Where to go for Heritage Open Days events in Kent

Mote Park, Maidstone

Mote Park, Maidstone - Credit: Archant

Heritage Open Days is back – with an emphasis this year on discovering previously overlooked green spaces | Words: Francesca Baker - Photos: courtesy of Heritage Open Days

Ditton Heritage Centre

Ditton Heritage Centre - Credit: Archant

To the great delight of fans of England’s largest festival of history and culture, Heritage Open Days will go ahead this month – with a few inevitable, innovative, differences from previous years.

This year the programme will comprise a mix of in-person and digital events. Kentish communities will be able to celebrate the stories of the places and spaces that are important to them while staying safe and adhering to current social distancing measures.

The event is entirely volunteer led, and the largest cultural grassroots festival in the country. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery means every Heritage Open Days event is free – including access to sites that usually charge for admission.

Last year, 5,700 events were organised which welcomed more than 2.4 million visitors. This autumn, some venues and outdoor spaces will open for pre-booked events and visits by small groups, while others will offer virtual tours and digital experiences.

Hawkenbury Allotments

Hawkenbury Allotments - Credit: Archant

Kent will be well represented, with many organisations and venues already planning their involvement.

In 2019 there were 241 events across Kent, with hubs of events in Dover, Thanet and Canterbury.

Like many arts venues, The Forum Arts and Music Centre in Tunbridge Wells struggled as a result of lockdown.

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The centre is celebrating its history and taking a ‘digital-first’ approach by sharing key moments in the heritage of the building built in 1939, on the ancient site of Fonthill, Tunbridge Wells Common, next to an old spring and cold bath.

Some venues are opening up for socially distanced tours. Ditton Heritage Centre invites visitors to step back in time on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 September to find out more about the centre and the history of the village.

Tunbridge Wells Forum

Tunbridge Wells Forum - Credit: Archant

Volunteers will welcome you to the Victorian classroom and the collection of local historical resources.

The theme for 2020 is Hidden Nature. Hidden Nature events will encourage people to spend time outdoors and discover green spaces they were unaware of or had previously overlooked.

Activities will open up areas of the countryside that aren’t normally accessible and reveal the stories of not just wide-open spaces, but also smaller green environments such as community gardens, urban allotments, orchards and vineyards and even city farms.

In Mote Park there will be a series of walks, including a twilight tales event, a bat walk, and daytime strolls to take in the living landscape, past and present.

On Saturdays 12 and 19 September Hawkenbury Allotment Holders’ Association is inviting people to take a walk on this normally hidden site of 300 allotments on a Tunbridge Wells hillside to see the variety of produce the growers have tended.

Kent has a rich and varied heritage and it’s brilliant to see so many organisations getting behind an event that will see us exploring our local area – safely – after many difficult months where we have been at home.

This is a chance to really celebrate what we have on our doorsteps, and get out in the open to explore the history and heritage that make Kent great.

Click here to see all events happening in Kent.

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