Thursday, 31 August 2017

Get into the Spirit at Drusillas Park this Halloween

Put your nerves to the test and get ready to come face to face with g-g-g-ghosts and ghouls at Drusillas Park! Prepare yourself for a whole host of spine tingling surprises and eerie entertainment. The award-winning zoo in East Sussex has plenty of fun events planned to keep your little horrors half term happy between Saturday 21st and Sunday 29th October.

Venture through the creepy cobwebbed corridors of Haunted Heights into the terror-tory of sin sisters, Hocus & Pocus, as they play hide and shriek with the unsuspecting public! Step carefully as you pass this derelict castle, which towers high above the skyline of Drusillas, because deep inside lies a ghostly secret... Thrill seekers are invited to knock on the trap door and discover the spook-tacular surprise within. Will you dare to get into the spirit of things?

Or perhaps you would rather take your chances in Eden’s Eye? Missing from the tomb of Eden’s Eye, an ancient Mummy has been seen wandering through the shadowy pathways of the twisted terror maze. Enter through the old temple ruins and unravel the mystery within…but take heed you don’t come to a dead end!

However the fun doesn’t stop here, there are lots of other exciting events lurking around the corner! On Wednesday 25th October crime solving Scooby-Doo will be visiting Drusillas. The cowardly hero will be meeting all you meddling kids in the Events Arena at intervals throughout the day. Plus there are Creepy Crawly encounters in the Discovery Centre throughout the week.

With all this, plus the usual animal magic, it’s well worth jumping on your broomstick and heading to Drusillas Park.

Located just off the A27 in Alfriston, Drusillas Park is open daily from 10am.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Best value days out in Hampshire | Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Where can you go which offers more than 500 years of history in 11 attractions for just one ticket – and is a great place to visit come rain or shine? Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, of course…

During the 14 years that I lived in the great city of Portsmouth, I visited the Historic Dockyard on numerous occasions; whether with family, friends as a tourist, to attend business functions or events or on a personal note, to run past the ships (as fast as I could!), in the annual Great South Run. It is an amazing location that continues to evolve to meet the changing interests of the visitor as well as conserving the country’s naval heritage.

The Mary Rose

Visitors can now enjoy a full, uninterrupted view of the Mary Rose thanks to a £5.4m development

The Mary Rose has been described as Britain’s Pompeii and who am I to disagree? The Mary Rose is the only 16th century warship on display anywhere in the world and last year the museum reopened, enabling us to all see this magnificent vessel as it has never been seen before, with panoramic views of the 9 different galleries.

Several years ago I was fortunate to get a rare opportunity to see at close hand many of the artefacts, such as hair combs, plates, cutlery and boots – all in astonishing condition, despite having lain on the sea bed for hundreds of years. The new museum has thousands of such artefacts on display and it is well worth spending time viewing these impressive items to imagine what life on board the ship would have been like all those centuries ago.

In my book, the Mary Rose museum is worth the admission fee alone – but there are plenty of others things to see and do, whatever your age or interests. It is worth noting also that the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard does offer All Attraction Tickets at great value - £28, if you book online, which can then be used all-year round. So if you want to revisit, or go to one of the off-site attractions such as the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport across the water, you can do so without paying an additional fee.

Inside the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport. Included within the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard All Attractions Ticket

HMS Victory

My next favourite destination in the Historic Dockyard has to be HMS Victory. The ship is still officially in active service in the Royal Navy, a tribute to the important role it played in the Battle of Trafalgar as Britain’s flagship under the leadership of Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson.

HMS Victory with HMS Queen Elizabeth in the background, the largest warship ever built for the United Kingdom's Royal Navy, which arrived in Portsmouth in August 2017
As you climb up the steps of this beautiful example of Georgian naval sea power, you can see how the men lived, slept, worked and ate in often perilous conditions. Stand on deck to see where Nelson was fatally wounded and look out across the harbour to appreciate the views and history which surrounds you. HMS Victory is currently undergoing a well-deserved renovation project to support the weight of the ship, but remains open to the public.

