Heritage comes to life along the SWCP this September

‘Heritage Open Days’ – England’s biggest festival of heritage and culture – starts later this week, running from the 10 – 19th September 2021. Hundreds of heritage sites that aren’t usually open to the public will be opening their doors to us all, many for free. At SWCPA HQ we felt that the festival was especially poignant this year after 18 months of access being restricted to so many of the special spaces and places which make us feel good. In this blog we have picked out ten sites that we as a team would like to visit, incorporating a walk along the National Trail.

We often say that the true ‘South West Coast Path experience’ isn’t just about walking from A to B, it’s about really relishing the access which the Trail offers, taking the time to drink in, and intimately get to know, the landscapes and stories along the way. It’s the unique character of the places that we pass through which helps us feel a personal connection with the Path, and why we use the manta #EveryMileMatters about our Trail.

We’ve heard that this year’s festival’s theme is ‘Edible England’, so, as culinary exploration seems to be such a passion for our walkers and runners, so we hope you’ll especially enjoy experiencing the South West Coast Path during Heritage Open Days (HODs) Festival this month. The festival organisers (led by our partners at the National Trust) told us: “Each year, thousands of volunteers organise events and experiences which uncover the stories, sites, places and people that traditional history has overlooked or forgotten. As well as visiting historic places and spaces in person, for the second year running there will be virtual tours and online discussions taking place too. This year’s programme offers a recipe for discovery: the festival’s theme is Edible England. From woodland foraging to factory floor, forgotten recipes to regional delicacies, the HODs festival community will explore the past, present, and future of England’s culinary heritage and culture.” – yum!

Now for our ‘top ten’ SWCP Heritage Open Day sites – and a suggested walk within a 5-mile radius of that you can take in during your visit. Click the HOD site name to get full details about timings, pricing and accessibility. Click the walk name to get a free downloadable walk description from our website. In Path order (Minehead – Poole):

1. Cowbridge Sawmill, Hillview, Cowbridge, Timberscombe, Minehead, Somerset, TA24 7TD. This lovingly restored site is a great example of the community working together to help bring Exmoor’s exciting history back to life. This is a great opportunity to view the work that has been done to restore a 700-year-old mill site and re-establish a working water wheel, sawmill mill and forge. 

Our suggested SWCP walk: Bratton Ball, 2.8 miles

2. Trengwainton Garden, National Trust, The Bothy, Trengwainton, Madron, Penzance, Cornwall, TR20 8RZ. Exploring Trengwainton’s 25 acres is to walk in the footsteps of the great Plant Hunters who brought back exotic species from all over the globe. Heritage Open Day visitors will be the first to view our new interpretation that tells the story of the giant tree ferns which give their glades such a ‘Jurassic’ feel. This event is dog friendly.

Our suggested SWCP walk: Penzance via Marazion Marsh, 6.8 miles

3. Wheal Martyn Clay Works, Carthew, St Austell, Cornwall, PL26 8XG. Come and join our free festival to celebrate environmental sustainability. Our activities will be spread over our large outdoor site, giving you a chance to explore the unique heritage setting.

Our suggested SWCP walk: Black Head & Castle Gotha, 4.3 miles

4. Bridging the Tamar Visitor and Learning Centre, Tamar Bridge Office, Pemros Road, Plymouth, Devon, PL5 1LP. We’ll be running a tour focusing on the history of the Royal Albert Bridge, and the story behind Brunel’s iconic construction. We’ll start at the Bridging the Tamar Visitor Centre at the Tamar Bridge Offices and then start a walking tour down to the waterside on the Plymouth side of the Tamar Bridge. Sturdy footwear is advised as there is a steep section of path on this walking tour.

Our suggested SWCP walk: Royal William Yard & Devil’s Point,1 mile

5. Mothecombe House, Mothecombe, Plymouth, Devon, PL8 1LA. A guided tour of the main parts of the house and its collection of paintings, furniture and porcelain.

Our suggested SWCP walk: St Peter the Poor Fisherman, 2.7 miles

6. Torre Abbey House & Gardens, The Kings Drive, Torquay, Devon, TQ2 5JE. We are going to be organising a day of tasty treats on Sunday 19 September, taking place in our walled gardens. Entry will be free all day (pre-booked slots essential), with a family trail called Food from Afar to enjoy. We will also be offering a limited number of people the chance to book into our Free Wild Cocktail Workshop, with non-alcoholic versions also available.

Our suggested SWCP walk: Hope’s Nose, 3.7 miles

7. Seaton Tramway, The Underfleet, Seaton, Devon, EX12 2WD. On 11th September 2021 Seaton Tramway will be throwing open their doors for a day of activities to celebrate their unique fleet of 14 heritage trams and the natural heritage of the beautiful Axe Valley. At 11am and 2pm trams will leave Seaton and travel the short distance to the Riverside Depot where passengers will disembark for a depot tour and will have the opportunity to meet the Tramway staff as well as staff from Seaton Wetlands and the Jurassic Coast Trust. This event is dog friendly.

Our suggested SWCP walk: The Masons Trail, 6.4 miles

8. Bridport Museum, 25 South Street, Bridport, Dorset, DT6 3NR. Our collections and displays celebrate the town’s unique heritage: 180 million years of rocks and fossils, 2000 years of people and 800 years of rope and net making. At some times during the week, there will be live ropemaking demonstrations, and there is a children’s trail available at all times.

Our suggested SWCP walk: Eype & Bridport 3.8 miles

9. War Graves of Portland, Royal Naval Cemetery, Verne Common Road, Portland, Dorset, DT5

There are at least 154 War Graves at Portland Naval Cemetery with a number of other military burials due to the location and history of the site.Come along for a fascinating journey into the military history of Portland and the stories of the CWGC casualties commemorated here.

Our suggested SWCP walk: Portland Plateau, 5.4 miles

10. Lulworth Castle, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5QS. Walk in the footsteps of Royalty as you explore the 17th Century Castle. Discover the stunning landscapes, beautiful 18th Century Roman Catholic Chapel and unrivalled views from the Castle tower.

Our suggested SWCP walk: Tyneham Village and Flower’s Barrow, 3.7 miles

Have a great HOD week, and don’t forget to tag us in your photos using #EveryMileMatters or #SouthWestCoastPath on social media. If you need more SWCP heritage in your life, you can also visit most of our heritage attraction Way Makers, many of which are charities like us, all year round, including:

Donate to support our work protecting, improving and championing the Coast Path here.

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