Lots of free Heritage Open Days on and online in Norfolk

St Michael and All Angels ruin, Bowthorpe

St Michael and All Angels ruin, Bowthorpe - Credit: supplied

Event producer Katie Ellis tells us about the fantastic free festival in Norfolk and recommends some favourite events

Katie Ellis

Katie Ellis - Credit: supplied

What will be different this year?

For the first time, the Heritage Open Days (HODs) festival will comprise a mix of in-person and digital events. Communities will be able to celebrate the stories of the places and spaces that are important to them and welcome visitors while staying safe and adhering to current social distancing measures.

What is the theme for 2020?

Families enjoying the weather in Waterloo Park, Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Families enjoying the weather in Waterloo Park, Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant

Hidden Nature. This year has seen many people reconnecting with the natural world. Nature can be found in the great outdoors but also in our urban spaces and buildings, so this is a great theme for the diverse city, coastal and landscapes in Norfolk.

Where are some of the new places we’ll be able to see?

Visitors can take a guided tour exploring the war time defences and ice age glaciers of Barnham Cross Common, near Thetford. You can also take a self-guided heritage walk and see an exhibition and short film at Heigham Park, Norwich, which is coming up to its centenary.

Museum of the Broads, Stalham.

Museum of the Broads, Stalham. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

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What are usually some of the most popular HODs events or venues and will they be happening this year?

Places such as the Bishop’s House Gardens and Kett’s Heights are always extremely popular outdoor sites with lots of hidden nature to discover this year too. Understandably many of the city undercroft tours are unable to take part this festival but we’re hopeful to return to them in 2021.

Do you have any favourite events or places?

I love Waterloo Park in Norwich. I stumbled upon it when I first moved to Norfolk 14 years ago and I couldn’t believe this absolute gem was in the heart of the city. Norwich is such a green city and I really like how it has looked after its open spaces as well as the heritage sites.

What does your job involve?

I work for The Forum Trust, which coordinates the promotion and delivery of HODs in Norfolk. I’ve been doing it for just over a year and before I arrived Norfolk was already the largest participating county across the whole of England, so no pressure!

How many places and events will there be this year?

It’s naturally a smaller festival this year but there are still over 100 Norfolk events to enjoy safely in person or from the comfort of your sofa!

Norfolk’s Heritage Open Days run from September 11-20 although West Norfolk’s event has been cancelled this year. Visits are free and full listings, tickets for pre-book events, and up-to-date information on any changes in line with government guidance are at theforumnorwich.co.uk/heritageopendays

Katie’s suggestions for HODs days out across the county include:

*St Simon and St Jude Church, Elm Hill, Norwich. Explore the garden and chancel of this deconsecrated church as well as an array of heritage plants and a newly planted medicine garden, now home to theatre company, Curious Directive, and a host of creative freelancers. Friday September 11, 10am-4pm, tours at 11am and 3pm. September 14, 16, and 18, 2-5pm, tours at 3pm and 4.30pm.

*Jarrold 250, online. Join Caroline Jarrold and the author Peter Goodrum as they discuss the anniversary book, Jarrold 250 Years: A History. A fascinating glimpse into the story behind this iconic Norwich company. Thursday September 17, 6.30pm.

*Former atomic weapons bunker, Thetford. Tour a scheduled monument to the Cold War, where the atom bombs Blue Danube and Red Beard were maintained. Includes a voluntary climb up a 25ft watchtower. Booking required. Daily except Saturday September 19, tours at 10.30am and 2.30pm.

*St Michael and All Angels ruin, Bowthorpe, near Norwich. Discover this Saxo-Norman ruin and follow the short archaeological trail. You’ll find hidden nature close by, including native Norfolk fruit trees and local footpaths named after a wide range of Norfolk wildlife. Saturday September 19 10am-4pm.

*Norfolk Wherry Maud, moored at Thurne Dyke, near Great Yarmouth and online. View and learn about the last surviving clinker-built trader. Maud’s story began in 1899 when she was built as a cargo-carrying wherry on the banks of the river Yare at Reedham. By 1981 she was a disused, sunken hulk. She was then raised and restored by the Wherry Maud Trust and still sails today. Virtual tour also available online! Sunday September 13, 11am to 4pm.

*The Archive Centre, online. Explore original documents showing gardens and landscapes in Norfolk over previous centuries, listen to recordings from the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage audio archives and learn paper craft techniques to create a decorative mixed media sunken garden. Booking required. Friday September 11, 10-11am.

*Museum of the Broads, Stalham. Make a day of it and discover the history and heritage of the Broads at this waterside museum with plenty to see and do for all the family. Dogs are welcome and the site has disabled access. Sundays September 13 and 20, 10am-4pm.

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