Boswells Blog

14th September 2016

LEGO® Minifigures Series 16 Has Arrived!

LEGO® Minifigures Series 16 Has Arrived!

Summer is over and it’s back to school for some, yet September also symbolises the release of more LEGO®, the most exciting of which is the brand new batch of collectable Minifigures, Series 16! A return to the standard formula after the last wave of Disney themed figures, Series 16 offers 16 original LEGO creations to collect, each individually wrapped in a yellow packet. From fairy-tale to sci-fi, there’s bound to be one for you…

Banana Guy Image



Banana Guy

Starting off the collection is what I would deem to be one of the most popular figures released to date, the Banana Guy. The main attraction is the new banana piece, making him similar to the Hot Dog Suit Guy from series 13. Perhaps they are the perfect pair?

Desert Warrior



Desert Warrior

With Disney still on the mind this guy looks like he’s walked out of the world of Aladdin with his green Turban and his large black sabre, a piece I don’t remember seeing used since the 2003 Orient Expedition theme.

Penguin Boy Image

Penguin Boy

This adorable little figure is the next in the so called mascot series: those figures that are dressed up as animals. This figure not only comes with a new head, but also a pair of skates. Also note that his arms have been replaced with flippers.

Ice Queen Image



 

Ice Queen

This figure is pretty impressive, with an array of pieces from a frozen tiara to blades of ice that she can hold. The most unique accessory is her jagged edged, silver dotted cape, which finishes off the imposing figure.

Spy Image

 

Spy

Start singing the Mission Impossible theme ‘cause this stealthy figure is ready to break in and out of any LEGO building. Equipped with goggles and a length of rope, this figure will never be caught on the job!

 Hiker Image

Hiker

With a slightly more relaxing pastime than the spy, the Hiker has been given a map and compass, both of which feature unique printing, so he should never get lost. He comes with a brilliant double sided head with one face looking super pleased but the other looking a little lost.

Kickboxer Image

 

 

Kickboxer

This fighter is highly detailed, with impressive printing to create shorts and shoes. The red gloves are brilliant combined with the helmet, and she even comes with a normal hair piece for after those fights, which must be tough seeing as she has a bead of sweat on her double sided face…

Spooky Boy

Spooky boy

The male counterpart to the Spooky Girl, this kid looks a little confused for some reason. He appears to be a vampire, as a fang is poking out of his mouth. He isn’t short of accessories, with both a spider and a spooky tales book in hand.

Rogue Image

 

Rogue

This hooded archer is quite the fig. Sporting a bow and arrow, this green and brown clad warrior hides a nod to classic castle themes with a wolf pack broach. The new hood piece completes the figure.
 

Cyborg Images


Cyborg

Quite the striking character, the Cyborg has green and silver printing to represent computer circuits that have replaced part of her body. The printing is complimented by the striking blue hair piece and she is bulked up with an armour chest piece and a gun, giving her all she needs for combat.

Cute Little Devil Image

 

Cute Little Devil

This figure is already dressed up for Halloween and he even has a pumpkin bucket to collect those sweets. A plethora of pieces come in this packet, from tail piece to pitchfork.


Dog Show Winner Image

 

Dog Show Winner

Any Terrier fans out there? It seems LEGO picked up on the dog’s success at Crufts this year, for now you can buy the first ever Scottish Terrier dog. Don’t forget he comes with a trophy. Oh! And the proud owner (or possibly judge) who even has a treat in his pocket for the 1st prize winner.


Scallywag Pirate ImageScallywag Pirate

This pirate harks back to the popular classic theme with his garish colours and classic sword. But now the pirate has a modern twist, with the new bald head/bandanna piece. Speaking of new, that map he comes with has a brand new design which must mean a new lot of treasure to find. X marks the spot!



Babysitter ImageBabysitter

With the 1st LEGO baby being made earlier this year it was only a matter of time before LEGO released another baby. This time he comes with an adorable blue bib, complete with a tiny elephant design. The Babysitter herself has a great pug design on her shirt and her hair is quite a rare piece. Well worth picking this one up for the baby alone, who also comes with a blue bottle.


Wildlife Photographer ImageWildlife Photographer

A personal favourite of mine, this figure comes set up in her arctic gear with a camera at the ready to take pictures of what is the first LEGO penguin (excluding Duplo). The penguin is adorable and goes great with the Penguin Boy from earlier. It even has a stud on its back so other figures can ride it, but you’ll need a stand to stop them from falling over!



Mariachi ImageMariachi

Last but not least is the Mariachi in his ornately detailed black suit, highlighted with intricate silver symbols. His hat and moustache create an authentic Mexican feel, but the best piece has to be his guitar (a brand new piece), which is perfect in every way.

This series has a great variety of figures, which have just been released. Find them in store or online in the little yellow blind bags. Good luck finding your favourite figure!

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1st September 2016

The Ultimate Guide to Student Offers in Oxford 2016

The Ultimate Guide to Student Offers in Oxford 2016

There are shops, cafes and restaurants all over Oxford helping you save money with a variety of great student discount offers this Autum, and wiith great discounts being offered by a variety of both independent and high street shops you’ll find yourself going home with a bit more money to spare. Many places will accept your student ID card but some deals are exclusive to NUS Extra, UNiDAYS or Student Beans, all of which are worth signing up to to make sure that you make the most of the discounts that are available!

Books & Stationery

The Norrington Room ImageBlackwell’s (Broad Street) - Blackwells, one of the UK's biggest bookstores, loves students. They offer a number of deals, including up to 50% off text books. You can also get second hand books at a cheaper price as well as special course bundles. Pictured is the famous Norrington Room in the basement.

Paperchase (Queen Street) - Students get a 10% discount with a UNiDAYS code.

Ryman (Queen Street) - The famous stationer brand offers students a 10% discount with a UNiDAYS code.

Waterstones (William Baker House, Broad Street) - Our neighbour has a 10% student discount with a UNiDAYS code when you spend £25 or over. They also have a Student Rewards point scheme.

WH Smith (Cornmarket Street) - You can get 25% off stationery with an NUS Extra card until 30th September.

Fashion, Health and Beauty

Accessorize (Queen Street) - Get a 10% student discount with an NUS Extra card.