What's new at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard?

Family fun at Boathouse 4
These are only just two of the attractions that you can see in the Historic Dockyard. There are several new and recent developments too, including Boathouse 4 which has recently been converted into the Boatbuilding Skills Training Centre, providing opportunities in the traditional craft of boatbuilding and the future relocation of the Royal Marines Museum to the site.

Whether you have children that need to be entertained or you are looking for ideas for older generations to spend a day out – the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard should be high on your list.

Boathouse 4
By Simon Frost
Hibou Communication

Find more things to do in Hampshire on the Visit South East England website.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Sumertime at Blenheim Palace

There’s still time to enjoy some amazing events at Blenheim Palace before the summer holidays come to an end.

Whether it’s open air family theatre production or transport festivals there is something for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

Whatever the weather there are a whole host of indoor and outdoor interactive activities to join in.

What's on at Blenheim Palace

If the sun is shining head outdoors to make the most of the 2,000 acre World Heritage Site with Pony Rides in the Park, 26 – 27 August or picnics overlooking the ‘Finest View in England’.

Let adventure run wild as you explore the ‘Capability’ Brown Parkland surrounding Blenheim Palace. With over 300 years of history there are plenty of myths and legends to discover as you wander around the Estate. Journey to Fair Rosamund’s Well, visit the famous Harry Potter tree and see inside the Temple of Diana, where Winston Churchill proposed to his beloved Clementine during a summer downpour.

On Sunday 27 August the Pleasure Gardens are playing host to Immersion Theatre’s Wind in the Willows. The race is on to save Toad Hall! Everyone will enjoy the interactive show with Ratty, Mole, Badger and of course, Toad!

Plus from 27 – 28 August the annual Festival of Transport roars back to Blenheim Palace. Sunday 27th August will feature the Classic Car Show and Monday 28th August will include not only the Classic Cars, but also motorcycles, Minis and VW's, Customs, Hot Rods and Americans, Kit and Sports Cars. Learn more about automobiles during your visit.

If the weather isn’t as glorious head indoors where the Palace is leading Upstairs Tours and Downstairs Tours alongside visits to the Duke’s Private Apartments, the State Rooms and exhibitions charting the life of Sir Winston Churchill, who was born at Blenheim Palace.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Welcomes the HMS Queen Elizabeth to Portsmouth

HMS Victory with HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Background, NMRN close-up

What would Vice Admiral Lord Nelson make of it? The new Queen Elizabeth class carrier is 35 times the size of his famous flagship HMS Victory and four times her length. Visitors to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard will get the very best view of Britain’s largest aircraft carrier ever built this summer now she has arrived in her home port.

Views of the 65,000 tonne, 280-metre long carrier are possible from HMS Victory’s poop deck, the viewing platform of The National Museum of the Royal Navy and from the water on a harbour tour and are sure to be top of everyone’s bucket list.

Victory, a harbour tour and the National Museum are included in the Historic Dockyard’s all attraction ticket which includes 11 attractions charting the ins and outs of Britain’s 800 years of ground-breaking naval heritage.

Director of Visitor Experience John Rawlinson says:

'The excitement is palpable about the arrival of the carriers. The best views of the carrier will be from our site and I can think of no better place to view this naval icon than from the ships that have defined our history like HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860 and the Mary Rose. The future of the Royal Navy is firmly embedded with the past – it will be a real highlight for our visitors and an absolute must-see.'

To coincide with the carrier’s arrival into Portsmouth, there is a new Aircraft Carrier exhibition in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s Storehouse Number 9.

For more than a century, the Royal Navy has led the way in operating aircraft from ships, and designing and building specialist aircraft carriers. The arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2017 and her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales in 2020 marks the latest phase in this long history.

The exhibition charts the unique history of aircraft carrier development, from the beginnings of naval aviation where reconnaissance sea planes were craned on and off converted cruisers, through to the first specialist seaplane carrier HMS Hermes in 1924, to HMS Illustrious the last of the ‘innovative jump jet carriers’ decommissioned in 2014.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Tractor Ted Brings Little Farm Live to Stonor Park

Stonor Park are delighted to announce that Tractor Ted will be back to Stonor on the 3rd of September and bringing with them their real life Little Farm.

