Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Second New Forest Attraction Gets Top Marks From VisitEngland

Beaulieu and the National Motor Museum
A second New Forest attraction has been hailed as one of the nation’s best attractions. The Beaulieu attraction, home of Lord Montagu and the National Motor Museum, has been given top marks from VisitEngland which praised it for giving a full day's visit of educational as well as entertainment value offered in an attractive historic setting which is maintained to an exceptionally high standard.

The gold accolade was awarded to Beaulieu as a result of the most recent Visitor Attraction Quality Scheme audit in August. Its report concluded that Beaulieu is an outstanding visitor attraction with the many elements to its offering being individually interesting, fun and well presented; collectively adding up to a full and satisfying day out for visitors.

The range of content far exceeded expectation both in variety and sheer scale, from stately home to a Top Gear experience, from an enormous car and motorbike display to an exhibition on Beaulieu's secret role in the Second World War.

Commercial Director, Stephen Munn, said: “We are delighted to receive further affirmation of the quality of the Beaulieu attraction and its staff and the level of customer care shown to our visitors, maintaining the standard that saw the attraction being given the top award in the large Visitor Attraction of the Year category at the 2013 VisitEngland Awards for Excellence.

“It is a great accolade for the New Forest that two of its leading visitor attractions, Beaulieu and Paultons Park, have been awarded this premier standard, out of only ten so far awarded nationwide.”

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Holkham to invest £4.5m in new exhibition and visitor facilities

A Site Layout Plan of the proposed
Ground Floor - credit Hopkins Architects LLP
Proposed interior of events building
- credit Hopkins Architects LLP
Plans for a major transformation of the former stables and redundant pottery buildings at Holkham will create exciting new and improved facilities for visitors to the hall and park. Working with one of the UK’s leading names, Hopkins Architects, the project will create many new features.

The plans include a new café and restaurant which will double the amount of indoor seating.  The current café is no longer able to accommodate the number of visitors coming to Holkham Park, which is estimated to have risen by more than 50% over the past four years.

A larger shop will extend the opportunities to showcase the local suppliers and producers who provide most of the gifts and items for sale in the shop. The conversion of the former pottery into an indoor events facility will create a space capable of seating over 250. This will enable the estate to host weddings and conferences, which will extend the visitor season beyond the busy summer months and support local accommodation providers in low season.

The longstanding Bygones Museum which is owned by the Bygones Charity (Registered No. 801090) will close and be replaced by a new exhibition telling the story of Holkham’s unique farming heritage.

The exhibition is being designed by Drinkall Dean and will become the focal point of the estate’s ambitious education programme which now employs a full time education officer and works with over 50 schools. The aim of the new exhibition will be to show how the land is linked to food production and will explore themes of nutrition and cookery, which are increasingly relevant to young people.

Since the Bygones collection began in 1979 it has accumulated thousands of donated items varying from agricultural machines to mechanical toys and household implements. Some of the objects in the current exhibition will be reused but the estate is looking for a new home for many of the objects that have been collected over the years and is currently in the process of contacting the many people who have donated items over the years to see if they would like them returned.

Objects that cannot be re-homed will be sold and the proceeds retained by the charity to further its educational objectives which are “establishing and maintaining an exhibition centre at Holkham, Norfolk for educational purposes, with particular reference to the achievements and influence of the agricultural reformers, Coke of Norfolk and ‘Turnip’ Townshend of Raynham and to the provision of facilities for the demonstration and study of agricultural evolution with special emphasis on East Anglia.”

Dick Joice, a progressive farmer whose own collection formed the nucleus of the Bygones Museum farmed on both the Holkham and Raynham Estates and would certainly approve this far seeing Holkham enterprise for the 21st century.

David Horton-Fawkes, estates director at Holkham said: “Holkham was the crucible of the Agricultural Revolution and the four course rotation, and there can be no story which is more relevant to Norfolk and Holkham.  The whole project will create considerable building work for 15 months, but we believe the final result will provide a fantastic new visitor experience which has been designed to rival anything found in any other stately home in the country.”

The estate has worked closely with English Heritage and North Norfolk District Council to ensure all the plans for the mainly Grade II listed buildings will be in keeping and that there will be minimal impact on areas of major historical importance.

While building work is underway, the hall will be open at its normal opening times and temporary facilities will be used in 2015 for ticketing, the café and gift shop. 

Anyone who originally donated an item and may be interested in having it returned should email or telephone the Estate Office on 01328 710227 by the end of November 2014.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Get Ghostly This Halloween at Chatsworth

Halloween at Chatsworth
Choose Your Pumpkin

Spooktacular Chatsworth is full of scary surprises this half term as the haunting Halloween Hoot returns to the eerie Peak District.

With ghoulish fun lurking round every corner, the garden, farmyard and house will be transformed from October 25 to November 2 by a host of Halloween helpers. Families brave enough to enter can witness the tricks, treats and spooky stories on offer, with activities ranging from broomstick making to trips into the spooky spell weavers lair.

