Heritage Open Days goes ahead in Reading this September

Online and in-person events will be taking place 11-20 September 2020

Pond dippingOn Friday 11 September, the annual national heritage festival kicks off and Reading is playing its part.  This year, there will be events focusing on Reading’s natural heritage and wildlife, as well as its fascinating history and many historic buildings.

  • Ever walked round Coley Meadows at dawn?
  • Wondered about the Wire Mill building on the Kennet?
  • Seen inside Watlington House, one of Reading’s oldest buildings?
  • Visited the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology?
  • Tried your hand at willow weaving in Dingley Dell?
  • Looked around Brock Keep to see how artists use the historic building today?

Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture.  Reading event organisers have responded to the challenge of COVID restrictions with a wide range of events, many of which embrace the theme of this year’s festival, Hidden Nature on our doorstep.Mainlogo

Confirmed in-person events include tours of Caversham Court Gardens historic allotments; a guided walk around the Caversham Road area; willow weaving workshops;  walking tours looking at Reading’s influential women throughout history; an open day for Wire Mill at Southcote Lock on the Kennet; pond dipping and wildflower hunting at Lousehill Copse; a walking tour of Reading’s heritage trees; building "bug hotels" in The Artists' Garden at Brock Keep - historic former armoury and gatehouse to Brock Barracks. All in-person events are small group, socially distanced events following COVID guidelines. Please check before travelling as most will require advanced booking.

This year, in a first for Heritage Open Days, there will be a series of digital events, allowing people to enjoy the wonder of our heritage from the comfort of their own homes. Event organisers are making the most of the new digital options available with a series of events including; a virtual tour of Watlington House; a guided video introduction to Coley Meadows; a virtual walk through Lousehill Copse; a behind the scenes look at the treasures kept in Reading Library; a Zoom illustrated talk highlighting some of the outstanding memorials found in Reading; hidden nature online from the local Wildlife Trust; a Twitter conference on Reading’s industrial archaeology; a virtual exploration of the harmony/conflict between man and nature in Reading Old Cemetery at Cemetery Junction; a series of videos exploring the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology and a talk about peregrine falcons.

Nigel Horton-Baker, Executive Director, Reading UK, said: “Heritage Open Days is about connecting people so we can share in the amazing stories of the places, spaces, nature, heritage and history around us. This year, I am thrilled that we are also showcasing many of Reading’s green spaces through Hidden Nature.

“The last few months have shown us how online events can bring us together even when we have to remain apart, and we are delighted that this year’s festival will include both socially-distanced in-person events as well as a number of digital-only events streamed through Reading’s new digital arts platform readingculturelive.”

Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture. 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

All events taking part in Reading will be listed on www.whatsonreading.com, Reading’s arts, culture and heritage listings website. Digital events will go live on 11 September and many of the digital events in Reading will be streamed through www.readingculturelive.co.uk, a streaming site for art, culture and heritage events in Reading.  

Heritage Open Days locally in Reading is co-ordinated by Reading UK.

Reading listings of events - full details at whatsonreading.com

Berkshire Record Office – ONLINE anytime 11-20 September

Have you ever wondered what we do at the Berkshire Record Office? Well now's your chance to find out! Discover more about how we care for over 900 years of Berkshire history. This digital event will provide an insight into what we do and will enable you to discover how we look after the precious archives that we hold. So why not take a look and find out more. https://www.berkshirerecordoffice.org.uk/events   

Brock Keep – 11-13 Sep (IN PERSON)

BrockKeepCome and help build "bug hotels" in The Artists' Garden, and enjoy guided tours of Brock Keep, historic former armoury and gatehouse to Brock Barracks, now studios and art gallery - with a special exhibition inspired by its garden.The Artists' Garden is a peaceful space in busy West Reading: a small urban haven for people and wildlife, with trees, shrubs, flowers and artwork.  Come and help us build "bug hotels" to increase diversity and strengthen food chains.  All ages welcome.  

Fri 11 - 1100 - 1800, tours on hour, and half past /  Sat 12 - 1100 - 1800 tours on hour, and half past / Sun 13 - 1100 - 1800, tours on hour, and half past

Grave News of Reading - Centre for Heritage and Family History – ONLINE - 12,15 & 19 Sep

This is an online illustrated talk, using Zoom, highlighting some of the outstanding, interesting, historical, and sometimes funny memorials found in Reading and the surrounding area. Enjoy this talk from the comfort and safety of your own home. During our tour we will come across many types of memorial, from the magnificence of the Maiwand Lion in Forbury Gardens to traditional or not so traditional graves in burial grounds.

