24 things to do in the West Country this weekend

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This week there’s a chill in the air and autumn is most certainly here. We’re getting excited about the promise of glorious colours at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum in a few weeks – the leaves are starting to change and in mid to late October their famous Japanese maples will be ablaze in reds, oranges and yellows. In the meantime, orchards all across the West Country are currently heaving with apples – this is a great time to learn how to press apples, make your own cider or simply try some local scrumpy! Look out for some apple-themed events from our selection of the best days out in Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds, Cornwall, Devon and Somerset this weekend:


Harvest and Apple Day at the Ancient Technology Centre

A fabulous foodie event to celebrate Harvest and Apple Day. The Roman fruit press will be at the heart of the weekend so bring your own apples, pears and bottles to press your own delicious, fresh juice. Fantastic local producers will be sharing their secrets and selling their wares, including award-winning cider maker Bill Meaden of Cranborne Chase Cider, Alison French of Chalke Valley Cheese and Chris Wakley of Orchard Bay Bakery. There will be an amazing Asado BBQ and delicious preserves from Dorset Charcuterie, who will also be demonstrating some useful tips on preserving meat and vegetables. Learn about natural beekeeping from Jim Binning (advisor to Monty Don, among others) and join in some bee-related activities too!

Date: Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 October 2016
Time: 10am to 4pm
Address: The Ancient Technology Centre, Damerham Road, Cranborne, Dorset BH21 5RP
Price: Adult £10, child (4 to 16 years) £5, free for under 4 and YAC members
Website: http://www.ancienttechnologycentre.co.uk/ancient-weekends.html

Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders, Lyme Regis

The Woodlanders Lyme Regis Dorset

Hammerpuzzle Theatre Company present their distilled adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s romantic, rural novel, The Woodlanders. A tale that both intertwines and unravels misplaced affection, fathers and daughters, a woodland community and above all, love. We follow the inhabitants of Little Hintock as relationships flourish, families transform and all comes full circle with the changing of the seasons. The Woodlanders weaves Hammerpuzzle’s unique style of accessible storytelling, with live music, song and an originally composed piano underscore. The Woodlanders is a co-production with the Everyman Theatre Cheltenham.

Date: Sunday 9 October 2016
Time: 4pm
Address: Marine Theatre, Church Street, Lyme Regis, Dorset DT7 3QA
Price: £12, concessions £10, book online or call the box office on 01297 442138
Website: http://www.marinetheatre.com/thomas-hardys-the-woodlanders-sunday-9th-october/

Guided Walkies at Upton Country Park

dog running

Explore the new extension to Upton Country Park with your dog, with joint leaders from Dorset Dogs and The Great Heath. For more information, contact Bev Lagden on 01202 692033 or blagden@dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk

Date: Sunday 9 October 2016
Time: 10am to 1pm
Address: Meet at the far end of the main car park (parking charges apply). Poole Rd, Poole, BH17 7BJ
Website: http://www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/Guided_Walkies_at_Upton_Country_Park.html


Lady Anna: All At Sea, Salisbury Playhouse

Lady Anna All At Sea Salisbury Playhouse Wiltshire

It’s 1871. Anthony Trollope is Australia-bound aboard the steamship Great Britain and passes the time by writing his latest tale, Lady Anna. The story, full of intrigue, rebellion and social politics, proves divisive among his fellow passengers – and it’s not long before fact and fiction overlap in a dramatic and witty fashion. An abundantly British business involving a disputed title, fraud, bigamy, a legal case, madness and attempted murder finds both Lady Anna and Trollope facing some very difficult questions indeed – but will they follow their hearts and risk being disgraced?

★★★★ Daily Express

Date: til Saturday 8 October 2016
Time: Friday 7.30pm, Saturday 2.15pm and 7.30pm
Address: Salisbury Playhouse, Malthouse Lane, Salisbury SP2 7RA
Price: £10 to £25, concessions available
Website: http://www.salisburyplayhouse.com/whats-on/main-house/lady-anna-all-at-sea/

Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds

Apple Day at Cogges Manor Farm

Apple Day at Cogges Manor Farm

This Sunday, head down to the ever popular Apple Day at Cogges for delicious apple treats from the orchard and walled garden. Taste different varieties, or bring your own to find out what they are. Have a go at apple pressing, helping to make fresh apple juice to take home. The Windrush Bowmen will be demonstrating their archery skills and sparring using replica weapons, as well as showing visitors traditional weaving techniques. Hops & Vines popping in will be there 1pm to 2pm to talk about home brewing and cider making. If that isn’t enough, there will be bushcraft in the woods 10am to 4pm and toffee apples in the kitchen, plus live music and cider bar!

Date: Sunday 9 October 2016
Time: 11am to 4pm
Address: Church Lane, Witney, Oxfordshire, OX28 3LA
Price: Usual admission prices / free to season ticket holders
Website: http://www.cogges.org.uk/event/apple-day

The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

Over 600 of the finest writers, actors, politicians, poets & leading opinion-formers will be celebrating the joy of the written word at the Cheltenham Literature Festival til next Sunday. With big names including Nick Clegg, Jilly Cooper, Claire Balding, Monty Don, Alan Titchmarsh, Ian McEwan, Sebastian Faulks and more, you are bound to find the perfect literary event to suit your taste. There are lots of family events to inspire authors and readers of all ages too.