Dare to ride the Fright Flight that travels deep into Warlock Wood, but mind your head - you will be shooting the spooks and spotting the bats as you go! A scary scattering of spiders and snakes will also be joining the resident farmyard animals, as well as a craft marquee, for a real hands-on fright fest this Halloween.

Visitors can take a walk through Chatsworth’s Halloween trail, with the house exhibiting a selection of historical items sure to give you a shock, including a man trap, a 16th century book of spells, a death mask, an autopsy report from 1777 and more. Ceramic pumpkins will light the way and highlight items from the collection with extra spooky significance.

In the garden, seek out hidden pumpkins, venture into the abandoned tunnel and much more. Spooky stories fit for the whole family will be taking place under the canopy every 30 minutes from 11.30 am – 4.00pm and afterwards learn how to make a witch’s broomstick.  Included with admission to the house, garden and/or farmyard, check for more information on dates, times and prices.

Caravans And Charabancs – Leisure Motoring After The First World War – Saturday 15 November 2014

A 1922 Piggott caravan with an Armstrong Siddeley

Day trippers on board a charabanc on Southsea promenade
On Saturday 15th November, transport historian and member of the National Motor Museum Trust’s Advisory Council, Richard Peskett, and Curator of The Caravan Club Collection, Angela Willis, will host a special evening exploring the growth in leisure motoring after the First World War.

The evening will form part of the NMMT’s Heritage Lottery Funded project Caravans & Charabancs – Leisure Motoring after the First World War. Using a wealth of material from the NMMT and Caravan Club Collections, Caravans and Charabancs will explore how social and technological developments before and during the First World War, coupled with a post-war influx of surplus materials, led to a boom in leisure motoring in the decades after the conflict. Richard and Angela will tell the fascinating stories behind many previously unseen photographs, which chart the increasing demand in charabanc outings and caravan holidays amongst the British war-weary.

The evening, starting at 7.30pm, will be held in the Lecture Theatre of the National Motor Museum Collections’ Centre. A pay bar is available for the purchase of beers, wines, soft drinks, tea and coffee. Before, the Museum will open from 6.00pm for a private viewing at no extra charge.

Tickets are £10 (with all profits going to the National Motor Museum Trust) and are available by contacting Theresa Browning on 01590 614792, email:

Monday, 13 October 2014

‘Batsworth House’ in New Conservation Scheme at Chatsworth

A new conservation project at Chatsworth has seen it dubbed ‘Batsworth House’ as it aims to protect and restore the local habitat of hundreds of bats including endangered species.

The ‘Batsworth’ nickname came from conservation team at the Derbyshire estate of the Duke of Devonshire as they created a new home for the area’s bat colony to reduce the disturbance caused by the reopening of the historic Burntwood Quarry to provide new stone for conservation work on the grade 1 listed Chatsworth House.

Made out of excavated sand stone, the bat house features 4-metre deep cellars and a roof space, which will provide cool rooms for the bats to retreat to in hot or cold weather, along with seven bat boxes placed around the quarry perimeter. ‘Batsworth’ will aid the preservation of the local bat population which includes the Common and Soprano Pipstrille, as well as the Brown Long-Eared, Whiskered, Daubenton and Natterer bat.

Sean Doxey, Head of Special Projects at Chatsworth, said: “We do a lot of conservation work around the estate to keep the landscape and its wildlife in the best possible condition for the many thousands of visitors that come here. The bat house will provide a new home for the hundreds of bats that have made Burntwood Quarry their home in the hundred years or so since it was closed."

The reopened site will have almost 30,000 tonnes of new stone removed from a section of the existing quarry face to support heritage repairs to Chatsworth House, stable block and surrounding buildings. The quarry, which has not been used since the early 1900s, was the original source of the Ashover gritstone used to build Chatsworth in 1687.

The Peak District National Park Authority approved plans to reopen Burntwood Quarry last November after agreeing that small scale quarrying of local stone for use on the nationally important Chatsworth House was in the public interest.

Halloween Entertainment at Blenheim Palace

Families can enjoy plenty of Halloween entertainment at Blenheim Palace during October Half-Term. As the Autumn season draws in, and our thoughts turn to Halloween tricks and treats, Blenheim Palace offers the perfect family day out.
Family Halloween fun at Blenheim Palace
From 25th October – 2nd November the Blenheim Palace ghost train will taking families from the Palace through the spooky tunnel to the Pleasure Gardens to enjoy a whole host of haunts.
Families can lurk around the Labyrinth or take the ‘Which Witch is Which?’ trail to win some treats, get creepily crafty in the Pottering About studio and try their hand at pumpkin carving in the Pleasure Gardens Deli.
There will also be classic spooky storytelling in the cinema of the Stables Courtyard with ghostly tales including ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘The Canterville Ghost’ perfect for getting into the Halloween spirit.  
Families with older children can also experience a themed tour to learn all about Victorian Passions and Pursuits at Blenheim Palace. On Wednesday 29th October visitors can learn about the five Victorian Dukes, their outstanding characters and their interesting wives.

