Hidden Nature (2020)

In 2020, we put on wellies, grabbed our coats and stepped into the outdoors for our theme - Hidden Nature. In what was an extraordinary year for many reasons, we turned our focus onto the natural world – and asked you to join with us in celebrating our natural heritage, from centuries-old trees to farmer’s fields steeped in history, from clifftop walks to urban oases and everything in between.

Why Hidden Nature?

Uncovering stories, sites, places and people that traditional history has overlooked or forgotten has always been at the very heart of Heritage Open Days. Our natural world, and the impact we have upon it, is as much a part of this as the rise of cities, famous battles and technological developments. In the face of climate change, modern development and other threats, now more than ever does nature need to be cherished and championed. That's why we wanted to encourage HODs organisers, volunteers and visitors to celebrate nature, in its myriad forms, as part of the wider HODs festival - an aspect that we hope will continue in future years.

Uncovering Hidden Nature

We wanted Hidden Nature to encompass the broadest possible spectrum of events, opening up areas of the countryside that weren't normally accessible to the public and revealing the hidden history of not just our natural landscapes, but also gardens, green spaces, urban parks, orchards, vineyards, farms and forests. Nature isn't just found in the great outdoors and our theme also gave the opportunity to explore the Hidden Nature within our urban spaces and buildings - from the animals that live within our walls and under our feet to the origins of the timbers in our roofs, the possibilities to connect with our natural world were (and remain) endless.

A resource pack was created and workshop sessions run to inspire ideas including the sub strands:

  • Rangers Reveal - This was an opportunity for those who work on, and in, our natural landscapes to share their knowledge of stories, wildlife and places that are not always accessible to the public, rarely visited or simply overlooked. Some of our Rangers Reveal walks were self-guided and are still available to download.
  • Twilight Tales – These events were held at twilight, the hour when much of the natural world shifts from sleeping to waking, providing visitors with fascinating opportunities to discover rarely seen wildlife and experience familiar places in a different light.

Hidden Nature revealed

Whilst some plans had to be pruned due to the pandemic, others blossomed. In a year where people where people were confined to their immediate locality, appreciation of green spaces and nature rose. The main theme page proved popular and 328 Hidden Nature events were hosted for the final festival, a record 18% of the programme. Whilst Hidden Nature’s season in the main spotlight has ended we continue to welcome its stories as part of the festival, and are already working with The Gardens Trust to explore ‘Unforgettable Gardens’ next year.