Sat 12 - Talk 1000-1100 & Talk 1500-1600

Tues 15 - Talk 1900-2000

Sat 19 - Talk 1400-1500

Book - Talks are online so pre-booking is needed so that we can send details for joining the Zoom meeting - 0776 110 6013 / hod@berksfhs.org.uk / https://berksfhs.org/grave-news-of-reading/  

Hidden Nature in Plain Sight: Reading’s Heritage Trees – 19 Sep (IN PERSON)

Join us on a guided walk right in the centre of older Reading, led by popular and knowledgeable tree experts, passing through St Mary's churchyard and Forbury Gardens, looking at magnificent, rare, historic and quirky specimen trees with a story.

Sat 19 Sep 14.00 & 14.30

Book - rtwn2011@gmail.com  

Hidden Nature with your local Wildlife Trust – (ONLINE anytime 11-20 Sep)

Have you ever thought what might be beyond your doorstep? Join your local Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) to see what might be hiding in your area. Throughout the festival we will be sharing content, from wildlife footage to activity ideas for you to get up close to the nature hidden on your doorstep.  Content will be available from www.bbowt.org.uk/hiddennature 

IA in Berkshire and Beyond: Our Industrial Heritage Explored in 280 characters – 15 Sep (ONLINE)

An interactive Twitter conference featuring a variety of Industrial Archaeology topics including funiculars, the gas industry and industrial buildings in danger. There will be opportunities to question the specialists on their individual topics. Hashtag #BIAG20

Tues 15 Sep - 1600-1900

Reading Old Cemetery – anytime ONLINE 11-20 Sep

Visitors will be taken on a virtual exploration of the natural and human made heritage of Reading Old Cemetery. Although in need of restoration, there is a sad beauty in the way that nature seems to be trying to claim back the Reading Old Cemetery. Reading Old Cemetery was built in the 1840s and has been a working Cemetery ever since.

Reading’s Influential Women Walkabout  - 15 Sep (IN PERSON)

Specially updated guided walk to coincide with Sept. launch of new book 'Reading's Influential Women' inspired by 'Vote 100'.

Book - terry.dixon89@virginmedia.com / https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/special-hod-updated-vote-100-part-1-walkabout-reading-influential-women-tickets-117040223459  

Reading’s Influential Women Walkabout 2 – Thurs 17 Sep (IN PERSON)

Specially updated guided walk to coincide with Sept. launch of new book 'Reading's Influential Women' inspired by 'Vote 100'. Easy walking (2 miles) around places associated with at least 18 Famous or undiscovered Women with some surprises.

Book - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/preview?eid=117051832181/  

The 9 lives of the Ure Museum’s cat’s head – anytime (ONLINE) 11-20 Sep

The Ure Museum and the Department of Classics at the University of Reading will prepare a series of short videos to explain the importance of one of the artefacts of our collection: a mummified cat's head. Colour-in pages will be available for kids! These videos will show how the Ure Museum and the Department of Classics' staff work together to analyse such a marvellous fragment of History. We will upload one video per day during the HoD (11-20 September 2020) 

The Wire Mill Open Day, nr Southcote Lock 104 – 12 /13 Sep (IN PERSON)

The Wire Mill is a derelict building on the banks of the Kennet and Avon Canal next to Southcote Lock 104. This is the opportunity to find out what is the other side of the wall and explore the island. There will be opportunity to find out more about its history, wildlife in the area and plans for its redevelopment into a cafe that will serve users of the towpath.  Tea/coffee and cake will be on offer. 

Sat 12 Sep - 11:00-16:00

Sun 13 Sep - 11:00-16:00

Woodland Wildlife Discovery – 16 Sep (IN PERSON)

Lousehill Copse is a 30 hectare woodland in suburban Tilehurst. It is a wild and relatively untamed woodland, it has adventure written all over it! We want to invite you to join us for a spot of pond dipping and wildflower hunting in this woodland. In groups of 5 we invite you to join us for a half hour of pond dipping and badge making followed by a self guided wildlife flower and tree hunt using our Lousehill Copse spotters guides.  

Wed 16 Sep - 3pm, 3:45pm, 4:30pm3pm, 3:45pm, 4:30pm

Booking essential  - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/woodland-wlidlife-discovery-tickets-116707913511

Putting Peregrines on the Berkshire Map – 17 Sep (ONLINE)

Discover more about peregrines from Ken White, local volunteer, who has spent time following the progress of the pair nesting in Newbury this summer. The talk will include: - Peregrine records in West Berkshire, and the neighbouring areas.  - The 'Eureka moment' when a pair of Peregrines - at last - arrive in Newbury at the start of the breeding season!  - How the British weather wreaks havoc for them in 2019 and there was no winter wandering with these Peregrines. - How the 2020 lockdown and Mediterranean weather has led to success.  - Historic fledging of juvenile Peregrines for Newbury 

17 Sep - 19:00 - 20:30

Book - Please register for the talk, this is how the joining link will be distributed - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/putting-peregrines-on-the-berkshire-map-tickets-116902804435

Caversham Court Allotments: Get in on the Plot! (IN PERSON) 16 & 20 Sep

Explore the secret world of the former kitchen gardens of Caversham Court, turned into allotments for the Dig for Victory campaign in 1940, now hidden behind mysterious walls and a yew hedge over 300 years old.Take a guided tour of Caversham Court Allotments, once the kitchen gardens of the former mansion.

