Things to do: Sustainable artwork, exciting opera and the Pink Ladies’ Tractor Run for charity

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


June 30 – NGS opening of Smiths Hall, West Farleigh, Kent

This little-known treasure, set around an elegant Queen Anne house (not open), is a three-acre country-house garden of charm and character, with nine acres of park and woodland beyond and views over the Medway valley. The main garden is a series of skilfully assembled themed areas, including herbaceous borders, a sunken garden, an old-fashioned rose garden and a wildflower meadow — all are at their best now. 11am–5pm. £5, children free.

Until July 31 – Carolside Gardens tours, Earlston, Scottish Borders

‘One of Scotland’s finest private gardens’ — known for its striking delphinium beds, subtle colour schemes and Secret, Winter and Herb Gardens — opens to the public for a limited time, with guided tours available by appointment. Adult admission from £6.

Until October – Individual Garden Tours, Highgrove Royal Gardens, Tetbury, Gloucestershire

Explore the private gardens created by The Prince of Wales at his home in the Cotswolds. Enjoy the stumpery, woodlands and the wonderful Thyme Walk before having lunch or tea (including home-produced eggs, jams and pickles). Tickets are limited, but extra dates are added through the season. From £27.50.

July 25 – Designing in the Naturalistic Style, Knoll Gardens, Hampreston, Dorset

Join Neil Lucas in his gardens and learn about the techniques behind his wildlife-friendly style – such as no spraying, staking or deadheading – plus how to apply them to your own garden. 2pm–4.30pm, tickets £35.

Food and Drink

May 3-September 1: The Murdér Express: Jewel of the Empire, Pedley Street Station, London E1

Board a train and travel back in time to 1937 to solve the mysterious disappearance of the world’s largest cut diamond, the Jewel of the Empire, as you tuck in to a four-course meal from MasterChef: The Professionals 2018 champion Laurence Henry. Tickets from £53.

Out and about

July 7 – Pink Ladies’ Tractor Run, from Thorpe Abbotts airfield, Norfolk

More than 100 pink tractors will wend their way through Thorpe Abbotts, Brockdish, Upper Waybread, Harleston, Pulham St Mary, Rushall and Langmere in aid of Cancer Research UK’s breast-cancer appeal. 11.30am–4.30pm, with a two-hour picnic lunch break at Gawdy Hall from 1pm.; click here to donate.

July 6, 13, 20 and 27 – Beekeeping Demonstration, RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Members of the Harrogate & Ripon Beekeepers Association share their wisdom on the traditional craft of apiculture. From 2pm, normal garden admission applies.

June 27–29 – Pop-up of the North, York House, Malton, North Yorkshire

More than 20 exhibitors from across the UK, plus workshops on calligraphy, flower arranging, biscuit decorating and embroidery. Entry from £5, workshops must be booked in advance.

September 6 – Hedgerow Wine Making, Brogdale Farm, Faversham, Kent

Learn the process and theory of hedgerow wine making, before heading out foraging for ingredients and then making your own. 10.30am–4.30pm, £120 including lunch, equipment and two litres of wine to take home.

July 26–28 The Game Fair, Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

See gundog scurries, clay shooting, fishing demonstrations and the largest show garden ever attempted. Adult tickets from £27.

June 29 — Canter for a Cure, Milton Keynes Eventing Centre, Buckinghamshire

Twelve-mile cross-country ride in aid of Medical Detection Dogs. £30 per entry, booking essential.

July 8-12 — Landscape painting workshop, Cowdray Park, Midhurst, West Sussex

Five days of tuition with David Cranswick exploring the classical methods used by 17th- and 18th-century artists, from mixing colours to creating the illusion of distance and glazing. Suitable for beginners or experienced artists; £420pp.


June 26–30 — East Neuk Festival, various venues, Fife

Art and music at locations along the coast, opening with the Tullis Russell Mills Band and including an installation in the grounds of Kellie Castle.

July 10 – 14 – Henley Festival, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

The UK’s black-tie festival is glamour personified, offering Michelin-starred food, award-winning comedians, critically-acclaimed artists and the biggest names in popular, world, jazz and classical music. Tickets from £75.


July 7 – Music in the Gardens with Swing Machine Big Band, Helmingham Hall Gardens, Stowmarket, Suffolk

Explore the gardens and enjoy the in-house bar and barbecue, then settle down for songs by Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, Michael Bublé and Ella Fitzgerald performed by the 17-piece big band. 11am–7pm, adult tickets £7.

