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What with Valentine’s Day looming, the first Sussex Muddy Guide has a few original suggestions for romantic soirees, but there’s plenty besides from fashion photography to err cockroaches. Get out there and have some fun!

Pancakes Alfresco, Woolbeding Wood, 9 Feb

Children making a fire at Allen Banks and Staward Gorge, Northumberland. This is a 250 hectare site with a deep gorge and the largest area of ancient semi-natural woodland in Northumberland.

Still got bits of pancake stuck to the kitchen ceiling from last Shrove Tuesday? Take the whole flipping thing outdoors with this great idea from the National Trust’s Woolbeding Wood – Pancakes Alfresco. They’ll supply a campfire and the whole kit down to lemon and sugar and you bring rumbling tums and a mean forehand. It starts at 5pm and costs just £3 but pre-booking is essential.

  Woolbeding Wood, near Midhurst

Perfect Valentine’s Day Menu, Classroom on the Coast, Hastings, 9 Feb

Classroom on Coast DSCF6144

The shiny new Classroom on the Coast at Hastings will help you pull the stops out for Valentine’s Day with a special two-course fishy meal you create yourself. Take your partner with you to cook then eat together, supper club-style with a glass of Sussex fizz, or, use your new found knowledge to surprise them on the day itself. The Valentine’s class costs £50 per person, including ingredients, and runs 7pm to 10pm on Tuesday 9 Feb. A host of other classes are available at typically £35 for adults, or £20 for adult and child sessions.

Classroom on the Coast, The Stade, Hastings 

Remastered: Bosch to Bellotto, Petworth House, until 6 Mar

ARCHDUKE LEOPOLD'S GALLERY by David Teniers the Younger (1610-1690) at Petworth (post conservation). PET/P/76. NT owned.

Petworth House has spruced up the considerable private art collection of Lord and Lady Egremont and has a chunk of it on display in a major new exhibition. Remastered: Bosch to Bellotto offers the chance to see restored early European works from the likes of Titian and Bosch and the famous full-length portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein. There’s also a sketch of the moon’s surface that predates Galileo. It runs until 6 March. Booking is essential.

Petworth House, Petworth 

The Gruffalo’s Child, The Hawth, Crawley, 11-13 Feb

Gruffalos Child

“The Gruffalo said that no gruffalo should ever set foot in the deep dark wood…” but stepping into The Hawth in Crawley should be alright and that’s where a humorous musical show of The Gruffalo’s Child, adapted from the fabulous picture book, is on this Thursday to Saturday, aimed at those from three upwards. Up at the teenage end of things, this Saturday afternoon, the Hawth also has a puppet designing and making workshop, guided by a professional puppeteer, suitable for 11-18 year-olds. And for something more romantic, see Swan Lake performed by the Moscow City Ballet on 13 Feb.

The Hawth, Hawth Ave, Crawley

Valentine’s Dinner, Bodiam Castle, 12 and 13 Feb

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex, reflected in the moat just before dawn.

Raise the game this Valentine’s weekend and swap your local Italian for a castle. Bodiam Castle to be precise, which is laying on a three-course dinner in its riverside Terrace Room on Friday and Saturday night for £35. The evenings kick off at 6 for 6.30 with champagne and a talk on the medieval pile, which will be romantically floodlit and free of day-trippers. Sheffield Park is similarly offering a romantic, fire-lit, three course supper in its Oak Hall. Pre-booking essential.

Bodiam Castle, Bodiam, near Robertsbridge   

The Blink Experience, Stanmer House, Brighton, 12-13 Feb

Blink black-764751_1280

You can don a blindfold for a sensual experience this Valentine’s weekend without coming over all Fifty Shades. The Blink Experience dining in the dark event arrives at Stanmer House this Feburary 12 and 13. It costs £55 including a champagne cocktail reception and three-course meal guided by a compere. Come in a couple, with friends or flirtatiously solo.

Stanmer House, Stanmer Park, Brighton

Bright Sparks, Brighton Science Festival, Hove, 13-14 Feb

Bright_Sparks_5_photo_by_Jon_Southcoasting copy

Fancy dissecting an owl pellet or getting up close and personal with a cockroach? You know the children in your life will. The Brighton Science Festival is back, with all sorts of activities for youngsters at the Bright Sparks event this Saturday and Sunday. On the less gross side you can build a flying monster, an origami brain or a paper bridge to support a stack of chocolate bars, watch some showy chemistry experiments or learn about sleep, digestion, cancer research or basic computer coding. It all takes place at Hove Park School between 10am and 5pm. Tickets are a reasonable £6, or £21 for a family of four (recommended age 7-14).