Located adjacent to Wonder Woods Adventure play park, Tractor Ted Little Farm LIVE will give all children the opportunity for some hands on fun.

The perfect opportunity for young children to get up close to some furry and feathery friends and learn about some of their amazing features. Kids will be able to explore some amazing facts through a Fun Farm Activity Trail complete with certificates and stickers.

That is not all, Tractor Ted will be bringing along some fun farm activities, plus the return of the bouncy castle. The Digger Den, which is new to Stonor, tests dexterity and skill as kids scoop up balls with mini diggers whilst the Welly Wanging, fun for all the family, will be in full swing close by. For those future farmers, kids can head off to the Tractor Ted Driving School for some pedal tractor fun!!

There will be lots more to see including our tractor and trailer offering rides around the park.

Do keep some time to visit Wonder Woods, our new adventure play park for kids up to 15. For the younger children, the play area has a raised play house and slide surrounded by soft sand and a water pump, which diverts water through a series of channels and water wheels. Add in swings, wobble dish and see-saw there is so much fun to be had. For the slightly older children there is the zip wire and our fantastic tower with slides located at the top of the park. Surrounded by trees and grassed, there are lots of seating areas for the family. Refreshments and facilities are close by at the visitor centre.

Fringe Programme Launches at 2017 Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival

Now in its 7th Year, the Arts by the Sea Festival continues to grow and develop. This is clearly demonstrated by the introduction of the Arts by the Sea Fringe event, taking place in October, which will dovetail with the core Arts by the Sea programme. It will encompass a range of locations across the town including the Bandstand , theatres, caf├ęs , gig spaces and music venues.

The 2017 Festival theme is ‘Plastic Beach’, which invites artists and creative partners to explore the tension between ecology and industry. The Fringe includes events which have interpreted this in ways that range from the direct to the subtle. Arts by the Sea is committed to delivering as green an event as possible and awareness of marine pollution and other environmental problems are raised through many of this year’s performances, exhibitions and installations.

What are the highlights?

Fringe highlights include two film focused events, The Short Sounds Festival, brought to you by Bournemouth based White Lantern Film, a dedicated celebration of cinematic sound and music and Wimborne’s Ocean Film Festival taking place at the beautiful Tivoli Theatre. Elsewhere, SoFar Sounds will be offering secret acoustic gigs across town, One World by the Sea explores the influence of international culture and diversity on local cinema, music, dance and food, and a multi-faceted party at long standing Bournemouth venue 60 Million Postcards will be dedicated to the seminal 2010 Gorillaz album Plastic Beach.

Improviso are a period music ensemble performing 'Elizabethan rock n’ roll', artist Rosemary Edwards curates A Drop in The Sea which draws attention to the fact that plastic outlives humans, while Animystic Productions bring us Hessi the Elephant who will be roaming around central Bournemouth with her keeper Dr Sticke, reciting the wonders and magic of the elephant world. There will be further act announcements over the next few weeks.

Roxy Robinson, Creative Producer, said:

'We are delighted to have introduced a platform for independent artists, producers and promoters to showcase their work via the official Arts by the Sea Fringe Festival.

'The Fringe has allowed Arts by the Sea to expand its programme of events, develop new audiences and forge new partnerships with creatives across Bournemouth and Poole.

'From film festivals to secret pop-up gigs, as well as a whole strand of events dedicated to celebrating the international community in the town, the Fringe will present a diverse range of ticketed and free entertainment. As well as experiencing the core offering of Arts by the Sea, don't miss supporting grassroots talent in Bournemouth, brought to you by the Fringe.'

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Discover the story of your drinking water at Twyford Waterworks' Open Day

The historic clean water pumping station at Twyford Waterworks, a Scheduled Ancient Monument, will be open for visitors to discover how water was, and still is abstracted from deep beneath the Downs on Sunday 4th September. On display will be steam, diesel and electric pumps, all original to the site, along with the water softening works, industrial railway and unique water powered engines. It will also form the picturesque backdrop to the annual gathering of classic vehicles which range from the diminutive Austen Seven to the large fire engine.

