I KNOW it seems rather early to discuss the September Heritage Open Days but I recently received an email from the Heritage Open Days team at the National Trust.

And, as 2018 is a special year in the town’s history, I hope it will inspire you to keep joining in, or join in for the first time.

The message came from Sarah Holloway via the National Trust who have been busy processing all the feedback people have been sending in about national plans for 2018.

She wrote: “We should have the full results for you next month, but there are some more lovely stories to share in the meantime and the heads up on plans next year.

“For the first time in our history, Heritage Open Days will take place across two weekends next year; September 6 and 9 and 13 and 16.

Why, we hear you ask? It is because the annual HODs weekend is bulging at the seams with all your fantastic events, and holding the festival across two weekends gives more scope, space and time for both organisers and visitors.

“The 2018 theme will be Extraordinary Women.

“Some of you may already be aware of our main theme for Heritage Open Days 2018, which will be Extraordinary Women.”

It is partly in recognition of the centenary of the representation of the People Act, which gave the vote to certain women over 30.

HODs 2018 will focus not just on the iconic suffragettes, but women from all walks of life, whose achievements should be celebrated.

The National Trust is already compiling a story bank so please do tell us your stories – email them across to info@heritageopendays.org.uk

A couple of other things happening next year that could inspire your events:

  •  2018 will be the European Year of Cultural Heritage.
  •  Following the success of the Capability Brown Festival, The Gardens Trust is compiling resources to help people commemorate the bicentenary of Humphrey Repton’s death next year. 

Meanwhile, there is more evidence that Heritage Open Days reaches new audiences and acts as a gateway to the sector.

From one third of visitors hadn’t visited a heritage site in the past year, more than three quarters are now inspired to visit again.

University of Leeds’ wonderful project at Lofthouse Park proved “a complete revelation’ to its visitors”.

In Keighley, West Yorkshire, the local mayor and MP helped launch a new partnership between Ingrow Loco, East Riddlesden Hall and Cliffe Castle, with a special bus running between the sites.

Keymer Tiles in Sussex ran out of biscuits as more than 170 people turned up for a fabulous tour and the chance to make their own dinosaur tile!

A visitor to St Alban’s Signal Box & Railway Museum reported: “My five-year-old has never had so much fun. He wants to go back every day!”
So here are some dates for the diary ahead of the Heritage Open Days 2018.

  •  March – registration opens. Around Easter – organiser networking events
  •  July – event directory launches 
  •  September 6-9 and 13-16 – the festival!

Last year the heavens opened on my town centre Heritage Trail.

This year I will travel around various sites in a wheelchair accessible coach.

It won’t be free, but the size will be dictated by the numbers, including the numbers of disabled passengers.

Where, when, etc. will depend on the interest shown by individuals, groups, and organisations.