Date: Friday 7 to Sunday 16 October 2016
Time: Various, check programme for details
Address: Cheltenham
Price: Various, some free, check the website for details
Website: http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature/

Lego Bricks workshops and animals, Slimbridge

Lego at Slimbridge Gloucestershire

Perfect for LEGO® fans – young and old – these one hour workshops are led by a course leader who has been trained by LEGO design company Bright Bricks. You’ll be doing three activities: building against the clock, building a model frog to take home and building a LEGO brick car to safely transport your animals in, which you can test out on the ramp. The classes are small so you’ll get lots of one to one support. Afterwards, you can go on the giant LEGO® brick-animal trail around Slimbridge – see if you can spot all eleven sculptures sitting among some of their real-life cousins.

Date: until Sunday 6 November 2016
Time: Workshop 1: 11am to 12pm, Workshop 2: 1pm to 2pm, Workshop 3: 2.30pm to 3.30pm
Address: WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Slimbridge, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, GL2 7BT
Price: Members £8.95, non-members £8.95 + normal admission. Book your workshop here >
Website: http://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/slimbridge/whats-on/2016/09/17/lego-brick-workshops/


Heligan Harvest: a taste of our heritage

Heligan Cornwall Harvest

Harvest is one of the best times of year to see the Finest Productive Garden in Britain, and this year, Heligan are serving up spadefuls of horticultural, farming and culinary inspiration. You can try some of the more unusual Heritage varieties of fruit and vegetables fresh from the garden. During the week join a gardener on a tour of the productive garden or a member of the Estate Team on the farm tour. At the weekends you can feed the animals and see live garden demonstrations. Check the programme for details of Wild Food Foraging, Harvest Feast Nights and live cookery demonstrations.

Date: Saturday 1 to Sunday 16 October 2016
Time: Gardens and estate 10am to 5pm (last tickets 3.30pm)
Address: The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pentewan, St.Austell, Cornwall, PL26 6EN
Price: Adult £13.50, senior (65+) £11.50, student £8, children (5 – 17) £6, children (under 5) Free
Family (2 adults & up to 3 children) £35
Website: http://heligan.com/events/heligan-events/heligan-harvesta-taste-of-our-heritage-1st-16th-october/

Oktoberfest Truro

Oktoberfest Truro Cornwall

Truro’s Oktoberfest is bigger than ever, celebrating Bavarian culture with beers, food, music and everything else that will have you dancing in your lederhosen on top of a wooden table! The weekend will be kicked off by the fairest maiden in the land, Betty Stoggs, cracking open a wooden barrel signifying the start of a wonderful two days! The branded Oktoberfest Truro two pint steins will be available to buy and there will also be plenty of lederhosen and German food on site. With official sponsors Skinners Brewery & Schwaben Brau Brewery in Stuttgart, the best of Cornwall and the best of Germany will create one unforgettable weekend.

Date: Friday 7 and Saturday 8 October 2016
Time: From 7pm
Address: Lemon Quay, Truro
Price: Friday night £12 + £1.20 booking fee, book here > Saturday night SOLD OUT
Website: http://www.oktoberfest-cornwall.co.uk/

Mid Century and Vintage Fair

Celebrate iconic design at Cornwall’s second annual Mid Century and Vintage Fair at Bedruthan Hotel and Spa. Peruse over 50 stalls of mid century modern furniture, vintage clothing and retro home wares, as well as lots of fun and quirky collectables. In the Mid Century Rooms you’ll find collectable furniture, glassware, ceramics and curios; and in the Vintage Hall vintage and handmade homewares and gifts presented by The Duchy’s Vintage Party. There will be a pop up spa, vintage clothing, styling and accessories, as well as a range of workshops: from vintage headpiece making and tintype photography, to screen printing retro-inspired posters and fabrics and many more.

Date: Saturday 8 to Sunday 9 October 2016
Time: Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 10am-4pm
Address: Bedruthan Steps Hotel & Spa, Trenance, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall TR8 4BU
Price: Tickets are free but limited. Please download them in advance from the website 
Website: https://www.bedruthan.com/midcentury-and-vintage-fair/


Sharpham Apple Day and Autumn Festival


Sharpham Apple Day has a host of apple-themed activities for all the family, including taster sessions, arts and crafts and games. Try our fresh juice grown at Sharpham’s organic orchards – straight from the press – or bring your own apples to juice. Wander through the formal and woodland gardens of historic Sharpham House, set in a Capability Brown parkland landscape. There will be apple themed games and activities on the Croquet Lawn, a golden apple hunt in the orchard, apple wood carving, campfire cooking and nature crafts, as well as all manner of apple-themed workshops, tours and talks.

