5 Heritage Open Day events in Berkshire
PUBLISHED: 10:23 08 September 2020
See a mummified cat’s head and visit one of the county’s oldest buildings this September
Heritage Open Days is all about celebrating community and local stories, which feels more important than ever right now. Every year, around 46,000 volunteers give their time and effort to help create England’s largest cultural grassroots festival.
Last year, 5,700 events were organised that welcomed more than 2.4 million visitors. And for the first time, this autumn some venues and outdoor spaces will open for pre-booked events and visits by small groups, while others will offer virtual tours and digital experiences.
Communities will be able to celebrate the stories of the places and spaces that are important to them while staying safe and adhering to current social distancing measures.
This year’s theme is Hidden Nature, which offers an opportunity to discover the nature that exists on our doorsteps, as well as the built heritage. Areas of the countryside that aren’t normally accessible to the public will be opened up and events will reveal the hidden history of not just our natural landscapes, but also gardens, green spaces, urban parks, orchards, vineyards, farms and forests.
Annie Reilly, Head of Producing, says: “Heritage Open Days is all about sharing amazing stories of the places, spaces, nature, heritage and history around us. Feeling part of a community has never been more important, and we’ve been planning new ways to keep people connected with each other and their local area, whether it’s from home with our new digital programme or exploring Hidden Nature in the great outdoors.
“From family time digitally exploring quirky museum collections to celebrating our countryside walks, we’re excited to see new innovative and engaging events being held across Berkshire.”
During lockdown, and with our time spent outdoors being limited and with venues shut to the public, access to nature has become even more precious.
“Heritage Open Days will give us all something to look forward to,” adds Annie. “From socially distanced ‘netwalking’ and rural rambles, to nature-inspired art collections, scavenger hunts, food and craft events – we’re excited to see how the theme of ‘Hidden Nature’ is interpreted and used to create exciting online and offline events and activities.”
Here is our pick of some of the best events taking place across the county.
Virtual Tour of West Berkshire Museum, Newbury (online)
Join a virtual tour of West Berkshire Museum and find out about the site’s three distinctive buildings. Participants will discover the stories and features of the 17th century Cloth Hall, 18th century Corn Stores and modern link building with a special video created just for festival viewers.
11–20 September, available anytime
The 9 Lives of the Ure Museum’s Cat’s Head, Reading (online)
Tune in for daily videos throughout the festival exploring the mummified cat’s head in the University of Reading’s collections. Viewers will learn all about the object, from ancient Egyptian culture to the modern display, with colouring pages making it perfect for young audiences too.
11–20 September, released each day
Millennium Walk 20th Anniversary Event, Maidenhead Civic Society, Maidenhead
Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Millennium Walk and discover the Hidden Nature of the Berkshire countryside. This guided three-hour trail follows the town’s boundary stones, which were placed in 1934, with plans hoping to also include part of Battlemead Common.
20 September, 1.45pm (booking required)
St Laurence Church, Slough
Visit Slough’s oldest building. Visitors on a guided tour of this Grade I-listed church can also learn about the famous people connected to the parish, including Charles Dickens’ publisher and the astronomer, Sir William Herschel, who discovered the planet Uranus.
12, 13, 17 and 20 September, times vary
Shaw House, West Berkshire Council, Newbury
Take a self-guided tour of this 16th century house and explore many historic areas that are not normally open to the public. Visitors will see the most significant rooms, while learning about stories from the past including the visit of Elizabeth I and tales of the building’s many former owners. 12 and 13 September, 10am–3pm
Event details are subject to change. Visitors should re-check details on the website. Heritage Open Days is coordinated and promoted nationally by the National Trust with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Every single Heritage Open Days event is free, including access to many sites that usually charge for admission.