Ede & Ravenscroft ImageEde and Ravenscroft (High Street) - Providing ceremonial robes, menswear, womenswear and graduation gowns for generations, this specialist shop offers a 10% student discount on certain items.

Fat Face (Cornmarket Street) - Enjoy a 10% discount with an NUS Extra card.

French Connection (Clarendon Centre, Queen Street) - Students receive a 15% discount with a valid student card or UNiDAYS code.

Jack Wills (High Street) - Get a 10% student discount available with a UNiDAYS code or an NUS Extra card.

Karen Millen (High Street) - 10% student discount available with an NUS Extra card.

Moss Bros (Cornmarket Street) - Students get a 15% discount with a UNiDAYS code.

Oasis (St Ebbes Street) - Discount of 10% for students with an NUS Extra card or a UNiDAYS code.

Office (Clarendon Centre, Queen Street) - 10% discount for students with a UNiDAYS code.

Schuh (Magdalen Street) - Get a 10% student discount with a valid student card.River Island (Cornmarket Street) - You will soon be able to get a 20% student discount with Student Beans. Check the River Island website for the start of this promotion.

Shepherd and Woodward (High Street) - As the largest supplier of academic gowns and robes for The University of Oxford, and selling classic & contemporary menswear, you’ll be sure to be making a trip here. They don’t have a student discount but they do have different package offers throughout the year.

Cornmarket Street Image

Topshop/Topman (Queen Street) - Students get a 10% discount with a UNiDAYS Code or with Student Beans.

Anne Veck (St Clement’s Street) - This award winning hairdresser gives students with a valid student card a 20% discount on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Specsavers Opticians (Queen Street) - Save 25% on the price of designer frames with an NUS Extra card or another valid student ID.

Superdrug (Market Street) - Show your NUS Extra card with a Superdrug Beauty card and get a 10% discount.

Vision Express (The Golden Cross, Cornmarket Street) - Save 20% on prescription glasses and contact lenses with an NUS Extra card and a voucher that can be downloaded from their website.

Supermarkets

The Co-Operative - Get a 10% discount with an NUS Extra Card. Based in several locations around Oxford.

Cafés and Restaurants

You don’t have to stop eating out when you’re a student thanks to these great deals from local and national restaurants:

ASK Italian (George Street) - You can get 25% off your bill with an NUS Extra card on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

Gloucester Green Image

Bella Italia (George Street) - Check out the student menu (including pizzas, pasta and 2 for 1 cocktails) and dine for only £5, Sunday-Thursday. Look out, also, for their student nights, which give you the chance to get up to 50% off the bill.

Castle Pub (Castle St) - Is Hook Norton's first Oxford Centre pub. Jem contacted us in January 2018 and is keen for you to know that Student's get 25% off food on presentatio of Student ID. 

Combibos (Gloucester Green) - This family owned and run coffee shop in the centre of Oxford gives students a 10% discount.

Dominos (Park End Street) - Deals include 25% off when you spend over £25 with an NUS Extra card.

El Mexicana (Gloucester Green) - 10% discount with a valid student ID card. You can also earn points for free food with their app.

Giraffe (George Street) - Students get a 20% discount with an NUS Extra card.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen (George Street) - A 30% student discount is available when you download their free app.

Jimbob’s Baguettes (Magdalen Street) - This sandwich shop has a huge variety of bread and filling options to choose from and gives students a 10% discount.

Las Iguanas (Park End Street) - Get a 25% discount Sunday-Thursday with a valid student ID.

McDonalds (Cornmarket Street) - With a valid student card or UNiDAYS code you can get a free Mayo Chicken, Cheeseburger or McFlurry Original when you buy an Extra Value or a Wrap Meal.

Noodle Nation ImageNoodle Nation (Gloucester Street) - A 15% student discount is available with a valid student card.

Pizza Express (The Golden Cross, Cornmarket Street and Castle Street) - Offers up to 40% discount on Monday and Tuesday, 20% on Wednesday and Sunday, and 3 courses for £11.95 on Friday and Saturday with an NUS Extra card.

Pizza Hut (George Street) - Get 20% off food when you show a valid student ID card.

Yeti (Cowley Road) - Get 10% off some great Nepalese food with a valid student ID card.

YO! Sushi (George Street) - Eating sushi doesn’t have to be expensive with 25% off when you join YO! Sushi’s student club.

Zizzi (George Street) - You can get 40% off the total of your bill on Mondays and Tuesdays with an NUS Extra card, and 25% off on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Offer ends October 5th 2016.

Leisure and Travel

Taking some time out for a little fun is essential, and all the more affordable thanks to these great deals:

16-25 Rail Card (Oxford Station) - Save a 1/3 on rail fares within the UK. If you’re over 25 and in full time study you’re still eligible, you just need to get confirmation from your university or college.

Odeon (George St and Magdalen St) - Save money on the price of tickets with a valid student ID card, and get a further discount of up to 25% with an NUS Extra card! Prices and discounts may vary depending on the film, cinema and showing time.

Ultimate Picture Palace Image

The Oxford Playhouse (Beaumont Street) - Save £2 on ticket prices with a valid student ID card.

The Phoenix Picture House (Walton Street) - Sign up for student membership for £15 to get 2 free tickets and 10% off food and drink.

STA Travel (George Street) - Keep an eye out for great student deals and prices on amazing adventures throughout the year, after all, you'll need something fun to fill the holidays with!

The Ultimate Picture Palace (Jeune Street) - Students get £1 off standard ticket prices and £2 off Thursday matinees with a valid student ID card. Student membership (£20) will also get you lots of goodies like 2 free tickets and even more money off ticket prices.

Online

You don’t have to leave the house to get access to great discounts. A huge number of online stores also offer student discounts.

Adobe - A valid student ID card can help you get up to 69% off the price of software.

ASOS - Students get a 10% discount with a valid student email address.

Apple ImageApple Store for Education - Save up to £339 off the price of a Mac and up to £50 off to an iPad with a UNiDAYS code.

Boohoo - 10% student discount available with a UNiDAYS code.

GHD - Students get 10% off certain products with a UNiDAYS code.

HP - Get up to 30% student discount with a UNiDAYS code.

I Love Fancy Dress - A 10% student discount is available with Student Beans.

Pretty Little Thing - Get a 15% student discount with a UNiDAYS code.

Spotify - Enjoy 50% off Spotify premium with a UNiDAYS code or NUS Extra card.