Date: Sunday 9 October 2016
Time: 10.30am to 4pm
Address: The Sharpham Trust, Sharpham House, Ashprington, Totnes, Devon TQ9 7UT
Price: Free entry, £4 per car for parking
Website: http://www.sharphamtrust.org/calendar/course/sharpham-apple-day

Arlington Deer Walks

Join a National Trust Ranger for a morning stroll at Arlington Court. See if you can spot the red deer who live on the estate, or just enjoy the colours of Autumn. The deer walk will be approximately 4 miles so bring sturdy walking boots or wellingtons and waterproof clothing. Binoculars and cameras are optional!

Date: Sunday 9 October 2016
Time: 8.30am to 10.30am
Address: Arlington Court, Barnstaple, Devon EX31 4LP
Price: Adults £4.50, children £3. Booking essential on 01271 850296.
Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/arlington-court-and-the-national-trust-carriage-museum

Wind in the Willows

Wind in the Willows Plymouth Devon

Kenneth Grahame’s wild tale about the thrill-seeking, lovable menace Mr Toad comes to life in a brand new stage musical with a book by Oscar-winning screenwriter and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and Olivier Award-winning composer and lyricist team George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Ratty, Badger and Mole join the exuberant Toad and embark on a series of adventures and misadventures caused by his insatiable need for speed! Imprisoned for theft and with his existence under threat from the inhabitants of the Wild Wood, Toad must attempt a daring escape to defend Toad Hall.

Date: Saturday 8 to Saturday 22 October 2016
Time: Check website for details
Address: The Lyric, Theatre Royal, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon PL1 2TR
Price: Check website for details
Website: http://www.theatreroyal.com/whats-on/2016/wind-in-the-willows/


West Somerset Railway – Autumn Steam Gala

West Somerset Railway steam train

Love steam engines? Have a grand day out this weekend on the West Somerset Railway, the longest heritage railway in England. There will be plenty of trains headed by locomotives based on the line and visiting “guests”. Quantock Brewery will have a bar on Minehead Station on all days and will also have their base at Bishops Lydeard open for business. Railway Museums and model railways will be open, there will be licensed buffet cars on most trains, and the Quantock Belle will be running on some services offering full English breakfasts and hot lunches. The Luttrell Arms in Dunster will be also be holding a cider festival on Friday and Saturday.

Date: Thursday 6 to Sunday 9 October 2016
Time: Check the timetable for details
Address: West Somerset Railway, The Railway Station, Bishops Lydeard, Taunton, Somerset TA4 3RU
Price: One Day Rovers Adult £26, 60+ £23.50, child (5 to 15) £13, Family (2 adults and up to 2 children) £70. Two and Three Day Rovers available
Website: http://westsomersetrailway.vticket.co.uk/product.php/105/autumn-steam-gala/6506f5f2b3f800c446b4d04275b33272

Fungal Forays at Hestercombe

Join expert Michael Jordan, author and chairman of the Association of British Fungal Groups, as he leads a fun and informative walk through the gardens to discover and identify the many different types of mushrooms and toadstools to be found at Hestercombe.

Date: Sunday 9 October 2016
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Address: Hestercombe, Cheddon Fitzpaine, Taunton, Somerset TA2 8LG
Price: £12 online, £13 offline (book online or call 01823 413923)
Website: http://www.hestercombe.com/event/fungal-forays/

Weston’s Sand Sculpture Festival

Weston Sand Sculpture Festival Somerset

It’s the last few days of Weston’s Sand Sculpture Festival, which this year has the theme ‘When I Grow Up’. The extremely talented team of world class sand sculptors have created an exhibition celebrating those big dreams you had (or still have) as child. Be sure to bring your camera for this very unique sight!

Date: til Sunday 9 October 2016
Time: 10am to 5pm
Address: The beach, Weston-super-Mare
Price: Adult £4, child £3, concessions £3.50, family (2+2) £10
Website: www.westonsandsculpture.co.uk

Popular events to book in advance

Two Moors Festival, Devon and Somerset

Two Moors Festival Devon and Somerset

One of the leading classical music festivals in the UK, the Two Moors Festival brings remarkable live music experiences to irresistible locations across the South West, through world-class performances and learning and participation programmes.

Date: Saturday 22 to Saturday 29 October 2016
Time: various – see programme for details
Address: Dartmoor and Exmoor
Price: £8 to £35
Website: http://www.thetwomoorsfestival.co.uk/

Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire

Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum - credit Paul Box Forestry Commission

Tickets are now on sale for the hugely popular Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum. At the heart of Enchanted Christmas lies an amazing illuminated trail celebrating Westonbirt’s wonderful trees, which winds its way around a mile of the arboretum’s paths (pushchair, wheelchair and mobility scooter friendly).

Date: every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening from 25 November to 18 December 2016
Time: When pre-booking your tickets online or by phone you need to choose a time to take to the trail; either 5pm – 6pm, 6pm – 7pm or 7pm – 8pm
Address: Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8QS
Price: Adult £12, reduced entry (students, jobseekers) £10, child 5 – 18 years £6, child under 5 years Free. Advance booking required.
Website: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt-christmas

By Emma Holcombe

Feeling spontaneous? If you’d like to go to any of these events and need a place to stay, check out our last minute holidays >