Tours 1400 & 1530  - 16 & 20 Sep

Book - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/caversham-court-allotments-get-in-on-the-plot-tickets-117674753355

Caversham Road: An area shaped by Victorian aesthetics and innovation (IN PERSON) 11 & 18 Sep

A guided walk around a Victorian townscape that still has many traces of its rich industrial past as well as plenty of original architectural features.Come and see an area where department store and brick magnates left their mark and the bicycles for the British Army's first cycling regiment were made.  The area has had a wide range of industries over the years, from the malthouses that sold to Simonds Brewery to the iron foundries near the Thames that served the railways and other light industries such as vehicle works and Cox & Wyman printers, who operated in the area for over 200 years.

11 & 18 Sep, 11:00

Book - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/caversham-road-an-area-shaped-by-victorian-aesthetics-and-innovation-tickets-117227377241

Grade II * Watlington House. A hidden gem of a house and garden in the centre of Reading (ONLINE anytime).

Join the Mayor and Mayoress of Reading and Reading's Heritage Champion on this virtual tour of the house and the private garden. You will hear about its history and also learn about the activities of one of our tenants, the Mills Archive.Watlington House (Grade II*)  is one of Reading’s oldest buildings with parts dating back to the 1500  but mainly built in 1688 and the mid 1700s.

Hidden Nature: The MERL Lockdown Garden – (ONLINE anytime)

Our Garden Volunteer Coordinator, Helen Kemp, will blog about what it was like to return to The MERL’s hidden urban garden after leaving it to its own devices for more than four months during the COVID-19 lockdown.Helen and her team of the MERL gardening volunteers, the Wednesday Wheelbarrows, used to meet weekly to lovingly tend to the vegetable plots, raised beds, herb garden and lavender beds, often working on projects alongside members of community groups or the Friday Fledglings.  Staff checking the building during lockdown reported visits from foxes, long grass and overgrown beds, but on her return Helen discovered just how much rewilding can happen in a few months.  A

Local Library Treasures – ONLINE anytime

With the current covid situation providing so many challenges and changes, this year we are taking our usual Behind the Bookshelves tour online, making it accessible to everyone (no masks required)!Rather than a tour this year we have a short film exploring in a little more detail some of the library’s jewels from the Local Studies collection.

St Bartholomew’s Church, Lower Basildon, Berkshire (IN PERSON)

This striking flint-and-brick 700-year-old church stands in a pretty churchyard shaded by fine trees near a beautiful stretch of the Thames.  It is filled with memorials to past parishioners and, in early spring, a host of daffodils. Jethro Tull, the father of modern farming, has a memorial here (although the whereabouts of his grave is unknown) and there is a moving marble statue of two young brothers in swimming trunks who drowned in the Thames in 1886.

St Mary the Virgin Church, Aldermaston IN PERSON) – 13 Sep

The inside of the 900 year old church of St Mary the Virgin is decorated with wall paintings from 3 eras: medieval, post reformation and Victorian. The windows are all Victorian stain glass and there is a 500 year old alabaster tomb.The church is usually locked, except for services, so this is a chance to see this beautifully decorated church close up.   Built in the 12th Century it is closely related to the history of the Aldermaston Court estate, and to the Lords of the Manor of Aldermaston.  

Sun 13 sep - 1300 – 1700

The Wonders of Willow (IN PERSON) – 19 Sep

Come and visit the hidden woodland of Dingley Dell to learn about the ancient skill of willow weaving. Willow will be available so that you can try your hand at some simple weaving techniques and get creative!Dingley Dell is a well hidden little patch of woodland in lower Caversham. Known once as 'Berry Brook' or 'The Withies', this woodland was once used for growing willow for the purpose of weaving into baskets.

Sat 19 Sep - 1100-1400

Book - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-wonders-of-willow-tickets-103687175132

Virtual walk around Lousehill Copse (ONLINE or SELF GUIDED IN PERSON) anytime

Come and explore a hidden wild woodland gem in urban Reading. Use our virtual walk to guide yourself around Lousehill copse- whether you are visiting in person or just want to check it out online!Lousehill Copse is an amazing, large and old woodland in urban Reading. It is nestled in suburban Tilehurst and often over looked, but is bursting with wildlife and is a great place for an adventure.


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