There are plenty of spooky goings-on to enjoy and experience at Blenheim Palace this half term holiday for all the family.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Join in the ghoulish fun this Halloween at Holkham

Ghoulish adventures and spooktacular happenings will set hearts racing at Holkham Hall when it hosts a spine-tingling array of Halloween events sure to terrify the bravest of souls.

Halloween fun at Holkham
Halloween Horrors will take place from October 26 to 31 with lots of scary activities, ghostly games and gory fun and frights for everyone to enjoy celebrating Halloween.

In the Bygones Museum visitors can discover the wonders inside the amazing ‘Curiovan’ and see the natural world in a magical way. Their sense of curiosity and wonder will be awakened by the specimen jars, dancing skeletons, singing mechanical birds, clockwork ladybirds and tiny skeletal fairies which are among the many exhibits to be discovered and explored. 

Ghostly fun!
A yarnsmith will enthral his listeners and bring to life his spell-binding, mystical tales and Victorian stories of ghosts, witches and devils.  Some hauntingly scary fun with silhouette bingo, a skull-duggery challenge, pumpkin carving and craft activities to make the scariest pop-up ghost will keep everyone occupied.

In the vast 18th century walled gardens Halloween visitors will be able to pit their wits against the ghosts and play phantom football, or test their knowledge and try the mind-boggling code breaker trail.  Spooky body parts and frightful factoids are all to be found in the state rooms of Holkham Hall where children can make pencil ghosts and join in the fun. In the magnificent setting of the Old Kitchen, ‘Kiddycook’ will be on hand to help younger visitors decorate their own tasty Halloween cookie with some gruesome additions.

Everyone is encouraged to come dressed up for the occasion and can have their outfits enhanced by ghoulish face painting to add some gory grazes and weeping wounds providing a touch of the macabre.  A fancy dress parade will take place each day at 12 noon.

Holkham’s Halloween events run from October 26 to 31. The hall will be open on the Sunday, Monday and Thursday. All other areas will be open every day. For further information and admission prices go to

Book a special appointment with Father Christmas at Holkham just days before he goes on his rounds delivering presents

Father Christmas and his helpers
Children will have the chance to enjoy a very special appointment just days before Christmas when Holkham Hall presents an audience with the great man himself. 

Father Christmas will be joined by his cheeky team of mischievous elves. Under the watchful eye of Mother Christmas, he will entertain the young audience with tales of wonderment and magic in the magnificently decorated and grand state room, the Saloon at Holkham Hall.  The ukulele- playing elves will have a colourful and musical repertoire to add to the entertainment.  Each child’s visit will reach an exciting finale with their very own personalised gift from Father Christmas. 

Father Christmas At Holkham
The event takes place on Saturday and Sunday, December 20 and 21 and is recommended for children aged 12 years and under who will receive a personalised present. A special Christmas pop-up shop in the hall will give visitors the opportunity to browse for last-minute presents and festive treats after the performance.

The seasonal visit by Father Christmas is a highlight of a magical month of entertainment at Holkham, from the moment the doors open in early December. In the days leading up to his visit, there will be a magnificent line-up of festive activities and events, guaranteed to give everyone the very best Christmas experience before the big day. 
Visitors will be spoilt for choice with Holkham’s exciting festive programme that sees the hall traditionally decorated for Christmas for two weekends on December 6/7 and 13/14, when the fun-loving ukulele elves will join in the merriment, along with costumed characters, music and carol singing, story-telling and art activities, face painting and carriage rides, as well as festive food and drink and an opportunity to browse the Holkham gift shop for that perfect Christmas present.

The Marble Hall is the perfect backdrop for two evening musical concerts on December 5 and 13 and a weekend of Christmas theatre with Charles Dickens’ classic novel, ‘Great Expectations’ on December 20 and 21.

The return of Holkham’s popular mid-week candlelight tours of the hall will ensure there is something for all tastes.

Full details of Holkham’s Christmas programme in December and opportunities to book tickets online can be found by visiting

Friday, 3 October 2014

Ai Weiwei break with Classic British Hotels & Blenheim Palace

Classic British Hotels have created a great offer for visitors to have bed, breakfast and Blenheim Palace
 Classic British Hotels Offer

To celebrate the exciting art exhibition of Chinese political activist Ai Weiwei at the Palace, from 1st October – 14th December – the package has been designed for guests to experience the best of Oxfordshire.

The exclusive break includes a one night stay for two and entry to Blenheim Palace with two Palace, Park and Gardens tickets.

Find out more with Classic British Hotels.