Matthew Feldwick, a volunteer for the charitable trust that runs the Waterworks said:

'We look forward to showing people the wonders of engineering and welcoming visitors to this historic site; one of the hidden gems of Hampshire'

Admission is £5 for adults, £4 for concessions and children under 16 are free. Open from 11.00am to 4.00pm the site also boasts a tea room offering refreshments, free guided tours, picnic sites and a nature trail.

Gift Aid Helps Fund Vital Restoration Projects at Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace has announced it has raised in excess of £200,000 in Gift Aid so far this year.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, was officially designated as a charity in January.

Its new status has allowed Blenheim Palace to operate the Gift Aid scheme which enables charities to claim back income tax on donations made by visitors who are also UK taxpayers.

This means they can claim back 25p for every £1 donated from the government; boosting the value of the donation by a quarter.

What will it be spent on?

All the money raised is being used to help fund critical restoration and conservation work on the 18th century Oxfordshire stately home which is widely regarded as one of Sir John Vanbrugh’s greatest achievements.

'We are extremely pleased with the overwhelmingly positive response we have received from visitors following our decision to become a charity at the start of the year,” said Blenheim Palace’s Dominic Hare.

'The money raised is helping us fund a variety of essential maintenance programmes including urgent repair work on 18th century Bladon Bridge, repairs to original plaster work ceilings in the staterooms and renovating the gilded cast iron Flagstaff gates to the Palace.

'It will also enable us to improve the heating system; both to save energy as well as create a better environment for the long term preservation of the many treasures within the Palace itself,' he added.

Widely regarded as a masterpiece of 18th century Baroque architecture, ‘Britain’s Greatest Palace’ was originally built to celebrate the First Duke of Marlborough’s famous military triumphs against the French and Bavarians during the War of the Spanish Succession, which culminated in the 1704 Battle of Blenheim.

At the time the victory was hailed as the greatest British military success since Agincourt and, as a mark of a grateful nation, Queen Anne financed the building of Blenheim Palace.

Sir Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim in 1874 and spent much of his childhood there. He even proposed to his beloved wife Clementine in the Temple of Diana in 1908 during a summer downpour.

Winston’s love of Blenheim Palace remained to his dying day, he chose to be buried beside his parents in the cemetery of St Martin’s Church in Bladon – the tower of which can be seen from the Palace.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

‘The Making of a Royal Marines Commando’ exhibition finds new home in Action Stations at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

A permanent new gallery describing the training of Royal Marines Commandos has been relocated from the Royal Marines Museum in Eastney to Action Stations in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

What to expect during the exhibition 

‘The Making of a Royal Marines Commando’ takes visitors stage by stage through the 30 weeks of RM Commando training and gives them the opportunity to step into the boots of an RM Recruit. Using a broad mix of interactive exhibits, from high tech ones like an SA80 rifle simulator, to finding out how to fold your shirt ‘Globe and Laurel’ style, the exhibition requires active participation from visitors! It also includes a range of objects especially acquired for the exhibition, including equipment used by Mountain Leaders, Snipers and Aircrewmen. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the display is that most of the narrative for the exhibition is through the words of Royal Marines themselves.

Nine ‘raw’ Royal Marine recruits were recorded as they embarked upon one of the most demanding military training courses in the world at Lympstone’s Royal Marines Commando Training Centre. They tell their story – from their earliest thoughts on arrival at Lympstone, through to their reflections on earning the coveted Green Beret. This is complimented by moving and still images, and sets which include part of an Inflatable Raiding Craft and an original kit locker from the Foundation Wing at Lympstone where recruits spend their first few weeks.

Head of Exhibition and Collections, Nick Hewitt says:

 'This dynamic gallery combines interactive displays, physical activity and personal stories; it brings visitors close to the unique ethos of the Royal Marines – courage, determination, unselfishness and cheerfulness'.

