26 great summer days out in Hertfordshire
- Credit: John Chase
Whether it's family ideas for the school holidays or a memorable escape for two, here are 26 day out ideas to make the most of the summer in Hertfordshire
Among the 70 acres of gardens and fields surrounding Henry Moore's former home in the village of Perry Green are more than 20 of his monumental bronze sculptures. Take in the spectacle before cooling off in the studios, gallery and cafe. For more British artworks outdoors, take a guided tour of the University of Hertfordshire Sculpture Walk.
Let's go fly...
Thousands come to Therfield Health to see the skies full of colour at Royston Kite Festival. There’s professional kite displays and you can join in by bringing your own or the kids can build a kit. On terra firma there's children’s entertainment and a classic vehicle show. Bring a picnic or make the most of the food stalls. Takes place Sunday August 7.
The National Garden Scheme allows entry into beautiful gardens not normally open to the public. From tropical to cottage and walled to contemporary, there’s any array of spaces to discover. With plant sales, afternoon teas and the chance to talk to passionate gardeners, all to support health charities, it's a lovely way to spend a summer afternoon.
Summer wouldn’t be the same without strawberries and cream. Pick your own at Graveley Fruit Farm before an afternoon tea in the cafe while littluns enjoy the play area. Cammas Hall Farm near Bishop’s Stortford grows a range of PYO. There's a farm shop, nature trail, several dining options, and you can (temporarily) lose the kids in the maize maze.
The rows upon rows of purple flowers make a stunning display at Hitchin Lavender in Ickleford. Pick your own to take home or just take great photos and browse the many lavender products in the barn gift shop. Bring a picnic or try the new Field Kitchen menu. There’s also Sundown Cinema shows, or breath in the calming scent with yoga and meditation classes.
Day at the mill
The picturesque 18th century watermill on the river Lea in Hatfield has exhibitions and events over the summer. Its programme of Live @ the Mill includes folk music, a male choir and ladies barbershop chorus. For tykes, there's a Teddy Bear Fun Day on August 25. See Mill Green Mill in action and take home freshly milled flour to make your own bread.
Take a boat
Experience life at a more leisurely pace aboard a boat. Lee Valley Boat Centre in Broxbourne hires out a wide range, while at Cow Roast in Tring you can hire a narrowboat for the day, and the Waterways Experiences offers day trips down the Grand Union Canal from Nash Mills, Hemel. Get more active at Stanborough Park in Welywn where you can kayak, pedalo, paddleboard or sail.
leevalleyboats.co.uk, narrowboatdayhire/home, wexp.org.uk/boat-trips, better.org.uk
Sink into a deck chair and spend a lazy Sunday afternoon listening to music performed on the beautiful bandstand in Watford's Cassiobury Park. The summer programme of free shows includes swing, brass and gospel.There are also music, mantra and meditation sessions. The restored park has splash pools, nature areas and cafes.
Watch the new Harry Styles romantic film My Policeman and you'll spot Hitchin lido. The open air pool was built in the 1930s, and although we can't promise Harry will be there, we can guarantee a 50m pool with period buildings, room to sunbathe and tropical planting. There's a smaller pool and play area for little ones. The sister lido in Letchworth is also an Art Deco beauty.
Delve into the county's rich history at a stately home. The splendid Jacobean Hatfield House displays the famous Rainbow Portrait of Elizabeth I among its many treasures - she grew up in the Old Palace next door. Or walk through 500 years of history at Knebworth House. It's hosted Dickens, Churchill and some of rock's greatest bands. Both Hatfield and Knebworth have beautiful gardens and grounds to explore.
Walk an alpaca
In Anstey, near Buntingford, Yew Tree Alpacas offers strolls in the countryside with these charming and curious animals. The experience includes an introduction to your alpaca before a walk followed by lunch or cream tea. If you hear them hum, it means their happy.
If the family is up for a challenge, ride the rapids at Lee Valley White Water Centre. As well as rafting the 2012 Olympic course, there's hydrospeeding and the more sedate canoe, kayaking and paddle boarding. Those who don't want to get wet can watch the action at The Terrace Bar and Café.
Picnic with views
Pack a picnic and blanket and head to a beauty spot. Take in the big views at the start of the Chiltern Hills near Hitchin, where you'll also find rare wildlife and ancient sites. Undulating Therfield Heath near Royston has views as far as Cambridge. While Winnie the Pooh's favourite picnic spot, 100 Aker Wood, can be found in Aldenham Country Park.
