and through the ceiling – to encourage visitors to let their imaginations roam. Standard admission applies.

February 15 – Photography course at Hever Castle, Kent

Steve from Steve Hedges Photography is running a one-day Living With Nature photography course. Subjects covered during the day will include: camera controls and menus, photographic filters, creative use of shutter speed and aperture, white balance, exposure modes, exposure histogram, composition and use of light and colour. 9.30am to 4pm, £80 — bring a camera or a high quality camera phone and a tripod, if you have one.

Until February 23 – ‘The Show Goes On: A Theatre of Portraits by The Royal Society of Portrait Painters, The Watts Gallery, Compton, Surrey

See artists’ representations of the likes of Sammy Davis Jr, Ken Dodd, John Osborne, Celia Imrie and Oliver Ford Davies.

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Drawing on the techniques and stylistic changes to portraiture in the early 20th century, join us on Wednesday 29 January (7pm) for a panel discussion in the historic Watts Gallery, as we explore the influence of William Orpen and his contemporaries on portrait painting today. Chaired by our Brice Chief Curator, Dr Cicely Robinson, speakers will include members of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, Anastasia Pollard RP and Peter Kuhfeld RP (winner of the Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture 2019), as well as Charlie Schaffer, winner of the BP Portrait Prize 2019. Click the link in our bio to find out more. ___ @rsportraitpainters #Watts #WattsGallery #Surrey #Guildford #SurreyHills #EveningEvent #Talk #Lecture #PanelDiscussion #ContemporaryArt #ContemporaryPainting #ContemporaryPortraiture #Portraiture #Portraits #TheRoyalSocietyOfPortraitPainting #WilliamOrpen Image: Anastasia Pollard, Organia.

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Until February 23, 2020 – ‘Treasures of Osterley: Rise of a Banking Family’, Osterley Park, Isleworth, Middlesex

Art works, lacquer furniture, Chinese porcelain plates and a 17th-century French ebony cabinet from the Child family’s collection.

Until March 1, 2020 – ‘Talking Maps’, The Weston Library, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, Oxfordshire

Ancient, pre-modern and contemporary maps, plus imaginary and war maps, taken from the Libraries’ collection of more than 1.3 million examples. Highlights include the Gough Map – the earliest to recognisably show Great Britain – and fictional maps by C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.

Until March 22, 2020 – ‘Painting by the Thames: Swan Upping at Cookham’, Stanley Spencer Gallery, Maidenhead, Berkshire

A collection of paintings and drawings focusing on Spencer’s inspiration, the River Thames, as well as marking the centenary of the completion of the titular work.

April 5, 2020 – Bringing the House Down, Glyndebourne, Lewes, East Sussex

Special concert in aid of the Meath Epilepsy Charity, featuring arias and ensembles from opera and musicals, plus Classic FM presenter John Suchet. From 3pm, tickets from £40.

Until April 18 – ‘Microsculpture: The Insect Portraits of Levon Biss’, Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery, Basingstoke, Hampshire

This collection of images, created in collaboration with Oxford University Museum of Natural History, reveals the microscopic detail of insects using large-format photographic prints.


October 4–January 26, 2020 – ‘The Luxury of Time: Clocks from 1550–1750’, National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh

See 25 rare timepieces from a golden age of watchmaking and innovation. 10am–5pm, free admission.

December 7–February 15 – The Snow Queen, various venues

Hans Christian Andersen’s family-friendly fairy tale is brought to life by the Scottish Ballet to mark its 50th year, set to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov. Tickets from £19.

Northern England

November 16–February 23, 2020 – ‘Norman Cornish: The Definitive Collection’ The Bowes Museum, Teesdale, Co Durham

Retrospective of the artist’s work – portraits, industrial scenes and landscapes – almost 100 years after his birth, focusing on mining conditions and his local village. Adult museum entry £14.

Until February 8 – ‘Martin Laurance: From Land to Sea’, Mandells Gallery, Norwich, Norfolk

Landscapes of Norfolk, Yorkshire, Cornwall and the Suffolk coast in mixed media and oil, with a focus on where the land, sea and sky meet.

Until February 15 — ‘GAZE: A Retrospective of Portraits by Lorna May Wadsworth’, Graves Gallery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

More than 100 of the artist’s best-known paintings, focusing on well-known figures such as David Tennant, Michael Sheen, Richard Curtis and Tony Blair.

Until February 16 – ‘Man & Boy: Male Dress 1730–1930’, The Auction Centre, Leyburn, North Yorkshire

Garments from two private collections are used to tell the story of clothes worn by men and boys at work, war and play over a 200-year period, as well as demonstrating shifting historical attitudes to masculinity.

