Every year we eagerly await the time when many of the area’s best kept secrets open their doors to the public - it’s only a few weeks away now!
Heritage Open Days (HODs), this year taking place across Norwich and Norfolk from 8 - 11 September, is the perfect opportunity to visit somewhere you’ve never been before, or somewhere you have been but which has parts of the building closed to Joe Public. But it’s not just about undiscovered buildings; it’s also about learning - with workshops, music, tours and more - a huge programme of drop events in fact (and some pre-book) ... and all completely FREE as part of this fantastic event.
There are over 200 things going on registered all over Norfolk taking place over the 4 days, from the old favourites to exciting new additions, so to avoid information-overload we’ve compiled a list of our most anticipated!
Who doesn’t love a good tour? It doesn’t matter whether you’ve visited Norwich a thousand times before, are a Norwich resident or are enjoying your very first trip to the city; you’re bound to be entranced by the city’s history waiting to be discovered around every corner.
There’s a wonderful array of walks and tours to enjoy, but some highlights that we think should not be missed (these are pre-book events, so get organised and book your places soon – it’s free, after all!) include the Architects and Architecture Walking Tour (Sat, 3pm), Van Dal Shoes Factory Tour (Thurs & Fri, 10.30am & 1.30pm), Historic King Street Walk 1 (Thurs, 11am) and Walk 2 (Thurs, 1.30pm), King Street in Khaki tour and WW1 talk (Fri, 11am) and the chance to tour Dragon Hall (Thurs & Sat, 11am), which is now the home of Writers’ Centre Norwich and usually closed to the public.
If you fancy popping into some areas of huge local history without having to book in advance, then there’s no shortage of ‘drop in’ events to enjoy. New for 2016 include; Cinema City’s Norfolk at the Pictures exhibition (10 Sept, 11-4pm), Footprints of the Past, Present and Future at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library (Thurs, Fri & Sat 10am – 7pm & Sun 10am – 4.30pm) and the Guided Tour of Kett’s Heights (Thurs 11.30am, Fri 2.30pm, Sat 11.30am & 2.30pm, Sun 2.30pm), often thought of one of Norwich’s best-kept secrets. Intrigued? You’ll have to attend to find out more! Head over to the Theatre Royal for their Stage Two exhibition (Fri & Sat 10.30am – 3pm) and visit The Great Hospital for music through the ages in St Helen’s Church (Sun 3pm).
Of course, there are also a huge array of buildings and businesses open throughout the festival to drop into. Some of these are usually open to the public but, during HODs, provide a great opportunity to visit for free – drop in to Strangers’ Hall, The Plantation Garden, The Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell and Norwich Castle.
HODs are also great for exploring a location that you can’t usually just stroll into, so make sure you have time to visit St Martin’s Hall Church and St Saviour’s Church, and take in the city’s beautiful ‘secret’ gardens: the Bear Shop Garden and the Bishop’s House Garden, which aren’t usually accessible to the public throughout the year.
As you move out towards the Norfolk countryside, there are various new-for-2016 events which combine walking with history, including the Aylsham History Walk (Sun 2.30pm), a guided tour of Blofield Courthouse (Sat 10am – 4pm), the Former Atomic Weapons Bunker Tour (Sat 10.30am & 2.30pm) and the chance to have a walk around Dragon Hall, even if you can’t make their Thursday tours.
Image: The Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell
…the brand new (and very exciting) Wymondham Vintage Day (Sun, 10am – 4pm) – there’ll be lots of retro fun as the town centre steps back in time with classic cars, vintage bus rides, tea and cake, clothing and antique stalls to browse through, plus vintage hair styling for visitors!
There’s plenty going on all over the county to keep you busy. The hardest part is deciding which events to go to - if only there was more time in the day! Whilst you’re walking around the city, why not complete the Medieval Churches of the Cathedral Quarter trail - many of these churches will be open to the public over the Heritage Open Days weekend, so this is your chance to explore them properly!
Abellio Greater Anglia have Advance fares from £9 one way between London Liverpool Street and Norwich. Trains run every 30 minutes. Abellio also serves Colchester, Ipswich and Diss on the Norwich line. Direct trains also run from Cambridge.
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