UniBulkBuy - Students get 25% discount with a NUS Extra card.

Treasurer’s Treats

Treasurer’s Treats is a card exclusive to University of Oxford students. Bought from The Oxford Union, this card gives deals and discounts at a variety of different businesses around the city. The treats change each term.

Department Stores

Boswells ImageBoswells (1-4 Broad Street) - We couldn't very well leave ourselves out, could we? Sign up to our Student Club and you'll get 10% off everything in store and online between 6th September and 16th October. This 10% is also available every Wednesday the rest of the year, and we'll provide other offers throughout the year too! 

We have everything you need to make your new room or flat feel like home in no time, including, cookware, bedding, desk lamps, rugs, plates and bowls, and of course those all important clothes hangers! For a few tips on what you'll need to get you started for your time at university, click here to read our blog.

You can join our student club here.

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19th August 2016

The Story of the British Tea Room

The Story of the British Tea Room

Oxford is truly beautiful this time of year, but the city can get a little hectic over the Summer months, with people flocking from all over to come and see itwe can hardly blame them! So what better way to take a breather from the bustling streets than to sit down to a nice relaxing cuppa. Hurrah for tea rooms!

But where did all of these amazing places come from? And what exactly is the difference between a tea room and a coffee house? We've been doing some digging into the history of the tea room, so pop the kettle on, put your feet up and read on to find out more...

The Arrival of the Coffee House

Queens Lane Coffee House ImageAs it turns out, there are actually a lot of differences between a tea room and a coffee house, going back centuries. The first English coffee house was in fact right here in Oxford, on the site of The Grand Café on High Street, while across the road from it The Queen’s Lane Coffee House (founded four years later in 1654) is the oldest established coffee house in Europe! Needless to say, we highly recommend a visit to both of these incredible places.

The new fashion for coffee reached London late in 1654, and spread quickly, however the coffee houses of the 17th Century were not quite like the coffee houses and cafes we know today. 

These were boisterous places where people engaged freely in intense debate with strangers, with topics ranging from politics, philosophy and science to theatrical and literary criticism. 

Coffee Beans

In one London coffee house Isaac Newton is said to have performed a public dissection on a dolphin, and in another patrons would regularly conduct informal investigations into the nature of insanity. Anything was up for debate, and for the cost of a penny any man could enter, discuss and enjoy unlimited coffee refills. But while coffee houses were social spaces in which Enlightenment thinking flourished and democratic opinions were freely exercised, women were not permitted to enter.


Tea, Glorious Tea!

It was Catherine of Braganza, the wife of Charles II, who first introduced tea to England, making it fashionable amongst the aristocracy’s elite. 

Twinings Tea Image

But while coffee was by this time becoming relatively common place, tea remained a rare curiosity. It was considered unusual enough that Samuel Pepys documented his first sampling of the drink in his famous diary in September 1660.

But it was through coffee houses that tea first entered the wider public domain, allowing it to eventually become the British staple that it is today. In 1706 Thomas Twining opened what is generally considered to be the first tea room in Britain, which you can still find on The Strand in London, open for business to this day.

While coffee was a cheap beverage for the masses, tea began its illustrious relationship with the people of Britain as an expensive, excessively taxed commodity—taxation on tea at its height reaching 119%!

Tea Leaves Image

Such high taxation led to a country-wide surge in tea smuggling, and it’s estimated that by the late 18th Century such was the British affinity for tea that more was smuggled into the country than was actually legally imported. In 1784 William Pitt the Younger passed an Act of Parliament that reduced the tax on tea to 12.5%, making it significantly more affordable for people of all social classes, and the rest, as they say, is history.


The Trusty Tea Room

Afternoon Tea ImageThe 18th Century tea rooms were very different from coffee houses. While women were forbidden from the egalitarian conversations of the contemporary coffee houses, tea rooms were reputable public spaces that woman could enter unescorted by a man, a rarity at that time.

This meant that, much like coffee houses, tea rooms became social venues—places where people (particularly women) could gather and talk freely, but generally with a more relaxed atmosphere than the raucous coffee establishments of the time. And, with the creation of afternoon tea in 1841, this also became a part of the tea room’s custom and heritage.

By the late 19th Century large tea room chains, run by The Aerated Bread Company and J. Lyons & Co., began to pop up all over the country—A.B.C. Tea Rooms offering the first ever self-service tea rooms.

J. Lyons Coventry 1942 Image

During this period, and into the early 20th Century, suffragettes would often meet in tea rooms, gathering together to informally discuss their rights, and of course enjoy a nice cup of tea.

Even during the height of the Blitz, and wartime rationing, tea rooms remained a hub for people to come for refreshment and to socialise—a relief from the everyday stresses of the war.

(Image Credit)


Oxfordshire Tea Rooms Today

But of course the story of the tea room doesn't end there. These amazing places have endured into the 21st Century, and Oxfordshire has many wonderful tea rooms worth sampling. We particularly recommend The Rose on High Street and Annie’s Tea Room in Thrupp.

1738 Tearoom

The continuing popularity of the tea room is a testament to its relaxed atmosphere, the tradition of getting together for a chat, and, of course, the prevailing British love affair with an excellent cup of tea. Not to mention that taking a little time out to unwind in one of these great settings is a very special way to make your own little contribution to the long history of the tea room. 

For a great tea room right in the centre of Oxford come and visit our 1738 Tea Room (on the first floor of the store) where you can sit and relax with some Twinings tea (just as they did in 1706), some scrummy cake and, of course, a good natter!

For more information on Boswells' 1738 Tea Room click here to read Rosie from our Pharmacy's review.

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28th July 2016

Top Tips to Beat the Holiday Heat

Top Tips to Beat the Holiday Heat

Summer is here, and many of us will be off to exciting and wide-spread destinations in the coming weeks. Chances are, those destinations will be mostly very hot. Because looking after yourself in the heat is so important, and an essential part of having a great holiday, we’ve put together a few tips to help you make the most of your time in the sunshine.

Stay Hydrated!

Water ImageThis is really the most important thing to remember in any hot climate, whether you’re visiting a beach, a city, a desert, or simply making the most of the sun at home. In the hot weather you lose fluids at a much faster rate than at other times, and you can become dangerously dehydrated very quickly if you don’t replace them as you go along.

