As life in Hertfordshire returns to some degree of normality, there’s no better time to explore our cultural hotspots. Francesca Chinnery picks out nine of the best
Last year, Hertfordshire celebrated the Year of Culture 2020. It promoted existing and new cultural opportunities across our county and supported the local community to take part. While the year certainly didn’t go to plan, it still highlighted the rich history and museums that Hertfordshire has to offer.
The new rules thanks to a pandemic have meant that we have all had to look closer to home for our next adventure. Luckily, with restrictions now easing across the UK, Hertfordshire museums have a great programme of events and activities for families and children to enjoy.
St. Albans Museum (pictured top of the page) have an exciting number of exhibitions coming up and family activities to get involved in. Pandemic Portraits is running until 30 September and showcases local people throughout the pandemic. Museum Minis is also running throughout September-November, where children aged two-four-years old can get involved in a story, craft activity and museum hunt.
Verulamium Museum is running Tots Tales throughout September, October and into November for children between two-four-years old. They will have the opportunity to listen to a story, take part in a craft activity and go on a museum hunt. They are also running Heritage Open Days; a day where you can visit the museum for free on both Saturday 11September and Saturday 18 September. You can find out about one of the largest Roman cities in Britain and explore their mosaic and coin collection using their discovery areas and free activity sheets.
St. Albans Cathedral, completed in 1115,holds a fascinating history. William the Conqueror commissioned a new church after the 1066 Norman Invasion. Since then, it has housed monks and noblemen whose discussions led to the Magna Carta. Children can follow the Tree Trail purchased from the shop and discover the ancient trees in the area and the tales they tell. Also available for £2 are the family friendly Explorer Trails taking you around the Cathedral. On your phones, you can also access their free digital tour to learn about the untold stories.
Not many people know that the Natural History Museum has a smaller museum in Tring. You can explore the zebras, Emperor penguin and the giant tortoise and wander round their endangered species and the Ice Age galleries. They also have some fantastic resources for children including an alphabet and an animal trail and trails in Makaton. In their current exhibition, Animal Mummies: What’s Inside, you can explore Egyptian animal mummies. You will have the chance to see a sealed 2,400-year-old wooden cat coffin, learn how Egyptians preserved the animals after their death and try out an X-ray scanning machine.
At the British Schools Museum in Hitchin,you can explore the world’s last remaining Victorian Monitorial classroom and take part in Storytime Crafts on the second Saturday of every month. Children will have the chance to listen to a story and a make and take activity.
North Hertfordshire Museum is hosting an exciting exhibition for children at the moment until 4September 2021; The Tiger Who Came to Tea. Children can explore a play version of Sophie’s kitchen with a five-foot tiger. There will be tiger-themed activities and storytelling sessions.
Stroll through the gardens and wander the historic roomsat Knebworth House and Gardens. Outside, you can explore the maze, rose garden and count the turrets, domes and gothic gargoyles. You can also explore the Dinosaur Trail and find the 72 life-sized dinosaurs. Inside, you can walk through 500 years of British History. Before you leave, try climbing the Watchman’s Tower.
While Hatfield House is closed from the end of August, you are still able to run around their West Garden, Park & Woodland Walks. You can explore the woods, smell the herbs and roses, try spotting some red deer and visit the tree that Queen Elizabeth I learnt of her accession to the throne. Visit on 4 September and you will catch Tudor Legacies; a living history Tudor group that will tell you intriguing stories from the reign of Henry VIII.
The Welwyn Roman Baths date back to the 3rd century and were discovered preserved under the A1 in 1960. Shortly after this, the announcement was made to build the motorway over the excavation site. Fortunately, you can still visit the baths through an accessible tunnel for the public. Open on weekends, bank holidays and school holidays, your children can follow an engaging trail around the excavation site.
It’s clear that Hertfordshire has a varied and rich history to tell that stretches back far into the past and after 18 months of the arts and culture sector being closed, it’s a great time to learn more about our local area and get involved in the engaging activities that are being held.
Follow more museum adventures @francescainmuseums