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Discover the Hidden Nature on your doorstep with Heritage Open Days

Logo: Heritage Open Days
Albury Organic Vineyard (Heritage Open Days/Chris Lacey)
Albury Organic Vineyard (Heritage Open Days/Chris Lacey)

For more than 25 years, Heritage Open Days has been an important part of England’s cultural landscape. This year, it is the country’s landscapes and green spaces that are at the heart of the festival.

Uncovering the stories, sites, places and people that traditional history has missed or forgotten has always been at the heart of Heritage Open Days, which returns from 11-20 September.

River Keeper Mark Sankey (Winchester College)
River Keeper Mark Sankey (Winchester College)

The festival is England’s largest celebration of heritage and culture and each year, around 50,000 volunteers commit their time and effort to create events which bring communities together to celebrate the stories that connect them.

This year, with thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, people are being encouraged to open their gates as well as their doors and discover the country’s extraordinary natural heritage.

Annie Reilly, Head of Producing at Heritage Open Days, said: “This year’s theme is Hidden Nature. Over the last few months, as we have coped with various restrictions and limits on our lives, access to nature has become even more important to many of us.

Frog at Urb Farm at Wolverton (Florence Bryant)
Frog at Urb Farm at Wolverton (Florence Bryant)

“Organisers have created activities which are opening up areas of the countryside that aren’t normally accessible and reveal the stories of not just wide-open spaces, but smaller green environments such as community gardens, urban allotments, vineyards, and city farms.”

Hidden Nature highlights include:

Led by River Keeper, Mark Sankey, this tour of the water meadows on the banks of the River Itchen highlights the area’s significant biodiversity and explains how the river and floodwater are managed.

Discover Hidden Nature through historic legal cases heard at Otley Courthouse. Two special online storytelling sessions - tailored for both adults and children - will include bizarre stories about sheep, mice, pigs, chickens, horses and dogs!

Explore this haven for wildlife large and small which is frequented by foxes, toads, woodpeckers and hedgehogs who come to feed, live and find shelter.

Urb Farm at Wolverton (Florence Bryant)
Urb Farm at Wolverton (Florence Bryant)

Heritage Open Days is coordinated and promoted nationally by the National Trust with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Every single Heritage Open Days event is free, including access to many sites that usually charge for admission.

Last year, 5,700 Heritage Open Days events were organised which welcomed more than 2.4 million visitors. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic means the festival will look a little different this year. For the first time ever, HODs is encouraging digital events, such as virtual tours and online activities, as well as in-person events.

Annie Reilly said: “People can experience virtual tours and take part in online discussions as well as visiting historic places and green spaces in person. This means visitors can just as easily explore events across England, as those on their doorsteps.”

Digital highlights include:

Journey through the historical cookbooks of drinks innovators, Proudfoot & Co. Participants for this live online recipe demonstration will learn about lost ingredients that can still be found in the wild, while learning how to make a variety of creative non-alcoholic drinks.

Discover what happens to your recycling once the bins have gone. The interactive online event will show participants how state of the art technology sorts and separates the recyclables, with a chance to find out more in a myth busting Q&A.

Join a virtual tour around the galleries and through the history of England’s oldest continually inhabited town, from the iron age to car manufacturing. Visitors can even join a live streamed character illustration masterclass with a local children’s author.

Logo: Hidden Nature

Heritage Open Days continues to flourish with more events every year, reflecting the rich and diverse cultural and natural heritage of England and its communities. It is a ‘national local’ festival which is shaped by the individuals and organisations that volunteer their time. There are always new stories to tell and new places to open and the Heritage Open Days team is keen to hear from potential event organisers.

Find events near you

Search for in-person events in your area and browse online activities at www.heritageopendays.org.uk/visiting

To ensure that visitors are safe and that events can keep to the latest government guidelines, all event details are subject to change or cancellation. Visitors should re-check details on the HODs website and read the festival COVID considerations before confirming their plans.

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