19 Heritage Open Days 2020 events in Devon

Torre Abbey Gardens in Torquay. Photo: Simon Hodgkiss/Torre Abbey/Torbay Council

Torre Abbey Gardens in Torquay. Photo: Simon Hodgkiss/Torre Abbey/Torbay Council - Credit: Archant

From suggestive plants to iconic feats of engineering, there’s lots to discover at these free events

The archway at Hemyock Castle in East Devon. Photo: Richard Sheppard

The archway at Hemyock Castle in East Devon. Photo: Richard Sheppard - Credit: Archant

It’s the first year that online events have taken part in the festival, and it has been opening up new opportunities to explore the places and stories which make Devon special.

And, 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.

Hemyock Castle is one of the venues going digital, offering online visitors a chance to tour the moated medieval site from the comfort of their homes. Viewers will get an up-close look at rarely seen historic features of the manor house, learn about the apple-mill and cider-press, as well as seeing the castle’s gatehouse archway, towers, moat and curtain walls. A festival exclusive live Q&A will also provide an interactive opportunity to ask questions and find out more about the building’s fascinating history.

Uffculme Local History Group has also taken things online and has timed the relaunch of their website with the first day of the festival. A gallery of newly digitised photos will be on show, with a special feature on this year’s national festival theme - Hidden Nature. Visitors will also be able to read new articles about the town’s history, and are invited to get in touch to add their own local knowledge. Self-guided walks around the village will additionally be available to download, each designed to highlight interesting features which are viewable both in-person and through digital street-view style maps.

Other events celebrating this year’s theme include Torre Abbey, which is holding a mixture of online and offline events to suit. Online, visitors can discover the naughty side of Hidden Nature, with a virtual horticulture trail. This ‘Naughty by Nature’ tour will reveal the gardens in a whole new light, from Latin names that will make you blush, to plants that look a bit saucy! And for those reserving a timed ticket for an in-person trip, a special ‘Now and Then’ trail will show visitors what the gardens and romantic ruins looked like in the past and how they inspired artists to get creative.

As ever, the festival is also offering unique chances to explore places which are not normally open to the public, with organisers of all in-person venues asked to adhere to local government guidelines and limit capacity to ensure a safe and relaxing visit. This year, one of the highlights going ‘behind-the-scenes’ is at Exeter Guildhall, which is welcoming small, pre-booked groups inside to discover its history, art and architecture dating back over 800 years!

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Heritage Open Days takes place from 11 - 20 September 11th – 20th. More details and event listings can be found at ].heritageopendays.org.uk, and visitors are recommended to re-check specific details before confirming plans nearer the time.

Annie Reilly, Head of Producing at Heritage Open Days, says: “Heritage Open Days is all about sharing amazing stories of the places, spaces, nature heritage and history around us”, says . “Feeling part of a community has never been more important, and 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, we’re excited to see new innovative and engaging events being held across Devon and the South West.”

Events in Devon 2020

Before heading out for your Heritage Open Days visit, please check entries at heritageopendays.org.uk for last-minute changes. Get booked in early for pre-booked events as numbers will be limited due to coronavirus restrictions.

Online events:

Naughty by Nature, Torre Abbey House & Gardens, Torquay, Devon. A naughty horticulture trail - hosted online so you can join in from the comfort of your sofa! From Latin names that will make you blush, to plants that look a bit saucy, the Naughty by Nature virtual Trail will reveal the gardens at Torre Abbey in a whole new light.

Uffculme Local History Group - Past Meets Present!: Uffculme Local History Group has re-launched its website to coincide with Heritage Open Days. There’s a special ‘Hidden Nature’ gallery on the Events page and people are invited to enjoy photos and articles on the rest of the revamped website.

Cygnet Theatre, Exeter: This building just above Exeter quayside has been used in many ways since its opening in 1914. Cygnet Theatre took over the building in the 1980s and has been training professional actors ever since. This short film takes a snapshot view of both the history of the building and the formation of an actor training facility that has seen alumni go on to perform at The National Theatre, The West End and in Hollywood.

Devon & Exeter Institution, Exeter: The Devon and Exeter Institution is an independent library and educational charity in the heart of Exeter. You will be able to browse the illustration collection online and find out about the former residents of the West Quarter.

Eels, Eagles and Unicorns: Hidden Nature in the Exeter Custom House: A series of short storytelling films told by Katy Cawkwell direct from the Exeter Custom House. Katy will tell myths and legends, inspired by the creatures hidden inside the Custom House – the eels in John Abbott’s ornate plaster ceiling, the unicorn in the heraldic shield in the main room and the eagles lurking within one of the stamps used to mark the bales of wool. Some of the stories have travelled a long way to be here, just like the goods that used to flow up and down the river Exe, passing through the Custom House on their journey. The films will be created especially for the Custom House for Heritage Open Days 2020.

Exeter Guildhall: Exeter Guildhall is showing 360* and “Hidden Nature” photos from within its interior on Facebook right through Heritage Open Days week.

Virtual tour of Exeter Library Stack, Cage and Special Collections: Have you ever wondered what the Exeter Library Stack looks like and what is kept there? Are you interested to see the ‘Cage’ where we special collections are kept? Libraries Unlimited is inviting people to join a virtual tour of the Exeter Library stack and cage. We will talk you through the resources and stock we have, and will also showcase some of our special collection especially for you. This virtual tour will be available to view on Facebook page throughout Heritage Open Days.

