The National Trust in Gloucestershire
Great ways to enjoy the summer holidays with the family
Meet the Romans at Chedworth Roman Villa
Chedworth Roman Villa is one of the largest Romano-British villas in the country, complete with mosaics, a bath-house, hypocausts and more than a mile of surviving walls. Archaeological work goes on to bring the villa and its secrets back to life for the modern day visitor, and discoveries are still being made.
What makes a visit to Chedworth so absorbing is that visitors are never reduced to watching passively from the other side of the 'do not touch' signs - you can get a taste of what it was once like to live and work here, and even at times join in the archaeological work.
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August 16-17 is a Roman Activity Weekend, specially geared to youngsters. Turn up between 10 am and 4.30 pm on Saturday or Sunday and under the guidance of a 'Roman', you can make some Roman medicine, grind flour using stone querns or build your own mosaic. Grown-ups are welcome too.
The following Saturday, August 23, you're invited to join members of the Wyvern Dowsing Society as they explore the villa for buried walls and hidden springs. "Leylines & Labyrinths" runs from 10 am to 5 pm, and there is no charge other than normal admission.
On July 26 and 27 a group of re-enactment specialists are bringing Legio 2 Augusta, the legion believed to have been associated with the villa, back to life after the best part of two millennia. On August 30 you can watch the Gladiators of Ludus battle it out to choose the mightiest warrior. Full details on the National Trust website at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ or call 01242 890256.
Teddy bear fun for the tinies
On a gentler note, Chedworth is one of several Trust properties which are featuring teddy-bear-centred events this summer. On Saturday and Sunday August 2-3, from 10 am to 5 pm, there's a Teddy Bear's Picnic, withs free admission to each child who brings a teddy.
At Newark Park, near Wotton-under-Edge, you can not only bring a teddy and a picnic but go on a teddy-bear hunt. The hunt is on every day the house is open - Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from June 1 - November 2, 11 am-5 pm, last admission 4.30 pm. The picnics are being held for five days from August 20-24 (11 am to 5 pm).
Further information about Newark Park on 01453 842644 or 01793 817666 (Infoline) or on the Trust website as above.
Enjoy a family Cotswold picnic
The Cotswold landscape offers some of the finest views in England, many of them on National Trust land. At Haresfield Beacon and neighbouring Standish Wood, two steep limestone escarpments embrace a sweeping valley with views right across the Severn Vale to Wales and the Forest of Dean. Sit on the grassy slopes below the Beacon, find a quiet glade or perch on the limestone scree and enjoy your picnic among the orchids, rock rose and viper's bugloss; you might see a chalkhill blue, a redstart or a peregrine falcon, and there are many archaeological remains here including the site of a prehistoric hill fort (Haresfield Beacon).
Not far from Haresfield, the secluded valley of Woodchester Park is the ideal place to forget the outside world. Thread your way through the woods and find a quiet spot overlooking one of the lakes.
Follow a nature trail at Dyrham
Dyrham Park, with its rolling greenery and quiet wooded glades, is another great spot for a picnic. Bring the children on any Tuesday afternoon in the school holidays (July 22 to August 26) to take part in one of Dyrham's summer holiday nature trails. Suitable for children from around 6 years old upwards, the walks begin at 2 pm and introduce youngsters to the sights and sounds of Dyrham's wildlife, show them how to identify tracks, trails and seeds or make images by leaf rubbing - great fun for all the family. The walks are free - for �3 you can join a Children's Crafty Workshop. Call 0117 937 2501 or visit the website.
Theatre in the open air
The Illyria Theatre Company, whose name is synonymous with the best in open-air theatre, is coming to Dyrham Park on Friday August 8 with a production of Pinocchio in the West Garden. According to Illyria, this is the real Pinocchio, and it's funny, scary and very different from Disney. "Kids will love the comedy, adults will love the allegory... Collodi's macabre masterpiece will change the way you look at children's literature for ever" they say. Apparently there's a 25-foot shark, and Pinocchio's nose really does grow before your eyes.
The gates open at 5.30 for a 6.30 start and tickets are �13 (child �8, family �38).
Booking is essential on 0871 527 1885.
The Lord Chamberlain's Men, who also have well-established reputation for superb open-air theatre, will be bringing Shakespeare's delightful romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing to Dyrham on Friday August 15. Details are the same except that an adult ticket is �14.
You can catch the same production at Hidcote Manor Garden the previous day (August 14) or at Newark Park on August 23.
Over at Lodge Park, you can see a production of A Winter's Tale by the Open Air Theatre Company on Saturday August 9 at 7 pm (gates open 6.30 pm). Bring a picnic. Adults pay �12, children free - you will need to book online or call 0871 5271885.
Bringing back history with a bang
Long ago, there was a time when grandstands did not have floodlights, video screens and plastic seating. Back in the 17th century a wealthy landowner called John 'Crump' Dutton created a grandstand of the old kind at Lodge Park, in the rolling landscape of the Sherborne estate, so that he could invite his rich and powerful friends to share the spectacle of deer coursing from the balustraded roof.
Dutton was a devious politician who helped to finance the Royalist cause while ostensibly backing Cromwell. It was at Lodge Park in 1642 that preparations were made to send a regiment to the Battle of Edge Hill, the first pitched (arranged) battle of the Civil War. Over Bank Holiday weekend you can get a taste of what the scene must have been like as the household prepared for the conflict. There will be a Living History camp, with staged skirmishes and even the roar of a real cannon. Come along on Sunday or Monday (August 24/25) and join in the fun. Call 01451 844130 for details.
Secrets of the gardens
Hidcote Manor Garden is one of England's most famous gardens, visited by more than 120,000 people a year. It's the ultimate cottage garden, with a different view around very corner. Garden enthusiasts who would like to know more about Lawrence Johnston's extraordinary vision and how the Trust is recreating his original designs can find out more on Tuesday August 5 at 2 pm, when you can meet the gardening team to gain insight into Hidcote and its history. More information on 01386 438333.
The following day (August 6) on the other side of the Severn, there's an evening tour with Jerry Green, Head Gardener at Westbury Court Garden, probably the last surviving formal Dutch-style water garden in the world. The tour starts at 7 pm - please book on 01452 760461. The fee (�8 for non-members, �5 members) includes a cream tea.