June 29 – An Evening Recital from the Pelléas Ensemble, The Pound, Corsham, Wiltshire

The classical trio, made up of flute, harp and viola, will play works by Ibert, Rameau, Jolivet, Bach, Ravel and Sally Beamish. From 7.30pm, admission £14.

July 16 – Royal College of Music Concert, Boconnoc House, Lostwithiel, Cornwall

The winner’s of the Boconnoc Music Award perform Haydn, Puccini, Elgar and Piazzolla. 7pm–10pm, tickets £23.

June 12-July 2 — Nevill Holt Opera 2019 Festival, Market Harborough, Leicestershire

A new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream will run on June 12, 13, 15 and 16, followed by Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte on June 26, 27, 29, 30 and July 2, plus a Spring Weekend on April 28. Tickets from £85.

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⭐️🏆We are delighted to be proud winners of THREE @RIBA East Midlands Awards tonight, including the coveted Building of the Year Award 2019 🏆 ⭐️ . The striking new 400 seat theatre at Nevill Holt Opera, hidden inside a historic courtyard, has won three @RIBA East Midlands Awards 2019 including the RIBA award for Conservation, and the coveted Building of the Year award. Designed by Stirling Prize winning architects Witherford Watson Mann and theatre designers @soundspacevision Space Vision, built by Messenger BCR and supported by the @dretnews Foundation, this incredible award underpins Nevill Holt Opera’s commitment to delivering world class opera in a truly exceptional setting. . At the RIBA East Midlands Award ceremony last night on Thursday 9th May, the Colin McColl, Chair of the RIBA jury said, This is a project that looks effortless, yet we all know that this belies the truth. The modesty, craftsmanship, care and attention that have been applied here are exceptional. . The astonishing space, housed within a 17th century stable block on the Grade I listed Leicestershire estate, has replaced ten years of temporary tent structures. . The character of the historic stable block remains a significant part of the theatre’s aesthetic, the auditorium at first hidden from view behind the original courtyard stone walls, and the theatre within fully revealed on entering the building. As described by the @RIBA jury, its ‘exquisite’ concrete walkways are cast with wooden boards while the chestnut on the floors and balcony fronts contrast with the elegant simplicity of the courtyard room. The building’s restrained but rich material palette is brought to life by a flood of daylight from the large central rooflight, acting as a reminder that the historic function of the courtyard, now transformed into a stunning and exceptional performance space. . With optimal technical stage equipment and an increased pit capacity, the natural materials, skilfully selected for their acoustic warmth and visual fit, support Nevill Holt Opera’s acclaimed high artistic and musical standards, while retaining the intimacy that the company is known for.

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July 6 – Preview of ‘A Passion for Opera: The Duchess and the Georgian Stage’, Boughton House, Kettering, Northamptonshire

Black-tie event hosted by the Duke of Buccleuch, featuring a Champagne reception, a guided tour of the house and new exhibition on Elizabeth Montagu, 3rd Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry (open to the public throughout August) and a special concert from Opera Prelude. Tickets from £50.

Antiques, Books, Arts and Crafts

June 22–September 29 – Yorkshire Sculpture International, various venues, West Yorkshire

The UK’s largest dedicated sculpture festival, with 18 international artists responding to Phyllida Barlow’s statement that ‘sculpture is the most anthropological of the artforms’. Exhibitions will be held at each of the partner venues: the Henry Moore Institute, the Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

March 23-September 1 –  ‘Useful/ Beautiful: Why Craft Matters’, Harewood House, Leeds, West Yorkshire

The inaugural Harewood Biennial explores the role of craft in culture, identity and society via the works of some 25 British makers and site-specific installations.

Cinema, Theatre and Dance

July 19 and 20 – Bride & Gloom, Deanery Garden, Bampton, Oxfordshire

Eighteenth-century composer Stephen Storace’s two-act comedy about unhappy newlyweds, Gli sposi malcontenti, will be brought to life by Bampton Classical Opera, moving on to Westonbirt Orangery, Gloucestershire (August 26) and St John’s, Smith Square, London SW1 (September 17). Tickets from £18.

July 8–13 – Romeo & Juliet, Cleeve House, Seend, Wiltshire

Live outdoor theatre from the comfort of a covered stand, set in Victorian England on London’s Verona Terrace. Featuring the character of Fate in the form of a ringmaster and his circus troupe, with specially commissioned music played live. Tickets from £10.

