England’s largest festival of history and culture returns on the 11th-20th September, and for the first time, the programme will include a mix of virtual tours and digital experiences as well as in-person events.

Many events will be exploring this year’s theme – Hidden Nature – offering opportunities to discover the secret histories and stories of not just our natural landscapes, but also gardens, urban green spaces, farms, waterways, buildings, and culture.

In-person events include exclusive walks, talks and exhibitions and explore archives, tunnels, and gardens not normally open to the public, with adherence to local government guidelines ensuring a safe and relaxing visit. Continued support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery means every Heritage Open Days event is free – including entry to museums, country houses and other attractions which usually charge for admission.

Here’s a look at just some of this year’s highlights in the region:

In Person Events

Ilkley Manor House Bird Walk

Manor House Art Gallery & Museum, Castle Yard, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9DT

Learn about the historic Manor House set in its courtyard garden. At the back is a grass expanse with trees over the remains of Olicana, Ilkley’s Roman fort. As you walk round look for images of visiting birds in the garden.

As part of Ilkley Manor House’s response to Covid19, they have put together a programme called “Inside Out” where they have been animating the courtyard space that fronts the medieval manor house. The Heritage Open Days theme of nature allows them to expand this offer to focus on visiting birds to the garden. There will be a beautifully created bird pebble trail for visitors to enjoy, and some activities for younger visitors to create some origami birds that will be distributed round the garden.

Friday 11th-20th September: 0800-1900

Little Woodhouse Ways – 2 Walks 

Walk 1: This walk will trace the paths, boundaries, alleyways and byways that have shaped the development of the roads and buildings of this Georgian and early Victorian suburb.

It starts from near the Leeds city centre, at the western end of the Headrow /Westgate, on Leighton Street, meeting at the sculpture of The Human Spirit outside the Nuffield Hospital entrance LS1 3EB.

The route takes in St George’s Church, the site of the old hamlet of Little Woodhouse, the great houses of Claremont, Little Woodhouse Hall, Belle Vue House and Denison Hall and the development of the Victorian layout of streets and buildings, squares and terraces, from the old patterns of fields, paths and boundaries. There may be some changes to the route to accommodate Covid requirements and current building work.

The walk will take approximately two hours, on paved and tarmacked surfaces, uneven in some parts and with some short uphill stretches. It will end at the corner of St John’s Road and Belle Vue Road, outside ASA Briggs House LS3 1FF.

Saturday 12 September: 14.00 – 16.00

Walk 2: This walk will follow the paths, boundaries, alleyways, and byways that have shaped the development of roads and buildings, ginnels, and steps of the early Victorian suburb of Little Woodhouse. It starts from the end of St John’s Road, meeting on the corner outside the modern student block of Asa Briggs House, at the junction with Belle Vue Road LS3 1FF. The ginnel opposite gives a view over the valley of the Aire. The route takes in St John’s Terrace next to the Moorlands at one end of Belle Vue Road, the reclaimed green space of the Rosebank, the surviving sets of Victorian steps, the ancient Park Lane and the old turnpike road from Leeds to Bradford, and provides a view of successive developments from early Victorian to modern housing. There may be some changes to the route to accommodate Covid19 requirements and current building works.

The walk will take approximately two hours, mainly on paved and tarmacked surfaces, uneven in some parts and with some short uphill stretches. There will also be an opportunity to climb or descend some of the original Victorian steps. The walk will end in Woodhouse Square LS3 1AD.

Sunday 13 September: 14.00 – 16.00

Crow Nest Park

Crow Nest Park, Heckmondwike Road, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, WF13 2SG

Scavenger Hunt – Visitors will be given a symbolised map and a list of items to search for as well as information and images to collect. Participants will not be required to collect and handle any items. The map and questions will be available for smartphones and visitors can record their paces as they go round the park. 

People can also plant a selection of bulbs in designated places under supervision. Necessary tools will be provided, which will be sanitised between use. Groups will be limited to family members to maintain a suitable distance between activities.

Saturday 12 September: 14.30

Sunday 13 September: 11.30

Thursday 17 September: 10.00

Saturday 19 September: 11.30

Sunday 20 September: 15.30

Digital Events

Hidden Nature at Bradford Cathedral, Bradford (online)

Tune in for daily videos throughout the festival exploring the Hidden Nature of Bradford Cathedral. From waking to the dawn chorus to experiencing the building at twilight, and from nature inspired designs and family-friendly ‘animal trails’ to connections to an arctic explorer, there’s something different to discover each day!

Fri 11th – Sun 20th, released each day

The Sand House: Then & Now, The Sand House Charity, Doncaster (online)

Discover this lost Victorian mansion carved from solid sandstone. Viewers of this exclusive online video will get a ‘then and now’ comparison of how this unique building and underground tunnels looked in its heyday with changes to the area made in the 20th century.

Fri 11th – Sun 20th, available anytime

Stories from Otley Courthouse, The Courthouse Project, West Yorkshire (online)

Hear stories of Hidden Nature found in historic legal cases heard at Otley Courthouse. Researched by volunteers and told by a professional storyteller, online visitors can tune in to hear bizarre cases involving animals, from horses and dogs to chickens and mice.

Sat 12th, 11am and 2pm

Inside the Hidden Shelters, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds (online)

Have a glimpse inside one of Leeds’s WWII air raid shelters with a new 3D model tour. Participants will hear from the artist, as well as a historian from Leeds Beckett University to discover how the shelter would have looked and been used in the early 1940s.

Sat 19th, 2pm (booking required)

The most beautiful public gardens in England (online)

The Leeds Zoological and Botanical Gardens and the Royal Park: a story of ambition and failure. An online talk.

Many people will know the old Bear Pit in Cardigan Road, an evocative relic of the former Zoological and Botanical Gardens, later known as the Royal Gardens. This illustrated talk explores the changing fortunes of this ambitious project and its later offshoot, the Royal Park next to Woodhouse Moor.

Friday 18 September: 13:00 – 14:00

Sunny Bank Mills & Archive

Sunny Bank Mills Archive and Gallery, Farsley, Leeds, West Yorkshire

An opportunity to see a unique collection and discover the textile heritage.

Dating from 1829, Sunny Bank Mills was an important woollen & worsted mill, with an interesting history. Although it ceased manufacturing only 12 years ago, it is still owned by the family who helped found the mill in late Georgian times. The unique collection at Sunny Bank Mills Archive will be open, containing a complete record of cloth samples woven at the mill since the 1880s; an inspiration for all. The atmospheric mills still contain artefacts to take you back in time to the days it employed over 900 people spinning and weaving some of the finest cloth in the world.

For more details and event booking info visit

To ensure that visitors are safe and that events can keep to the latest government guidelines, all event details are subject to change or cancellation. Visitors should re-check details on the website and read the festival COVID considerations before confirming their plans nearer the time.


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