It’s important to recognise the early signs of dehydration, and respond accordingly, as heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be very serious. Make sure you drink plenty of water, and regularly, even if you don’t feel thirsty! 

Keeping a bottle of water with you at all times is a very good way to keep on top of your hydration. There are also various apps that you can download to help you monitor your water intake, which is a helpful way of staying safe, and makes it easier for you to concentrate on enjoying yourself. Find out more on heat exhaustion and heat stroke at http://www.nhs.uk.

Malta Image                         Gondola ImageDubai Image

Pace Yourself

If you’re off on a sightseeing or an adventuring holiday it’s only natural to want to see and do as much as you possibly can in the limited time that you have away. But if you’re going somewhere sizzling hot, you might want to plan a more laidback approach. 

Hammock Image

We expect that the reason that siestas are so popular in Spain is because running around in the baking heat is much less enjoyable than taking a leisurely lunch and basking in the air conditioning during the hottest parts of the day. If you really don’t want to waste a moment when you could be off exploring, though, take things slowly, rest often in cool places and keep drinking that all important water! 

Remember that you might not be able to cover as much ground as you’re used to in a day, so visit the must-see places first, and then see if you’re still feeling up to trapesing around the rest. 

Blue Mansion

Pack light for the day too, as you’ll use extra energy lugging around more than you need. If you’re visiting somewhere humid bear in mind that it’s much harder to cool down than in dry heat, as sweat can’t evaporate into the already moist air.

Alternating between hot outdoor locations and cool air conditioned museums and restaurants can be a great way of keeping your energy going, and so can taking a taxi…or a gondola, a tangah, a tuk-tuk or a rickshaw, depending on where you are…

Image Credit: Elena Woolley

Air Conditioning is Your Friend

Camel ImageIt sounds silly, but the importance of air conditioning really can’t be understated, and many hot countries even recommend seeking out public places with air conditioning to wile away the baking hot days in safety. If you start to feel the heat while you’re out and about, try to find somewhere nearby with beautifully cool air-con to take a little R&R (even if it’s just the local supermarket).

If possible, make sure that wherever you’re staying has air-con fitted too, especially if you aren’t used to the heat. The trick is not to get too carried away with the colder settings, however, as you'll feel the heat more when you head outside. It can take a couple of weeks for the body to acclimatise to the heat, so if you're staying long enough to adapt then try not to get too over-dependent on air conditioning, perhaps try it in shorter bursts or not having it quite so cold, but of course never force acclimatisation at the expense of your health. If you feel at all unwell due to the heat, always find somewhere cool for refuge, and as soon as possible.  

There are plenty of other little tricks you can try to cool down throughout the day, though. 

Athens Image

Running your wrists under a cold tap for a few seconds is a great way to get immediate relief, and a cold, wet towel is frankly amazing if you’re too hot. Some recommend soaking a hat or a bandanna in cold water too to keep your head nice and cool. Keep a fan, or something with good wafting capabilities, close to hand and never underestimate the power of good old fashioned ice cream at cooling you down! That said, its important to eat fairly healthily in hot weather, as eating too much (especially proteins) causes the metabolism to release excess heat, making it harder to keep cool.

Dressing for the Climate

Sunglasses ImageKnowing what to wear in a hot country can be tricky. Natural fibres are always best—they’re much, much cooler than polyester clothing, and won’t cling so uncomfortably when you sweat (loose fitting clothes are a great choice in this respect). They also dry quicker, which is always appreciated when it’s hot and sticky.

Penang Image
Image Credit: Elena Woolley

The instinct is often to go for shorter sleeves, shorts etc., but this does leave you more exposed to the sun, and many who live in hot countries actually recommend long sleeves. This is especially good advice if you're going anywhere that has mosquitos—from Venice to Vietnam—as these flying pests will assume that any exposed flesh is fair game for dinner! Read our blog on protecting against malaria here.

Be mindful, also, of what is considered appropriate dress at your holiday destination—do a little research beforehand to see what is and isn’t acceptable wear. This is worth doing even if you’re visiting somewhere fairly close to home, such as the Mediterranean, and also if you’re planning on visiting any religious buildings and temples.

Sunscreen Image

And finally, sunscreen, we can’t stress the importance of this enough! Remember to stay well protected against both UVA and UVB with a high factor sunscreen (at least spf30-50 is wise), and re-apply throughout the day. Applying sunscreen about an hour before heading out into the heat is a nice trick so that you don’t just sweat it all off the minute you step outside! Some sunglasses and a hat will also help protect you from the harsh sun, so make sure you remember to pack these.

 

Planning Ahead

Mini Fan ImageBefore you set off on your adventures, be sure to do plenty of planning and research. Have a look at what kind of temperature you can expect for the time of year (also what time of day it will be at its hottest), and whether it’ll be dry or humid heat.

We also suggest popping in to speak to our friendly pharmacist if you have any questions about staying healthy and safe in the heat, or about what vaccinations you might need for where you’re headed. If you’re short on general travel supplies, our Luggage Department is well stocked with goodies. For advice on picking the right suitcase for your needs, click here to read our blog, or pop in and speak to our Luggage staff.

Accessories Department Hats ImageWe also have plenty of other travel essentials in stock, such as sunscreen, hats and sunglasses, and you may want to consider investing in a trusty refillable drinks bottle, a mini fan, or good supply of mosquito repellent.

And if you're simply enjoying the best that the British Summer has to offer this year, we have plenty of fans to choose from, both in store and online, although hurry, they do sell fast! Take a look at our blog on ways to keep your home nice and cool here. 

But wherever you’re off to and whatever you've got planned for the Summer ahead, be sure to take care out in the sun and the heat. Once you've got the weather sorted, though, go have fun, and remember to make the most of every wonderful moment of it!

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22nd July 2016

Oxford Activities and Events This Summer

Oxford Activities and Events This Summer

Image Credit: Elena Woolley

Whether you’re new to Oxford, or just looking for exciting ways to keep yourself or any guests entertained over the Summer, thinking up new and interesting things to do can get a bit trickier once you’ve ticked off the more obvious sights such as the Radcliffe Camera and the Bridge of Sighs (impressive though they both are). We’ve put together a few suggestions to help you get your Summer started.

