Once upon a time a March Hare, a Hatter and a Dormouse were crowded together at one corner of large table laid for tea, when a young girl with long blond hair joined them, occupying a large armchair at the end of the table. So began the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party — one of many glorious fantasies from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which has entertained children for 150 years.

This weekend, Oxford’s Story Museum is celebrating the day that Lewis Carroll first told the story during a rowing trip along the Thames from Christ Church, on July 4 all those years ago. Staff at the museum have co-ordinated Alice events all over the city, many taking place at Oxford’s most popular venues and visitor attractions. Obviously, the event will include tea parties and open- air picnics, one of which takes place at the Oxford Botanic Garden on Saturday afternoon from 1pm to 4pm.

Visitors are being encouraged to bring their own picnic and enjoy a fabulous afternoon of Alice-themed entertainment in the glorious and colourful surroundings that the garden offers at this time of the year. The entertainment will include live music and story-telling and will also offer children a chance to take part in a circus skills workshop. There will also be talking flowers, and a Looking Glass Plants trail.

Organisers hope that those attending will pack a picnic basket brimming with goodies such as jam tarts, Queen of Hearts’ biscuits, treacle tarts, little bottles containing cold drinks that bear a DRINK ME label and some EAT ME cakes. As no Alice picnic would be complete without a colourful teapot, visitors are invited to add one to their baskets too, filled with their favourite drink. Tea and coffee will be on sale, as well as Alice-themed ice creams made for the occasion by G & D, who will also be selling Alice ice creams from their shop in Little Clarendon Street and St Aldates. As these ice creams, which are all made on the premises using high-quality ingredients — eggs, cane sugar and natural flavours such as Belgian chocolate and Mexican vanilla — they are a treat not to be missed.

Malmaison Brasserie will be holding a Mad Hatter’s tea party in Oxford Castle gardens and, for grown-ups, Malmaison mixologists have devised a selection of new and exciting cocktails to celebrate this special anniversary year. These will be served in the Visitors’ Room bar, the Rooftop terrace and the Castle gardens.

The Living Room, which also stands in the Castle grounds, will be staging a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party for adults from 7pm on Friday night until 2am the following day. It’s hoped that customers will be wearing Alice-themed fancy dress as they enjoy their Alice-inspired cocktails and canapés which will be served in The Study, where screenings of Alice films will act as a backdrop. Tickets are required for this event, though these are free. Call The Living Room on 01865 260210 to reserve your place.

The Ashmolean Museum is also putting on a Mad Hatter’s tea party in their roof-top restaurant, where jam tarts and ‘eat me’ cakes will be served. Booking for this event, from 3.30pm to 5.30pm is essential. Phone 01865 553823. A story-telling session from a dancing pack of cards will take place on the museum’s forecourt from 1pm to 1.40pm. A Family Drop-In event takes place in the Ashmolean’s Educational Centre from 1pm to 4pm, giving children a chance to design their own tea party set and search the museum with a special Alice’s Day Trail.

Other venues where Mad Hatters tea parties are taking place include Café Loco, Rose Place and the Vaults of University Church, where tea with all the trimmings will be served in the little garden looking out on to Radcliffe Square by waitresses dressed as white rabbits. Refreshments served at No 1 Folly Bridge will include specially blended Alice smoothies and cocktails.

Delegates attending the annual Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery will also be assembling a Mad Hatter’s tea party from foods they have prepared themselves, including little bread hedgehogs (see recipe opposite). This tea is not open to the public which is unfortunate as it promises to be a very impressive event featuring foods from as far away as Turkey and Australia.

It is hoped that visitors will add their own touch of colour to the city by laying out their own Mad Hatter’s tea party picnic along the river bank, where they can watch a flotilla of little boats, carrying Lewis Carroll and the Liddell sisters making their way to Godstow as they did 150 years ago.