Autumn After Dark – a UK entertainment guide

New Year's Eve Fireworks

London lights up in November

As the nights begin to draw in, and a distinctive British chill returns to the air, it’s easy to lament the passing of those long, hazy days spent outdoors in shorts or summer dresses. It often feels like there’s nothing left to do until next year but hibernate, coming out only to celebrate those precious fun filled weeks over Christmas.But fear not! Your summer clothes may be packed away, but the UK is chock full of activities, locations and adventures up and down the country that will help you to enjoy the evenings that are closing in.
Enchanted Forest – Faskally Wood, Pitlochry
3rd – 26th OctoberWhat better way to take advantage of the early darkness than enjoying one of the UK’s most spectacular sound and light shows! Put one every year as autumn unfolds, each event has a different theme that is then explored through choreographed sound and light effects, which unfold as you work your way through the forest. This year’s theme is Elemental, and is all about getting back to nature through the enjoyment of the elements. While the weather is usually an uncontrollable aspect of the show, this year you can expect to be wowed by elemental effects.

The natural backdrop of the forest will be set off by amazing visuals and beautiful design, accompanied by an original music score written specially for the event. You can also expect to be delighted by aerial performance artists defying gravity in the tree tops, and an enchanted story telling yurt. The outdoor catering team also ensures you won’t go hungry, and you can enjoy a hot chocolate or a mulled wine to keep you cosy as you wonder around on a frosty evening.

It’s recommended that you allow between 60 – 90 minuets to fully appreciate the event, and you may want to go around more than once to make sure you catch everything! The show is fantastic for children, although you may struggle to get around the forest path with large buggies.

Illuminating York – York city centre
29th October – 1st November

On a similar theme, you can also brighten up your autumn nights with a visit to York’s annual light festival, Illuminating York. Named as one of the Guardian’s top ten European light festivals, it’s one of the city’s biggest annual events and is not to be missed. Having begun nine years ago, York have been wowing visitors with stunning illuminated art for nearly a decade. With specially commissioned digital art being projected onto various historic buildings, you get to appreciate York’s beautiful architecture as well as seeing some great works of art. Using the latest technology available, 12 pieces of illuminating artwork will be displayed across the city centre.

The main attraction is to be Hidden Worlds, which is being projected onto the York Crown Court Building. Using 3D projection-mapped animation, the art work explores the microscopic and the unconscious. There are also various supporting events and other local attractions that can be taken advantage of while visiting the city, including several tours and trails, so you can enjoy the event over several evenings. Also new for this year is the opportunity to travel further afield to witness the Castle Howard bathed in light.

Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations – Lewes, East Sussex
5th November

The biggest and best known bonfire night celebrations in the UK have been taking place in Lewes for hundreds of years. Almost always a riotous affair, the event sees six local bonfire societies joining forces with visiting groups. Marching bands also travel to take part in revelries, and the occasion is always marked by costumes and parades, along with a tradition of carrying 17 burning crosses through town. The evening peaks with huge bonfires on the surrounding hills, and spectacular firework displays. As the carnival-like evening can be pretty boisterous, it’s not recommended that you take young children.

Lord Mayor’s Show – London
8th November

While occurring very close to bonfire night, this event comes from a completely different tradition – since the year 1215, the city mayor was expected to travel upriver to Westminster, in order to swear loyalty to the king. What started out as a duty became a major celebration, and now the event sees a flotilla sailing up the Thames, followed by a street procession and a massive firework display. The show takes up a whole day, with the flotilla beginning as early as 8.30 am the procession following at 11 am, and the fireworks taking place at 5.30 pm. It’s a fun and exciting day out for all the family.

So there you have it – you don’t have to stay at home forlornly just because it’s getting dark! Instead, take advantage of the early evenings and experience some of the great night-time events that are happening up and down the country.

‘Women in Waves’ takes to the sea in Sussex

We had a great time at Surf Life Saving Great Britain’s  ‘Women in Waves’ event last Saturday (14 June). Approximately 50 people turned out to take to the water off Brighton Beach and learn some valuable lessons in surf safety – in fact the only person who appeared to be missing was the sun!

Undeterred, the participants joined in, had fun and learned some valuable lessons about being safe in the sea in the process. Thanks to Surf Life Saving Great Britain and everyone who came down!

Surf Life Saving Great Britain is a charity of over 6,000 volunteers who aim to make beaches safer and more enjoyable. You can find more info on their website and also register for the following events:  Saturday 28th June 2014 at Blyth Dave Stephenson Centre, South Beach Blyth from 10 – 4pm and Saturday 12th July 2014 at Perranporth Beach from 10-3.30pm.

Hope to see you there!

A short walk in the woods

I recently spent a week at The Hideaway cottage in Bolney, Sussex. Having two young children the property was perfectly suited to their needs: it was self-contained, offered plenty of room for them to play and was situated close to some of Sussex’s most popular attractions. Both my girls also loved the chickens in the garden (the eggs helped!) while my wife and I were more taken by the peace, quiet and welcoming bottle of wine left by the owners. But one thing we all ended up loving about the property was its close proximity to Ashdown Forest…

Set atop the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Ashdown offers nearly 10 square miles of common land; in fact it’s supoosedly the largest public-access area in southeast England. We were all very keen to get out and explore the area, but having the girls with us we  were also mindful of the fact that we’d need somewhere they’d be able to stretch their legs and, when sufficiently tired, somewhere we’d be comfortable carrying them round.

We soon decided on the Pooh Walk at Gills Lap. Author AA Milne was a regular visitor and his tales of Winnie the Pooh owe a special debt to the beauty of the surrounding landscape.  Gills Lap itself offers two walks: an adventurous 3 mile trek past Eeyore’s Sad and Gloomy Place and a half mile walk past the Enchanted Place, Heffalump Trap, Roo’s Sandy Pit and more. We set intended to do the longer walk but, having spent too long trying to trap a Heffalump at the Heffalump Trap (someone really needs to think about that name!) we had to settle for the shorter walk. Not that we minded, despite the weather not being in our favour the short walk takes in some beautiful locations with breathtaking views and stunning colours.

From the Gills Lap car park a short 200 metre walk (which can seem a little longer with easily distracted youngsters and plenty of puddles!) leads you to the Enchanted Place on the right.

From there a left turn takes you a few metres down to the Heffalump Trap – notable for its lack of actual Heffalumps. The reality of a lovely little hollow where a lone pine grows more than makes up for this, at least for the grown-ups!

Walk back up the path and turn left, after about 10 metres and you arrive at the tribute to Milne and EH Shepard, the illustrator of Pooh’s adventures. The views here are stunning, so it’s no surprise to find the author was so keen on dreaming up Pooh’s idyllic escapades there.

Turn right from the memorial and you soon arrive at the site of Roo’s Sandy Pit. Now a disused quarry it could just as easily be called ‘Roo’s Big Puddle of Water’. Undeterred, my girls decided they had to go down for a closer look. The bank here was a little slippy, so be careful if you try to walk down it.

Follow the path round from the ‘Sandy Pit’ and you arrive back at the car park. It’s a short and sweet stroll through some of Sussex’s finest scenery. If you fancy rounding up your adventure with a little refreshment you might also want to pay a visit to the nearby village of Hartfield. There you’ll find ‘Pooh Corner’, a lovely little tearoom that contains plenty of refreshment and lots of Winnie the Pooh souvenirs.

You can find more info on The Hideaway on cottages4you.

Posted by Ben Webster.