Museums

The Ashmolean Museum

Amongst its other impressive claims, Oxford is the birthplace of the public museum, the Ashmolean Museum being the first of its kind when it opened its doors in 1677. Now located on Beaumont Street, the Ashmolean is still going strong and is stuffed full of amazing antiquities and other interesting artefacts. Theres lots to see, and keep an eye out for their great Summer exhibitions too.

Read more here.

Museum of History of Science

The site of the original Ashmolean on Broad Street now houses the Museum of History of Science and, although it's relatively small, it's definitely worth the visit to look around this amazing building and its collections.

Read more here.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History  

Oxford is of course home to other noteworthy museums, and no Oxford Summer would be complete without a trip to the Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum (which are adjoining).

We suggest taking a peek at the Museum of Natural History’s impressive collection of dinosaurs and other fossils (many of which were found right here in Oxfordshire). They're also hosting a range of family friendly events and activities over the coming weeks, as well as their regular tour of the building's fascinating neo-gothic architcture.

Photo credit https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pitt_Rivers_Museum_Interior,_Oxford,_UK_-_Diliff.jpg

Read more here.

Pitt Rivers Museum

Possibly Oxford's quirkiest museum, with its extensive anthopological collections there's something different to spot with every visit. Pop in this Summer to check out their exhibitions on amulets and on adventuring in Siberia! And be sure to seek out the famous shrunken heads while you're there!

Read more here.

Oxford Castle Unlocked

Oxford Castle UnlockedOxford Castle is a great location for a day out in the city centre. As well as their usual tours and sights, if you have a large group of guests (8-15 people), and you fancy unleashing your inner puzzler, you might want to give their Jailbreak Escape locked room puzzle a go. 

Read more here.

 

Outdoor Cinema

If you know the museums well and are looking for something a bit different, then why not go to one of the many fantastic film screenings taking place at some of Oxford's museums this Summer?

Picturehouse Pop-Up Cinema

The Ashmolean has teamed up with the Picturehouse Cinema for a three-day Pop-Up cinema event on the 5th-7th August.

Read more here.

Cult Screens

Meanwhile, The Pitt Rivers has joined forces with Cult Screens for a showing of Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet on August 24th.

Cult Screens also has an array of amazing films showing at Oxford Castle over the Summer, and if watching The Shawshank Redemption in a genuine prison exercise yard sounds like fun, then get busy booking…tickets are likely to sell fast!

Read more here.

 

Shakespeare OxfordWilliam Shakespeare

Fans of Shakespeare will be delighted to find that there’s no shortage of plays over the Summer, and since this year marks 400 years since Shakespeare’s death there’s some extra special treats too, including lots of great open air performances at various Oxford colleges, Oxford Castle and Oxford University Press.

Read more on all Shakespeare related events here.

Creation Theatre

Creation Theatre are up to their usual inventive tricks, and are combining their performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a treasure hunt/quest held in secret locations around the city centre…we have to confess, we’re suitably intrigued.

Read more here.

Weston Library

We suggest checking out the Shakespeare’s Dead exhibition at the Weston Library, which is running until September 18th. It includes first editions of 2 of his plays that are rarer than the famous first folio. Which ones? Visit and find out.

Read more here.

Blackwell's

Our friends down the road at Blackwell’s are also running a fantastic Shakespeare themed walking tour, which includes the location of the first ever performance of Hamlet!

Read more information on Blackwell's walking tours here.

 

Walking Tours

Bill Spectre's Ghost TrailNew College Passage Oxford

If its walking tours you’re after, you’ll be pleased to hear that you have one of Trip Advisor’s top 10 ghost tours in the world right on your door step. Hurrah! Bill Spectre’s Ghost Trail takes you through the city's ghostly history and down its spooky hidden lanes. A proven hit with visitors and Oxford residents alike, and is really not to be missed!

Read more here.

Treasure Trails

Treasure Trails can also be a fun way to spend some time together, following clues and seeing the sights in one go. The Treasure Trails company provides murder mystery, treasure hunt and spy themed trails of varying lengths. You pay for the trails, but once you have them they can be used multiple times and they also double as a map. Simply download the trail you like the sound of and you’re away…

Read more here.

 

Boating Experiences

Oxford River Cruises

A trip along the river can also be a fun new way to see the city, especially if you already know it well, and is really very relaxing. A spectacular 2.5 hour picnic boat tour leaves from Folly Bridge twice a day and passes through Port Meadow, Osney Lock and shows off great views of some of the Oxford Colleges. Be sure to book in advance.

Read more here.

Punting

Punting in Oxford

If you fancy trying your hand at boating, though, you could always have a go at a spot of punting. Perfect for a lazy summer’s day, we suggest you bring a picnic and someone with good balance to steer as you gradually wind your way along the river. It’s also a fantastic excuse to pay a visit to The Victoria Arms in Old Marston, which sits just on the banks of the Cherwell. Start your punting adventure at Cherwell Boathouse, Folly Bridge or Magdalen Bridge.

Information on how to punt can be found here.

Image Credit: Elena Woolley

Outdoors Oxford

University of Oxford Botanic Gardens

For those looking for a touch of nature in their sightseeing, the Botanic Gardens are at their most beautiful at this time of year, and offer a nice peaceful break from the bustling city centre. Picnic fans will be pleased to hear that the Botanic Gardens are hosting a couple of picnics over the Summer, complete with crafts and face painting!

Read more here.

Parks and Meadows

If its green spaces you particularly crave, Oxford is certainly well equipped with scenery to better than whet your appetite. And whether you’re entertaining guests or just looking for a pleasant spot on a sunny day, why not explore University Parks or take a walk along the river in Christchurch meadow?

Christchurch Meadow Oxford
 Image Credit: Elena Woolley

To truly lose the busy crowds of Oxford, Port Meadow is the perfect peaceful place to go for a wander, and there’s all sorts of treasures to discover including nature walks, atmospheric pub, The Perch (where Lewis Carroll gave his first reading of Alice in Wonderland), and cattle…lots and lots of cattle.

The Oxford Visitor Information Centre

Not just for tourists! The Oxford Visitor Information Centre is where many of the various walking tours start and finish and is a great way to get up to date information on Oxford's attactions. Located on Broad Street it's easy to find and just down or up the road from Boswells depending which direction you are coming from.

Read more here.

Afternoon TeaCome Visit Us!