Get on the telly
An immersive outdoor experience brings children's telly to life as kids enter the worlds of Nickelodeon TV. They can find their super powers at The Thundermans school for superheroes or step into an episode of Henry Danger, race against the clock to solve the Hunter Street Escape Room or meet PAW Patrol's Chase and Marshall. The Nickelodeon Experience runs from August 14-27 at Knebworth House.
There be dragons
It’s hard to believe that the beautiful nature reserve near Ware was a gravel pit. Now an important haven for wildlife, in summer Amwell is best known for dragons. Not the fire breathing kind but equally incredible dragonflies. There are 21 species of dragonfly and damselfly to spot - follow the Dragonfly Trail. In Hoddesdon, RSPB Rye Meads is another wetland wildlife must-visit.
Entry to Paradise
Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne has big cats, meerkats and... dinosaurs. With mammals, primates, reptiles, birds and cats the Broxbourne zoo offers a round-the-world tour of wildlife. There are talks, experiences, adventure playgrounds and the impressive animatronic World of Dinosaurs. PWP also plays an important global conservation role.
Looking like he's just popped out, the home of George Bernard Shaw is a fascinating time capsule. The great playwright lived at Shaw's Corner in Ayot St Lawrence for over 40 years. View his revolving writing hut, Rodin bust and Oscar for My Fair Lady. The rooms are homely yet reflect his many interests and famous friends. The National Trust offers tours, there are often readings, and you can take tea in the orchard.
In countryside on the edge of Letchworth, Standalone Farm is ideal for families with young children. Farmyard animals can be met and fed, there are play areas, tractor rides, a cafe, gardens and picnic area. Special interactive and educational events this summer include Dino Babies Dr Fossil Show on July 25-29, Creepy Critters from August
1-5, Birds of Prey on August 8-12 and a pottery workshop from August 22-26.
Climb the winding steps of the Clock Tower of St Albans for the best views of the city. Its 600-year-old bell first rang out during the Wars of the Roses and it is now England's last surviving medieval town belfry. Open weekends until September. Once you've worked up an appetite, lunch at one of St Albans' many restaurants or picnic in the cathedral's Vintry Garden or by the lake in Verulamium Park.
Fancy something a bit different from a country stroll? The Grove hotel in Chandler's Cross offers instructor-led Segway experiences through the trails of Asher’s Wood. No licence is required for the self-balancing, battery powered two-wheeler. There are also archery and laser clay pigeon sessions available.
Forest bathing - taking in the atmosphere of a woodland to reconnect with wildlife and unwind - can be done anywhere, but if you want a bit of guidance, the Shuttleworth estate just up the A1 from Letchworth is running mindfulness walks through its woods on August 1, 15 and September 1. Entrance to the Swiss Garden is included so you can wander this beautiful space too. And there's a priceless collection of vintage aircraft and vehicles too.
On your bike
Get on your bike and explore our lovely county. If yours is rusting in the shed then Lee Valley Canoe Cycle in Broxbourne offers rentals. Cycle along the Lea towpath and enjoy all that nature has to off along the canal. Alternatively, take a ride through Lee Valley Regional Park. Tandems, tag-alongs, child bikes and seats can be hired too.
Time for tea
A quintessential British summer activity that should take all afternoon is afternoon tea. Dine al fresco on the terrace at The Manor, Elstree overlooking the gardens and with stunning views towards the capital, or in the exotically refurbished restaurant, Omboo, at St Albans' Sopwell House, or the fabulous former home of the Wernhers, Luton Hoo near Harpenden.
themanorelstree.co.uk, sopwellhouse.co.uk, lutonhoo.co.uk
To the lakes
Rickmansworth Aquadrome covers more than 100 acres made up of three large lakes - created by gravel extraction for the original Wembley stadium - grassland and woodland. Alongside water-skiing, canoeing and sailing there are walks along the Grand Union Canal and river Colne. The beauty spot is a Local Nature Reserve too.
Discover those magnificent men in their flying machines - well just the machines, although the volunteer are great - at de Havilland Aircraft Museum. The London Colney site displays historic aircraft from Hatfield's former de Havilland factory including fighters, jet airliners and training craft. A celebration of Herts' major contribution to aviation history.
Ashridge Estate walk
With 80 miles of designated paths through woodland, meadow and downland, the National Trust's Ashridge Estate near Berkhamsted offers walkers and cyclists the chance to really get away from it all. There are waymarked trails too - the ancient tree walk and woodland walk both start and end at the Bridgewater Monument with views for miles. There are children's activities every day until August 31.