Hove Park Upper School, Nevill Road, Hove    

Vogue 100: A Century of Style, National Portrait Gallery, London, 11 Feb – 22 May

model riding yak on marsh, wears Giles Deacon goat hair jacket, Isabel Marant goat fur jacket worn as headpiece, Emma Roach goat hair trousers, fur boots, heavy blush, fashion shoot and travel diary in Mongolia

Sigh over some fabulous dresses and laugh at some ridiculous set ups – “that’s right, just climb up on the back of that yak dahling…” – as Vogue 100: A Century of Style opens at the National Portrait Gallery in London. As the title suggests it’s showcasing fashion photography right back to 1916, with highlights from Fred Astaire shoe shuffling in a suit to Kate Moss showing her pants. It starts February 11 and runs till May 22.

 National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London

Gentleman Prefer Blondes 
 Marilyn Monroe by Milton H. Greene & Douglas Kirkland, The Little Black Gallery, Chelsea, London until 27 Feb

Marilyn As Ballerina Awaiting Her Cue, NY, 1954 © Milton H Greene

image © Milton H Greene / Archive Images

There’s more glamour at The Little Black Gallery in Chelsea, which is showing Gentleman Prefer Blondes 
 Marilyn Monroe by Milton H. Greene & Douglas Kirkland. Greene was among the fashion photography greats of the 50s and 60s. He formed a film production company with Monroe and took over 5,000 pictures of her, many never before published. Kirkland, who worked on Life magazine and has shot on many film sets since, was meanwhile invited to ‘come to bed’ with Marilyn for a famously intimate photoshoot. You can see (and buy) the results at the gallery until February 27.

The Little Black Gallery, 13A Park Walk, Chelsea, London




Gangsta Granny, Theatre Royal, Brighton, 2-6 March

Birmingham Stage Company presents Gangsta Granny by David Walliams. CAST Gilly Tompkins - Granny Ashley Cousins - Ben Laura Girling - Mum Ben Martin - Dad Umar Malik - Raj Alison Fitzjohn - Matron Richard James - Doctor Louise Bailey - Queen & Female Undestudy Aaron Thiara - Male Understudy CREATIVE TEAM Adapter and Director - Neal Foster Designer - Jackie Trousdale Lighting Designer - Jason Taylor Composer - Jak Poore Sound Designer - Nick Sagar Choreographers - Paul Chantry & Rae Piper of Chantry Dance Company Production Manager - Adrian Littlejohns

My nephews loved David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny book and dug it out specially to read me the line about granny farting like a duck quacking as she walks along. Whether that particular aspect will make it to the stage adaptation remains to be seen but it’s coming to Brighton’s Theatre Royal for March 2-6 and when I booked before Christmas the non school night shows were already pretty full.

The Theatre Royal, New Road, Brighton

Tantrum Club, Ockenden Manor Spa, 8 March and later dates


Ever feel like you could throttle someone? Get that stress out – legally – at the new monthly Tantrum Club at Ockenden Manor Spa. ‘Self-love mentor’ Katie Phillips will lead 90 minutes of screaming, stamping and beating bean bags with baseball bats (sounds fun!) with some guidance on understanding and using stress. Afterwards, when you’re feeling all zen, treat yourself with lunch, an aromatherapy session and use of the spa facilities (I went for my birthday last year and they are top notch) all for £125. Obviously there’s a lot of new year tension flying about because the February session is already sold out, so book now for March 8. A coupley midweek Love is in the Air day package with a massage or facial is also available until March 17 at £129 per person.

Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa, Cuckfield    

Annie, Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, 1-5 March

ANNIE - The Company and Lesley Joseph as 'Miss Hannigan'. Photo credit Paul Coltas

It was in Brighton in January, now the nearest place you can catch Annie is just across the border at the Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells. The production is sticking to its original 1930s depression New York setting and Lesley Joseph is doing a turn as mean orphanage manager Miss Hannigan. The pictures of the sets look great and it’s been getting considerably better reviews than the recent film version of Annie. Just hope you can get THAT song out of your head afterwards. It’s on 1-5 March  with tickets from £28.50 plus booking fee.

Assembly Hall Theatre, Crescent Road, Tunbridge Wells    

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Sussex