If all of that sounds incredibly hectic and exhausting, why not come and take a break in our 1738 Tea Room and treat yourself to a well-earned cup of tea and a piece of cake!

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15th July 2016

Take Some Time for a Summer Picnic

Take Some Time for a Summer Picnic

Picnic Drink ImageSummer is here! And with it comes the perfect excuse for getting outdoors, swatting away those pesky wasps, and having a good-old picnic! As a time-honoured tradition, and a favourite warm-weather pastime for generations, what better way to enjoy the Summer sun? It’s a tradition that actually stems back centuries, to mediaeval hunting parties, which would lay on a spectacular al fresco feast during the day’s festivities. Even Robin Hood and his Merry Men are reported to have enjoyed a good picnic from time to time.

Picnic ImageBut the continued appeal of the picnic is really rather simple: it’s about time spent with great people and the freedom to take your party anywhere you like. The humble picnic offers an escape from the mundane demands of daily life, replacing them instead with relaxation and good company. And the beauty of it is that every single aspect of a picnic can be tailor made to suit you and your own individual tastes, whether it’s the food, the fun or the people you surround yourself with. But let’s start with the where

South Park ImageHere in Oxford we’re really rather spoilt for choice when it comes to magnificent locations in which to settle down to eat, with so many fantastic parks and meadows to choose from. What this means is that a day of lounging in the park becomes much more a matter of, for example, choosing between South Park’s view of the dreaming spires or heading off to dip a toe in the river out in the open expanse of Port Meadow, than a struggle to altogether think up ideas for where to go. But, picnics are portable, so they’re also perfect for a day out—perhaps a long drive in the country to nowhere in particular, or to nearby points of interest, such as Blenheim Palace or White Horse Hill.

Supersoaker ImageWherever you set down your blanket, though, be sure to plan some fun activities to take with you. These are a great way of having fun, but also to keep you active, and it’s a fantastic way of keeping the kids entertained if you’re out with the family. A Frisbee to throw around is an old favourite, and a football or a game of cricket are also popular choices. If its scorching hot it could be the perfect opportunity for a Super Soaker duel, or if it’s a little breezy, why not take a kite out for a whirl?

But the weather may present other issues altogether. Rain (yes, I said it). No one wants to acknowledge the possibility of the “r” word on the day of a picnic, but the British weather does like to keep a few dastardly tricks up its sleeve, regardless of what season it technically is. 

Leaf in Rain Image

So, perhaps your chosen day will be wet, or the sun may not make an appearance as hoped, and these are important factors to consider. A large and sturdy umbrella may be just the thing to save the day, or you may want to take full advantage of the portability of your feast and find a nice indoor spot to settle down—it is, after all, the company and the food that’s shared that makes or breaks a picnic, so why let a little precipitation ruin the day?

Boswells Picnic Basket ImageThe good news is that you can now a have your picnic at Boswells, regardless of what the weather is doing outside. Our 1738 Tea Room is offering a picnic basket chock full ‘o great picnic favourites as part of our new Summer menu, and it can be eaten in the Tea Room or taken away to be enjoyed in the sunshine too (find out more here). But if you prefer to plan your picnic from scratch you’ll be needing a few supplies, starting with must have items such as a blanket, a basket and a cooler to keep your food and drinks chilled and fresh, and then of course there’s the plates and cups…and some napkins never go amiss. 

Picnic Display Image

To make the planning a bit easier, our Cookshop is well stocked with lots of goodies to get you started, and a trusty picnic blanket can be found in our Linen department, freeing you up to concentrate on the most important parts of any picnic: what to eat, and who to invite?! (Read our blog on what picnic essentials to pack).

A picnic is really just a great, relaxing excuse to get everyone together, though. It’s an opportunity to catch up, to bond, and to talk over things, big and small. It has the cathartic benefits of sharing food, making memories and putting your cares to one side for an hour or two. So pack your basket, rally the guests and find a nice spot to really make a day of it!

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22nd June 2016

A Review of the New Summer LEGO® Sets

A Review of the New Summer LEGO® Sets

With Summer finally here we're gifted with not only a much needed heat wave but also with a new wave of Summer LEGO® sets. From City to Star Wars there’s a whole new batch of LEGO now available at Boswells! Here are some of the highlights from James our in store Lego expert :

Mixels

Mixels series 8 has arrived, with nine new creations for you to snatch up. With the toothbrush wielding, bow tie wearing Tuth and the grey banana-horned Surgeo (with a menacing neon green needle), the Medix trio are my favourites because of the interesting selection of parts.

       Mixels Medix Trio Image

Collectible Minifigures

LEGO Minifigures Disney ImageAlice ImageA special new release is in store this season as Disney’s most famous characters are brought to life with LEGO Minifigures. Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy are all brilliantly captured in Minifigure form.

Other notable standouts are Buzz from Toy Story, Stitch from Lilo and Stitch and Alice from Alice in Wonderland—she even comes with a drink me bottle and an eat me biscuit!

City

LEGO Fun in the Park ImageLEGO City has begun to delve into Volcano sets, but their most interesting recent release is actually the Fun in the Park City People Pack, which includes a mixture of Minifigures and some playground and park accessories. The highlights of this set have to be the adorable baby and the new wheelchair piece.


Nexo Knights

Minifigure Image

LEGO Nexo Image

Speaking of volcanoes, LEGO’s new Nexo Knights theme is now onto its second wave of sets, the largest and most prominent of which is Jestro’s Volcano LairThe playset is packed with details such as a flying throne, a trap hole and the great lava falls that are concealing a hidden chest.


Friends

LEGO Friends Image


LEGO Friends has taken an unexpected, but much welcomed, turn with its latest range, which are all based on theme park rides. The flagship setAmusement Park Roller Coasterlooks amazing with its rollercoaster, Ferris wheel and other theme park builds. All the rides have a space theme and the set includes many interesting transparent parts, making it not only great to play with but also visually stunning to display.

 

Superheroes

LEGO Batman ImageNananananananananananananananana BATMAN!
The Batcave is back, and in its biggest version yet. This huge build, and its nine Minifigures, are all based on the 60’s Batman TV show, featuring some great new figure varients such as Batman (with his eyebrows drawn on his cowl) and the Joker (whose moustache is visible through his white paint). The set includes a plethora of bat vehicles, such as the iconic Batmobile, a fleshed out Batcave and a section of Wayne manor—complete with hidden poles for batman and Robin to slide down!