Located in Action Stations, where you can also scale a climbing wall, experience the thrills of piloting a Merlin helicopter and test your skills on the on the Ninja Force assault course, the new exhibition is well integrated alongside high-octane and high-tech activities for all the family to enjoy.

Monday, 7 August 2017

The UK’s Longest and Highest Tree-top Walkway opens at Kent's Groombridge Place

For an unforgettable family adventure this summer, visit Groombridge Place near Tunbridge Wells, to discover the amazing new handcrafted Treetops Walkway which is an incredible 350m long and stands at over 20m above the forest floor.

The Tree-tops Walkway is set to open next Monday (14th August)

Discover a unique world as you explore life in the tree tops of Groombridge Place.

Experience something truly magical as you climb higher and higher along the ropes into the tree canopy of the huge Oak, Pine, Beech and Chestnut trees which make up this ancient forest.

Owner of Groombridge Place, Justin Bodle said:

 'As part of a major new expansion programme, we have installed an exhilarating new experience at our attraction like no other in the UK.

'We have also built a new ship at Crusoe’s World and added additional giant tree swings in the forest.'

For nature lovers, this is a chance to see the wildlife living in the tree canopy and observe the beautiful Fallow Deer which frequent the forest.

There are sturdy wooden platforms at the beginning and end of the Treetops Walkway and a big chunky 4-sided rope ladder provides an additional entry and exit point along the away.

The adventure will take at least 30 minutes to complete and the 360 degree views are well worth the exhilarating climb.

The experience is safe for everyone but we suggest children under 8 are accompanied by an adult at all times.

Groombridge Place is located just outside of Tunbridge Wells with its main line station with regular daily trains from Charing Cross, Waterloo East and London Bridge.

Groombridge can be accessed via public transport and via the Spa Valley Heritage Railway (see timetable for days of operation).


  • Adult £14.95 
  • Children (3-12) £12.95
  •  Senior Citizens £12.95 
  • Family (2 adults & 2 children) £49.95. 

Add £5 per person for the tree-top walkway experience. Visitors can also delve into the magical world of Wizards and Monsters with our fun themed event which takes place daily until 20 August. Meet the colourful characters of olde Groombridge and witness the magic of the Wizard and his friends during this fun filled family event.

Open Everyday • 10am - 5:30pm

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Butser Romans collect ancient artefacts from Fishbourne

Last week the Butser IX Legion set off on an exciting journey to Fishbourne Roman Palace, to collect a few artefacts kindly donated by the Fishbourne team.

The artefacts date back to an archaeological dig from 1992 around the Fishbourne area, and include boxes of ceramic building material.

Since the dig, these materials have been catalogued, recorded and studied as archaeological evidence, and now the Fishbourne team have decided to kindly donate a few of these artefacts to Butser Ancient Farm, where they can be used to teach schoolchildren about Roman Britain through the Butser education programme.

Two members of the Butser Roman IX Legion arrived to collect the artefacts from curator Rob Symmons and take them back to the farm, where the Butser team will be able to offer children the chance to hold pieces of history in their hands.

Rob and the rest of the Fishbourne team are delighted that the artefacts have found a new home and will engage new children with archaeology, bringing the past to life and forging a connection with our ancestors.

What are these artefacts collected?

The artefacts relate to the Roman occupation of the area, which was one of the earliest places that the Romans occupied Britain. The local Iron Age ‘king’ Togidubnus was apparently receptive to Roman settlers, and may have aided the Romans in establishing their presence in the area. The palace itself may well have been the home of Togidubnus, who had become Romanised and affected a Roman lifestyle.

Sometimes, pieces of tile like this still have fingerprints inside them, so that you could essentially put your finger or thumb into the print of the same person who made it. What better way to bring ourselves closer to ancient people?

What better way to bring ourselves closer to ancient people? If you’d like to learn more about Roman Britain, join the team at Butser for their Roman Summer extravaganza, running throughout August and finishing with their Glorious Games & Gladiators day on Monday 28 August. More info can be found at here.