After watching Tim Peake’s return to Earth early on Saturday morning, we packed the kids in to the car and began our own journey of discovery at Waddesdon Manor’s Fantastic Feast Festival.

We are regular visitors to the Manor and love the great array of activities it provides for all the family, not least the wonderful woodland play area and ideally placed cafe’s selling strong coffee’s and sticky treats to keep everyone happy. However, The Feast Festival is truly something else.

Waddesdon Feast Festival 2016

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The avenue in front of the manor is transformed into elaborately decorated tables, adorned with flowers and herbs in beautiful rustic planters, as fanciful flower garlands hang overhead. There is a wonderful feeling of togetherness amongst visitors, all celebrating the British-ness (if there is such a word) of the Tea Party.  Family’s are out in force, smiling in the face of the ominous clouds, all enhancing the fairy-tale quality of this very British setting.

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The Tea Party is the focal point of the festival, which was inspired by the historical tradition of The ‘Baron’s Treat’. Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild is known to have invited local people to enjoy an elaborate tea party in the gardens of the Manor during the summer, and the Feast Festival celebrates this tradition.

We arrived slightly too late to nab a seat at one of the main tables on the avenue, so took the opportunity to stroll around the stalls and sample some of the food on offer.

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Probably the laziest picture of a burger ever, but it was just too tasty!

First stop was Smoke Yard Kitchen, and the mouthwateringly delicious Chicken sandwich. I did try to make a mental note of the wonderful name they gave their creation, but it was so wonderfully tasty that all other thoughts flew from my mind! Next stop, was to Purbeck Dorset Ice Cream.

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My son is one of a minority of children who doesn’t like ice-cream (!!) It’s either too cold, too runny, or too lumpy. After receiving a  cone of Vanilla Bean ice-cream, almost the size of his face, there was some concern that it would be a double helping for mummy, but he devoured the lot!

We carried on through the array of artisan food and wine stalls, picking up little gems of cured meats, chilli products, and sampling some glorious fudge all the while being entertained by a range of captivating performances. Before we reached the end of the Avenue the children had spoken to a hungry wolf, we’d nearly been ran-over by a pianist on a bike, and been sprayed during a rendition of singing in the rain from two handsome singing waiters.

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To dry off, we headed to the activity tent where we were wowed by the array of activities on offer. There was hat making, bug creation (which will later be used for a display at the manor for Halloween) Bug Creation was a real hit, and took quite a lot of bribing to get the children to come away from this for some nourishment!

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The girls start their creations!

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Brilliant Bugs!

My daughter had been tugging at my arm for hours to create a “flowery hairband” and to our delight we realised this could be done under expert tuition of volunteers from the Manor – with real flowers! They are truly beautiful, and amazingly still intact and in full bloom four day’s later.

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Despite the desire to stay in the activity tent and enjoy the crafts all day, the children were lured away by  a dramatic salty tale at sea at The Smallest Theatre in the World. They were captivating from the start, and I’d highly recommend you take a look at Grand Theatre of Lemings  to see more of the fab things they get up to!

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Grand Theatre of Lemings

Grand Theatre, on a Small Scale!

My personal favourite was the selection of spellbinding dancers and circus artists who performed at the event. Watching Acrojou tell their story through a mixture of dance and circus skills, directly on the Avenue, with the Manor as a backdrop was one of the most fantastic performances I’ve seen in a long time.

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(Please double click to enlarge) 

Equally, Motionhouse a touring dynamic and athletic dance company told the tale of a woman’s sorrow, in the very moving ‘Lost’.

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Much to our delight, the brilliant Ragroof players were back at Feast again this year, providing their bespoke blend of humour, dance lessons and performances for all the family.

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Our tour around the ground finished by the Aviary, where we sat with our wonderful purchases and a lovely cup of coffee to listen to the brilliant Vodka Martini’s  It wasn’t long before all the children were up and dancing to their swinging selection of songs from the 1920’s to the 1950’s.

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The Feast weekend really does have something for everyone, but we do have some tips for next year. Get in early – we arrived at 10.45 and the carpark was already very full. Queue’s were managed brilliantly by refreshingly helpful and friendly staff, and busses run every five minutes (or you can walk to the house in 10 – 15 minutes if you don’t have two kids under five and a camera kit to carry with you) By arriving before 11, you’re more likely to grab a table, and have more time to do all the fantastic activities available.

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It’s also worth noting that there is a charge for all entry – even if you have national trust membership, but it’s an absolute bargain in my opinion given the amount there is to do here! Admission during the Feast Weekend includes entry to the gardens, wine cellars, all entertainment and an opportunity to step into the Manor’s Drawing Room, opened up to show it as the Baron’s guests would have seen it.There was also a free, specially devised trail to help families find out more about Waddesdon, the family who created it and the guests they entertained as well as a free exhibition of new work inspired by Waddesdon and created by ceramic artis Kate Malone (from BBC television’s Great Pottery Throw Down).

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(Click for high res image)

Root camp also returned this year with four cooking workshops teaching young people how to cook flat breads and grilled koftas with salads and sauces and other delicious treats (from age 7 and up)

It really was a fantastic weekend, and one not to be missed next year! Keep an eye on the Waddesdon Manor website to make a date for next year’s event!

ALL images from the event can be seen here: Waddesdon Feast Fest 2016 Please feel free to use the high res images in your marketing, but please credit Thame TV or Scissor Paper Stone.