Juniors

Lego Juniors Lex Luthor ImageFrom the huge to the slightly smaller sets, LEGO Juniors has been reinvigorated with a new bunch of sets for those toddlers who have outgrown Duplo® but aren’t quite ready for a full set with complex instructions and builds. Batman and Superman vs Lex Luthor is a great set with all the main characters, interesting vehicles and a little Batcave that’s complete with batarangs, batphone and a bat. Click here for the full review of this set.



LEGO Vader's TIE Image

Star Wars

LEGO Star Wars has a new line up of vehicles to construct, including the Turbo Tank from the films and the Star Scavenger and Eclipse Fighter based on the new The Freemaker Adventures TV series. The best value for money, though, has to be Vader’s TIE Advanced vs. A-Wing Starfighter set. Featuring two iconic vehicles from the films and the best villain of the franchise, this set is sure to be a hit. 


The sets above are all fantastic but they only represent a small portion of what has recently come out, not to mention the many other sets we have on our shelves. Remember to check out other themes with new offerings such as Creator, Technic, Disney Princess, Minecraft, Ninjago, Elves and Duplo®!

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9th June 2016

Father's Day and the History of Celebrating Dads

Father's Day and the History of Celebrating Dads

Father's Day is once again just around the corner, and after the warm reception to our history of Mother's Day we've been doing a little digging to find out where the great tradition of venerating fathers originally came from. 

Super Dad Father's Day Card ImageApparently the oldest known Father's Day card dates back 4000 years to ancient Babylon. It was made from clay and given to a father by his young son Elmesu, who wished him good health and a long life. Some also believe that there is a connection between Father’s Day and the solstice (which it sometimes co-insides with).

But Father’s Day as we know it is a relatively new event, and there is still some disagreement as to precisely when it began. There are, however, two notable stories about the creation of modern Father’s Day that are generally credited with kicking things off.

America and 20th Century Father's Day

Father Son ImageThe first of these is the story of American woman, Grace Golden Clayton, who in 1908 was grieving the loss of her own father when there was a mine explosion in a nearby town in West Virginia. The accident killed 360 men, 200 of which were fathers, and so, with the help of her local pastor, Clayton began to campaign for a day for honouring fathers.

The event was not well promoted, however, and Clayton’s choice of July 5th (her father’s birthday) as the date for the first Father’s Day celebration meant that the event was overshadowed by Independence Day in the USA, which was the day before

Sonora Smart Dodd Image

As a result the first Father's Day was, sadly, not a sucess. 

A year later another American woman, Sonora Smart Dodd, had the idea of honouring fathers when listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in Spokane, Washington. Her own father had dotingly raised her and her five siblings alone after her mother died in childbirth, and Sonora felt that there was great need for a day in recognition of fathers, as well as the existing one for mothers.

With much greater success than Grace Clayton before her, Sonora managed to build support for a day for fathers, the first one being held on the third Sunday in June 1910. 

Rose Image

At the first Father’s Day celebration people wore either a red rose in honour of a living father, or a white one in remembrance of one that had passed away, and Smart Dodd delivered presents to sick, housebound fathers in Spokane.

Although the day was initially met with scorn and derision by the media, who criticised it as merely an excuse for another holiday, Father’s Day was unofficially observed across America in its early years. 

Dad Image

It suceeded in gaining presidential support from Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and later Calvin Coolidge in 1924, but failed to garner support in Congress. Father’s Day was eventually given official recognition by Lyndon Johnson in 1966 and finally declared an American public holiday by Richard Nixon in 1972.


Father's Day Around the World

Father Son Image Since Clayton and Smart Dodd’s efforts to establish an American Father’s Day, traditions and celebrations for honouring fathers have cropped up all over the world. Many of these, including in the UK, are also celebrated on the third Sunday of June, but there are a number of notable and interesting exceptions and traditions.

In Germany, for example, Father’s Day (Vatertag) falls on Ascension Day every year (39 days after Easter) and co-insides with Man’s Day. This is often celebrated by men gathering together for a hike and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. Official reports show that traffic accidents in Germany triple on Father’s Day! Which may influence your travel decisions.

Canna Flower Image

In Thailand, Father’s Day is celebrated on the 5th of December, which is the birthday of the current, reigning monarch, King Bhumipol Adulyadej. Traditionally children give their fathers' the yellow canna flower (dok Buddha ruksa), and candles are lit all over the country in honour of the King. Meanwhile, in several Catholic countries (Spain and Italy for example) Father’s Day is celebrated on March 19th to coincide with St Joseph’s Day, while in Mexico an annual Father’s Day 21k run is held on the third Sunday in June.

Father’s Day in the UK falls on the 19th June this year, which, funnily enough, was also the date on the third Sunday in June for the original 1910 celebration too!

Something Special for Dad

Ben Sherman Watch Image

So the question remains, how are you going to spoil your dad this Father’s Day? If you’re stumped for ideas, don't worry, we’ve put together a selection of great gift ideas to get you started.

Gentlemen's Hardware BBQ ImageIf your dad is a fan of perennial gift classics such as cufflinks and watches then you may want to take a look at our range of Duncan Walton cufflinks, as well as the Ben Sherman and Police watches.

We also have some ideal items for the dapper-dad in our Gentlemen’s Hardware range, which includes everything from wallets to flasks, and even a BBQ that folds into a mini suitcase which is proving popular! A little humour always makes for a great gift too, and there's certainly no shortage of fun things to choose from with our selection of Ministry of Chaps products.

Emporium If you want a good mixture of class and humour, we suggest you check out the great selection of fun-but-suave gifts by Emporium

Gliders Image

And for all those dads who still haven’t quite grown up (yes, you know who you are) we have some great novelty items, and toys that are dad-suitable too.

Finally, of course, don’t forget to get him the perfect card to say thank you for just being really rather great. So here’s to all the amazing fathers out there, what a fab bunch you all are!

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26th May 2016

A Boswells Visit to Dartington Crystal

A Boswells Visit to Dartington Crystal

Choosing a gift for a very special birthday or occasion can be difficult. What do you get for someone who has everything? Boswells has a large selection of great quality gifts, so that’s where I started my search. 

