September is a great month for discovering and learning – and not just for the children heading back to school. Why? Because it’s the time of Heritage Open Days which, for the uninitiated, is when lots of fascinating places in the UK – theatres, museums, gardens – open their doors to the public for FREE! You don’t have to be a culture vulture or travel far to appreciate this extraordinary festival. In fact, Heritage Open Days is a chance to see what’s on your doorstep in a new light. Perhaps you’ll uncover something about a place you thought you knew really well…
You can search for events happening on the Heritage Open Days website.
Hampshire has a strong military history so, for my HOD highlights, I’ve selected three venues that offer a rich source of information on this topic. All three are on the south coast and can be easily reached over one weekend.
8 & 9 September
Take a drive through the New Forest and stop at Calshot Castle, at the end of Calshot Spit, for historical military stories and stunning views across the Solent. Henry VIII built the castle as one of his coastal defences and many years later it became one of the first seaplane bases of the Royal Navy. There’s a beach nearby too, which is well worth a visit while enjoying an ice cream.
Lepe played an important role in the run up to D-Day and during the Cold War and this is the main focus of the day’s events. There will be exhibitions, talks, children’s trails and guided walks. It’s worth noting that there is a charge for the guided walk but all other activities are free.
9 & 10 September
This park is popular with dog walkers and families with young kids, but there’s so much more to it. For a start, it used to be home to a massive military hospital serving soldiers of the Empire. During HOD you can explore its history with tours and exhibitions and then take a walk to find the war graves. It will make for a moving experience.