This year’s Heritage Open Days festival, from September 11-20, will explore Hidden Nature with a mixture of in-person and online events
England’s largest festival of history and culture returns in September, and for the first time, the programme will include a mix of virtual tours and digital experiences as well as in-person events.
New online activities mean that communities across the East of England will be able to celebrate the stories of the places and spaces that are important to them in different and innovative ways. Meanwhile, people from across the country will be able to ‘visit’ the region and participate in events such as interactive workshops and digital tours from the comfort of their home.
Many events will be also exploring this year’s theme – Hidden Nature – offering opportunities to discover the secret natural histories and stories of not just our landscapes, but also gardens, urban green spaces, farms, waterways, buildings and culture.
“Heritage Open Days is all about sharing amazing stories of the places, spaces, nature, heritage and history around us, and feeling part of a community has never been more important”, says Annie Reilly, Head of Producing at Heritage Open Days. “We’ve been planning new ways to keep people connected with each other and their local area, whether it’s from home with our new digital programme or exploring Hidden Nature in the great outdoors”.
In-person events will include exclusive walks, talks and exhibitions and explore archives, tunnels and gardens not normally open to the public, with adherence to local government guidelines ensuring a safe and relaxing visit. Continued support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery means every Heritage Open Days event is free – including entry to museums, country houses and other attractions which usually charge for admission.
Here’s a look at just some of this year’s highlights in the region:
Wherry Maud Virtual Tour, Wherry Maud Trust, Great Yarmouth (online)
Learn how to prepare a wherry for sailing with this exclusive video! Viewers will see the whole voyage process, from loading cargo, to memorising the names for parts of the vessel and using the rig, mast and ropes, before setting sail for a virtual trip through the peaceful Broads landscape.
Fri 11th – Sun 20th, available anytime
Images of Wisbech, Wisbech High Street Project, Cambridgeshire (online)
Take a trip down memory lane with a gallery of previously unpublished images of mid-century Wisbech. The collection from the former Borough Engineers features views of shops, pubs and housing taken from the 1940s – 1960s and will be available to view throughout the festival.
Fri 11th – Sun 20th, available anytime
Bronze Age Enclosure, Essex County Council, Chelmsford (online)
See what life was like in prehistoric Chelmsford, with a virtual tour of this Bronze Age site. Narrated by local historians, visitors will explore the area, see archaeological excavations, and hear about the Stonehenge-like ritual landscape which once stood here.
Sat 12th, 10am
Nature’s Nautical Fossils – Hidden by History, Lowestoft Museum, Suffolk
Enjoy a pop-up display of fabulous fossils and explore the world of Hidden Nature from millions of
years ago! Visitors of all ages will be enchanted by the weird and wonderful creatures which have lived along the coast, as well as finding out how they can still see evidence for these today.
Sat 19th, 1pm – 3pm
The Gibberd Garden, Harlow
Explore this unique space, and explore a series of characterful rooms and vistas filled with sculptures and reclaimed architecture. Perfect for the whole family, visitors can enjoy experiencing the Hidden Nature of this beautiful site, including its lime tree avenue, river walk, wild garden and new arboretum.
Sun 13th, 2pm – 5pm
Introduction to Churchyard Bees, Norwich Historic Churches Trust, Norfolk
Discover the practice of urban beekeeping! At this special talk by the beekeepers at St Clements, visitors will hear about their experiences of maintaining the colony, as well as learning more about the role of historic churchyards as Hidden Nature refuges for wildlife.
Sat 19th, 1pm and 3pm (booking required)
Ridgmont Station, Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership, Bedfordshire
Hear the story of Bedford’s first railway. Visitors on this guided tour can see the original Victorian booking office, as well as an exhibition of ‘Saving a Local Branch Line’ posters which illustrate the community action taken to save the line from closure in the 1980s.
Fri 11th – Sun 20th (excluding Mon 14th), 10am – 4pm
Mark Burrell Open Art Exhibition, Lowestoft
Meet this award-winning artist in his studio! Exhibited across the world, visitors can admire his unique style of magic realism which combines imagination and direct observation. Other works on display will include paintings of Lowestoft and pencil drawings from a book of local poetry.
Sat 12th, Sun 13th, Sat 19th and Sun 20th, 11am – 5pm
Francis Cupiss Limited, Diss
Celebrate the 190th anniversary of this letterpress printing company. Visitors can learn original printing lingo and see demonstrations of presses being used by experts, before getting the chance to get hands-on and create their own printed souvenir.
Fri 11th – Sat 19th (excluding Sun 13th), from 10am (booking required)
Event listing are now available at www.heritageopendays.org.uk
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 our website and read the festival COVID considerations before confirming their plans nearer the time.