Dartington Vase Image

Obviously there would be wine, so glasses and decanters might be nice, and of course bouquets of flowers would need vases. It soon became clear, crystal clear in fact, that I should be looking at Dartington Crystal!

Torrington Image

One of my favourite days out was to the Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Factory Experience in North-West Devon, where I enjoyed learning about the history of the only remaining crystal brand still producing in the United Kingdom. During my trip I was told about how the vision, nay “Euro-vision,” of Dorothy and Leonard Elmhurst resulted in a team of talented Swedish glass makers coming to rural Devon in 1967. At that time unemployment in the area was high and rural craft based skills were in decline, so the Dartington Hall Trust opened a new glass making factory in Torrington.

(Image Credit)

Dartington Decanter ImageIn the new factory, those 16 Swedish craftsmen passed on their love of glass blowing and trained the locals to create simple, clear glass for the UK market. Over the years Dartington Crystal has grown to also include Royal Brierley Crystal, Caithness Glass and John Beswick giftware.

Nearly 50 years on and Dartington continues to use high quality natural materials to create beautiful, handmade lead crystal and glassware. The Sharon collection, designed by the late Frank Thrower in 1971, comprises such high quality crystalware that it was included in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Power of Making, 100 greatest designs exhibition.

Visiting Dartington

Dartington Glass ImageOn occasion the staff at Boswells are fortunate enough to get to visit our suppliers and see the amazing work that goes into producing some of the things that we sell. Dartington has been a real highlight for any lucky members of staff who’ve had the chance to visit.

Dartington Factory Image

After being one of the visitors to Torrington, Jane in our Cookshop observed that Dartington is a bit like Boswells, as you can tell that the staff are not only happy in their work, but they also love to tell people about it. She commented that “It feels like a small family run business; everyone is important, with important roles.” Seeing the work that the people at Dartington are doing, it soon becomes clear why this friendly atmosphere is important, since working with glass is very tricky, and it takes twelve years to become a Master Blower!

Kerry's Glass ImageOn the tour I watched these skilled men and women working together as a team, transforming molten crystal into elegant shapes. They obviously love their jobs and enjoy sharing their skills. I didn’t have a go at blowing glass, but others who did were able to take home a unique souvenir.

Dartington Glass Blower Image

Kerry, from our China & Glass Department, was another lucky Dartington visitor and did have a go at glass blowing; we're very impressed by the result! 

The above photo is the glass kerry made.

After her visit, and seeing just what goes in to making the crystalware, she commented that she “Realised why they were so expensive—when you see the work and craftsmanship that goes into each piece.”

Handmade crystal is understandably expensive, as it takes years of practice to be able to produce almost identical pieces to such high standards. Meanwhile, Nick Davey, the Master Engraver, hand engraves the crystal and creates pictures so lifelike you can almost see them move. Any pieces that don’t make the grade are recycled as cullet (waste that can be re-melted) or can be sold as seconds in the factory outlet. Given the skill that goes into making each piece It’s no wonder that masterpieces can be commissioned for thousands.

Dartington Essentials Champagne FluteFortunately the Dartington ranges you’ll find in our China & Glass and Gifts Departments won’t set you back anywhere near that much. All of our Dartington Crystal is sure to catch the eye, but not to completely empty your pockets, and we currently have some great savings on the Dartington Wine & Bar Essentials range that are definitely worth a look.


Making the Most of Your Crystal

There is a lovely, satisfying feeling to gently cleaning and polishing heavy crystal glasses and holding them up to the light to admire the sparkle. But sometimes life gets suddenly busy, and on those days wouldn’t it be great to just stick them in the dishwasher? Well thanks to Dartington's new Shine On range, you can!

Shine On Red Wine ImageThese glasses are specifically designed with heat treated rims to resist chipping and with shorter stems and curved profiles to minimise contact between other items in the dishwasher. The material is designed to be strong and durable and with a long lasting shine. The Shine On range also comes with a lifetime guarantee so you can relax knowing that they will always come up with a brilliant sparkle.

Dartington Spangle Glasses

We stock many of Dartington’s crystal and glassware ranges, both in store and online, so you should be able to find something special to suit your price range and style, from everyday glasses to the popular Glitz range (with real Swarovski elements). Now the only thing left to do is to choose one…


All glass blowing images are courtesy and copyright of Dartington Crystalour sincere thanks to them for allowing us to include them in this blog. For more information on Dartington, and their amazing day trip activities, click herehttp://www.dartington.co.uk/visit-us.

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4th May 2016

Charity News

Charity News

Boswells Charity Of The Year 2016-17

After a highly contested vote our staff have chosen Sobell House as our Charity for 2016-17. So look out for ways that Boswells' staff and customers can raise money for this great local charity. 

We will be reporting back on a visit to Sobell House but in the meantime here's a quick reminder of what Sobell House is all about. You can read more on their website.

"Founded in 1976, Sobell House was one of the earliest NHS hospices to be established, following in the footsteps of Dame Cicely Saunders, considered by many to be the founder of the modern hospice movement in UK. Since then, we have been providing specialist palliative care to patients and their families at home, in the Oxford hospitals, and in our purpose-built hospice on the Churchill Hospital site." 

Jonathan Pearson, our Managing Director said:  “I am so pleased that our store team has chosen Sobell House Hospice as our Corporate charity for the coming 12 months. I’m sure that together with our customers we can work our hardest to raise funds through in store activities and exciting colleague events to support this truly local charity at the heart of the Oxford community”.   


In other Charity News - Radio Cherwell Toys Donation

Although we normally restrict our donations to our chosen annual charity we just couldn't resist helping Radio Cherwell Oxford's awarding winning hospital radio station with their need for toys as prizes in their "Wicked Weekday Show". After a donation for one week of prizes in March we contacted our lovely suppliers and they came through with enough toys for a year's prizes. Well done them.


Radio Cherwell Toys Presentation May 3rd 2016Here are Naomi Simons the show's presenter and Nick Saunders the producer alongside Rosie and Anne from our Toys department handing over the prizes although not all of them could fit in shot!

Many thanks to the following suppliers, in no particular order; Hasbro, Interplay, Ty, The Green Board Game Company, James Galt, Orchard Toys, VTech, DKL, Gibsons, Ravensburger, Character Options, John Adams, Peterkin, Big Jigs Toys and Keel Toys.

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