Hemyock Castle, Hemyock: Online Video Tours: See the rare surviving ruins of Hemyock’s moated medieval castle: The remaining gatehouse archway, towers and curtain-walls which surround the older manor house and interpretation Centre. Much more than can be seen from the road.

Hemyock Castle - Facebook Live Questions: Ask your questions about the rare surviving ruins of Hemyock’s moated medieval castle: The remaining gatehouse archway, towers and curtain-walls which surround the older manor house. Sunday 13 September 5pm to 6pm.

Events you can go to - pre-booking usually required:

Torre Abbey House & Gardens, The Kings Drive, Torquay, Devon, TQ2 5JE: Linked to the online event Naughty by Nature, a trail will be held in grounds looking at the history of the gardens. It will show you what parts of the gardens looked like in the past, inspiring artists to get creative in amongst the romantic ruins. Pre-booking required.

St James’s Church, Luffincott, Holsworthy Devon, EX22 6RB: This charming little church above the wooded Tamar valley is at the end of a long lane with only a farm nearby. It is mostly Medieval but the low tower was rebuilt in 1791 and there are delightful domestic Georgian sash windows on the north side. It has a barrel roof, continuous over nave and chancel, a simple fourteenth-century granite font and a fine group of slate headstones in the pretty churchyard. You can download a guidebook before you visit from the Churches Conservation Trust website. No booking needed for this one.

St Nonna’s Church, Bradstone, Tavistock, Devon, PL19 0QS: This handsome medieval church stands in a picturesque, secluded setting by a manor and gatehouse. It was built in the 12th century, with an arcaded north aisle and impressive square tower added in the 15th. Plastered inside, and lit through clear glass windows, it retains a simple elegance that is surprising given its secluded spot. You can download a guidebook before you visit from the Churches Conservation Trust. No booking needed for this one.

Devon & Exeter Institution, 7 Cathedral Close, Exeter, Devon, EX1 1EZ: The Devon and Exeter Institution is an independent library and educational charity in the heart of Exeter. There will be external tours of the building and workshops for all ages in the Institution’s garden. Workshops include how to make a terrarium, paper bouquet making and drawing classes inspired by botanical dictionaries. For times and details of how to book see the Heritage Open Days website. Pre-booking required.

Exeter Cathedral, 1 The Cloisters, Cathedral Close, Exeter, Devon, EX1 1HS: The cathedral is running a number of tours with a trained guide. They must be pre-booked on the cathedral’s website and numbers are limited. After the tours visitors will be free to wander around the historic building. The tours include: Roof Tours - visitors will go into the roof void high above the Nave, into the south tower, the Lead Room and the Ringing Chamber and then through the spaces in the north tower. Weather permitting, the tour is extended onto the North Tower to enjoy some of the best views of Exeter (and beyond); Stones and Bones: The Cathedral Precinct Tours; Cloister Tours, a stroll through the tranquil, traumatic past of Exeter Cathedral’s Cloister Garden; Secret Space Tours - a chance to see a space inside the cathedral that is normally off limits to visitors. Hear about the people who worked in this little known part of the building and discover our secret witch marks. The Dog Whipper, the Sluggard Prodder, the Bang Beggar and the Bell Toller; who were these individuals and what connection did they have to they have to our great cathedral?

Exeter Guildhall, 203 High Street, Exeter, Devon, EX4 3EB: The historic building will be offering private tours for up to no more than four people from the same household. As well as the normal artefacts and artwork in the Main Hall on display, further rooms will be open to explore. A Mace Sergeant will be on hand to explain the Guildhall’s 800 + year history. Pre-booking required. For dates and details of opening times see the Heritage Open Days website.

St Thomas Story Tours, Emmanuel Hall, Emmanuel Road, Exeter, Devon, EX4 1EJ: On the 11–13 September join Theatre Alibi, starting at Emmanuel Hall, for free live storytelling and music as you weave through St Thomas hearing about its people and its past. All ages welcome. The route is fine for wheelchairs and slower walkers. Last October Theatre Alibi held the St Thomas Exhibition at Emmanuel Hall. In May they were going to put on a show based on the wonderful stories they’d heard at the exhibition. That’s been postponed until next year. St Thomas Story Tours is a free gentle walk around St Thomas, starting from Emmanuel Hall, and stopping along the way to hear stories and listen to songs about St Thomas and its people. The tour length is 1 hour and 15 minutes. Pre-booking essential.

Efford Cemetery, Efford Road, Plymouth, Devon, PL3 6NG: Come along for a guided walk to find out about some of the Commonwealth War Graves and memorials from World War 1 and World War 2 in Plymouth’s Efford Cemetery. Pre-booking: Required

Weston Mill Cemetery, Ferndale Road, Plymouth, Devon, PL2 2EP: Come along for a guided walk to look at some of the Commonwealth War Graves and memorials in Weston Mill Cemetery covering WW1 and WW2. Pre-booking: Required

Royal Albert Bridge, Plymouth. Bridging the Tamar Visitor and Learning Centre, Tamar Bridge Office, Pemros Road, Plymouth, Devon, PL5 1LP: Pre-booking is essential for a brand new tour exploring Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge. You’ll learn about the creation and construction whilst taking in the vista and bridge from afar and walking down to the waterside. Sturdy footwear advised as there is a steep section of path on this walking tour.

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