July 26–28 – Ballet under the Stars, Hatch House, Tisbury, Wiltshire

The ‘Glyndebourne of ballet’ returns for its 10th anniversary performance, with a programme of selected works from the past decade, combining classical, neo-classical and contemporary ballet. All-inclusive dinner tickets from £140.

Art and Exhibitions

Until July 27 –‘Caught in the Net’, JGM Gallery, Howie Street, London SW11

Artworks of turtles, sharks and crayfish made from ghost nets –lost or discarded synthetic fishing nets left drifting in the oceans –draw attention to the growing crisis of plastic pollution.

June 26 – 29 – ‘Fred Ingrams: Edge of Landscape’, Iris Studios, Ifield Road, London SW10

New series of more than 20 contemporary paintings celebrating the raw beauty of the Fens. The majority are large-scale acrylics, the preferred medium of this British artist.

June 27–September 28 – ‘An Introduction to Stubbs’, National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art, Newmarket, Suffolk

A set of 10 drawings on loan from the Yale Center for British Art, unseen in the UK for many years, will form the core of an exhibition exploring Stubbs’s life and interests

Until June 28 – ‘Aaron Kasmin: Showtime!’, Sims Reed Gallery, Duke Street, London SW1

The British artist’s largest show to date, with 31 vibrant drawings inspired by American feature matchbooks.

Until September 29 –‘The Man with the Carnation’, The Fan Museum, Crooms Hill, London SE10

More than 80 fans from the Gérard Lévy Collection, with examples of the kitsch, curious, naïve and exemplary.

June 15–July 7 –‘Wild About Stoats & Weasels: An Artist’s Perspective’, The Robert Fuller Gallery, Thixendale, North Yorkshire

Photographs, live footage and new paintings by Robert E. Fuller, who has studied six generations of the same stoat family using more than 60 cameras in his garden.

June 13–July 6 – At Rest’, Osborne Studio Gallery, Motcomb Street, London SW1

Bronze portraits of horses of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment—Oracle, Perseus the drum horse, Javelin, Paaderberg and Outlaw—by equestrian sculptor Frippy Jameson.

Until September 8 – ‘Unconscious Landscape. Works from the Ursula Hauser Collection’, Hauser & Wirth, Bruton, Somerset

Seventy works by female artists, including the bronze sculpture by Louise Bourgeois from which the exhibition takes its name.

June 8–September 1 – ‘Command of the Seas: The Navy and the New Forest against Napoleon’, St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire

Exploration of key naval battles in the run up to Trafalgar, focusing on local admirals Cornwallis, Peyton and Man and the use of timber from the New Forest in warships.

June 19 – July 6 — ‘Knoydart and the Sound of Sleat’, William J Swann gallery, Isle of Skye

Local artist William Swann runs an exhibition each year at his studio — this year, most of the work features the remote and beautiful Knoydart peninsula.

May 22–July 12 – ‘Barbara Hepworth/Ben Nicholson: Sculpture and Painting in the 1930s’, Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, Bury Street, London SW1

Thirty works – including sculpture, paintings and works on paper – by two of the most influential artists of the 20th century, co-curated by their granddaughter Sophie Bowness.

Until July 6 – ‘Herman Lohe: Nordic Tales’, Fiumano Clase, Wren Street, London WC1

First UK solo exhibition by the Swedish artist, comprising paintings, installations and video art drawing on Nature and Scandinavian ‘noir’.

13 June-17 July – Caught in the Net, JGM Gallery, Battersea, London

An exhibition of artwork using reclaimed ghost nets to create large scale installations and artworks of sea life. Jennifer Guerrini Maraldi, the gallery owner, is a former Fashion and Travel Editor of Country Life.

Until July 6 – ‘This Life is so Everyday: The Home in British Art 1950–1980’, Graves Gallery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

More than 40 paintings, photographs, works on paper and in mixed media, by artists including Patrick Caulfield, Helen Chadwick, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney, Anne Redpath and Su Richardson, exploring intimate aspects of our home lives.

May 1–September 29 – ‘Henry Moore at Houghton Hall: Nature and Inspiration’, King’s Lynn, Norfolk

The first significant show of the artist’s work in East Anglia, with monumental outdoor pieces, plus smaller works, models and etchings. Adult tickets £18.

Until June 29: ‘A Life in Colour: The Art of Doris Hatt’, The Museum of Somerset, Taunton Castle, Castle Green, Somerset

Works by the 20th-century Somerset pioneer of British Modernism, who exhibited her vibrant portraiture, still lifes and landscapes over five decades.