Until January 26, 2020 – ‘Making a Masterpiece: Bouts and Beyond (1450–2020)’’, York Art Gallery, North Yorkshire

Examination of the necessary steps to creating a masterpiece, inspired by a 15th-century painting by Dieric Bouts, on loan from the Bowes Museum. Includes work by masters such as Hans Memling and Lucas van Leyden. 10am–4.30pm, adult tickets £8.

Cotswolds and the Midlands

January 30, 2020 – The Instinctive Cook: Seasonal Dinner Parties cookery course, Thyme, Southrop Manor estate, Gloucestershire

Gather produce from the kitchen gardens before learning the fundamentals of flavour, knife skills and techniques through a mix of demonstration and hands-on cookery. 10am–4pm, £225.

February 6 – Rose Pruning Workshop: Cotswolds, Daylesford Farmshop, Kingham, Gloucestershire

Learn how to easily maintain shrubs, climbers and ramblers with Michael Marriott, with demonstrations of key theories in the Cutting Garden (weather permitting). 9.30am–1pm, £75pp.

Until February 23, 2020 – ‘Melvyn Evans: Imprinting the Land’, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, West Yorkshire

Drawings, paintings and bold lino prints inspired by the Yorkshire landscape and coastline, including the fossilised ruins of the submerged Doggerland causeway.

Until February 23, 2020 – ‘Sargy Mann: Let It Be Felt That The Painter Was There’, Attenborough Arts Centre, University of Leicester, Leicestershire

Largest public showing of the artist’s work, with unseen archival material, photographs and audio recordings, plus depictions of his home in Peckham in South London.

West Country

January 10–February 16 — ‘Kurt Jackson: The Fonthill Brook’, Messums Wiltshire, Tisbury

Works inspired by Nature and landscape, including the Cranborne Chase ecosystem and River Nadder.

January 24 – Tom Poster: Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective, Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

The chamber ensemble will perform works by Beethoven, Clara Schumann, Mendelssohn, Britten, Vaughan Williams, Amy Beach and Cole Porter. From 7.30pm, tickets £19.

Until February 25 — ‘Ernest Gimson: Observation, Imagination and Making’, The Wilson, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Explores the works of a key designer of the Arts-and-Crafts movement, focusing on his architecture, textiles, metalwork and plaster. Adult tickets £5.

February 26–29 – Frost and Fire: Experimental Landscape Painting with Anthony Garratt, Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon

Four-day course focusing on contemporary painting techniques using acrylics and water-based oils, suitable for both beginners and more experienced artists. £485pp including materials.

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Rise in late-born baby hedgehogs means many may struggle to survive winter. Warmer weather this year has led to growing numbers of hoglets being born later in the year and being too small to cope with the coming cold. 'If you see any out during daylight hours they need help,’ says Taz Clarke, a volunteer at Suffolk Hedgehog Hospital. ‘Any hedgehogs under 650g are not big enough to hibernate.' Charities like the Suffolk Hedgehog Hospital need help and donations; everything from kitten and puppy food to hot water bottles. You can also help by making a few changes to your garden; leaving out a little dog or cat food to help them gain weight before winter and ensuring there are small holes in your fences (if your pets allow for it) to aid them in moving freely between green spaces. You could even install a hedgehog house if you wanted a winter lodger. You can find more tips for helping hedgehogs on our website. · · · 📷 by Alamy @suffolkhedgehoghospital #hedgehog #helpthehedgehog #suffolkhedgehoghospital #gardenchanges #nature #helpnature #CountryLifeNews

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April 4 – Dorset Hedgehog Conference, The Dorford Centre, Dorchester, Dorset

The best opportunity to find out all about hedgehogs, including how we can help them. In response to the steep decline in the UK’s hedgehog population the Dorset Mammal Group (DMG) is pioneering a successful approach to hedgehog conservation in Dorset, which co-ordinates community action, skilled hedgehog rescuers and veterinary practices.  DMG will be sharing this strategy and placing it in the national scientific context of hedgehog decline at the conference. £25 per ticket, email  or use the link below.

April 22 — Spring in a Devon garden, Hayne, Zeal Monachorum, Devon

Enjoy talks from Noel Kingsbury and Christine Skelmersdale on perennials and bulbs, plus a walk around the garden with owner Milla Herniman. Tickets £150.

East Anglia

June 19–20 – Garden Museum Literary Festival, Helmingham Hall, Stowmarket, Suffolk

An exploration of 500 years of garden history, including talks from garden designers, gardeners, novelists and artists. Adult tickets from £110.


Check in for more Ireland events next week.