Take 5 with the team - festival travels

So that's it for another year, and what a tasty one it's been with our Edible England theme! Our fabulous community festival has drawn to a close, HUGE thanks go out to all involved. Whilst we gather our breath to take stock before planning the next chapter, we thought we'd share some highlights with you from our travels - we'd love to hear yours too!

Zoe admits to being EXTREMELY excited when she saw her first proper HODs banner! © Zoe Abrahams

Alongside taking turns with 'helpdesk duty' it's really important to us to get out and about to see events in action. It helps us to reconnect with the festival experience as visitors and see where we might do more to help in future. 

Alex foraged in some delightful gardens and stayed 'on brand' at the Ceramic Studio / © Alex McCann

ALEX - dining, dancing, pottery making

Last weekend I experienced the very best of what Heritage Open Days has to offer, with a little bit of this and a little bit of that....

First stop was the Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre in South London to see their Aladdin’s cave of treasures. This has been on my HODs ‘bucket list’ for a number of years and it definitely didn’t disappoint. We were shown hundreds of items, ranging from the oldest coconut in London to the ration bags belonging to Captain Scott from his final expedition. Who would have thought that a maritime collection had so many objects related to food & drink?

It was then onto Cambridge to explore the glorious gardens at Madingley Hall, with a foraging foray in their walled kitchen garden. This tasty treat was followed by a quick drop into the unique Landbeach Tithe Barn to test my Medieval dancing skills… the less said about this the better! Moving quickly on... I completed my afternoon at Great Linford Manor Park Ceramic Studio and created my very own Heritage Open Days inspired clay pottery.

I finished the festival by exploring the iconic temples in the landscape gardens of Stowe. With picture-perfect views, winding paths and lakeside walks this was the perfect place to reflect on another fantastic festival. Yet again I’ve been left speechless by the extraordinary effort and enthusiasm of people across the country to share their stories and inspire thousands of visitors each September.

Zoe looks rather relaxed on guard duty at the castle! / © Zoe Abrahams

ZOE - confessions of a volunteer

On Saturday morning I was ready to set off to Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. I had a fearsome entourage in tow, aka. my family and a good friend, and we felt ready to lay siege to any castle we came across. Luckily, we met very little resistance from either the castle walls (which have plenty of gaps) or the very friendly volunteers. Instead we were treated to a fabulous tour around the site, which has a satisfactorily illustrious history of kings, queens and great feasts. Amongst these tales, we found out all about how a motte and bailey castle was organised and why the combination was quite so effective in scaring off enemies. It turns out they are just too scared to attack!

Back home we continued to explore through online HODs events and my goodness, was there so much to see! Indeed, before the weekend was out, we had totted up an astonishing count of 20 events from around the country. Who would have imagined that just a couple of years ago? In some ways, I think this is the perfect reflection of HODs, in all its magical, adaptable, tenacious glory. I’m so proud to have been a part of it.

Cathedral vs Clock Tower: Sarah discovered statements of medieval power in St Albans / © S.Holloway

SARAH - monks vs market traders!

Well what a whirlwind! Heritage Open Days is such an extraordinary kaleidoscope of opportunity and this year definitely didn't disappoint!

When the phone and emails were quiet on Helpdesk Duty, I took the chance to check out some online events. This opens a whole new world of discovery - from the poignant tales of High Royd's Victorian Asylum in West Yorkshire to the magic colours of the past revealed upon cleaning the finds from Chedworth Roman Villa. Plus, an absolute delight from Danbury, though tales of pickled knights and dirty strawberries wasn't quite what I had expected from the team Cooking at the Palace Gatehouse

Away from the screen, in bright sunshine I took a trip to the spectacular St Alban's Cathedral where I learnt the story of early Hot Cross Buns from 'Brother Rockliffe' who whispered the shocking secret of their spicy taste - Grains of Paradise! Just up the hill, I met the wonderful volunteers at the town's medieval Clock Tower... with extra Victorian additions from George Gilbert Scott no less (famous architect of St Pancras Station). This tower was a significant mark of the city's wealth, although the original medieval clock wouldn't have kept time well, and someone had to hit the bell to sound the hour, the prestige, in opposition to the power of the church (down the hill, BELOW, them) was clearly deemed worth it! 

Once again I found that whilst the places to visit might be stunning, it is the volunteers and staff who really bring them to life and make Heritage Open Days so special. Thank you one and all.

What did you discover?

A huge thank you to everyone involved in the festival this year, be it by visiting, organising or volunteering!

Please tell us how it all went – we’d love to share your stories!

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