It’s Easter and at Cool Places we like to get out and about a bit after gorging ourselves on chocolate. Here are a few of the places and activities we’re considering for the coming weekend and beyond.
Britain's favourite flower is always in bloom around Easter time and what better place to see bluebells than the New Forest, where the flowers love the damp, shady conditions of this gorgeous ancient woodland. Bluebells do not grow wild anywhere else in Europe so it’s a particularly British way to spend Easter. Two of the best places to spot bluebells are the Broomy Inclosure, north of Linwood, and the Pondhead Inclosure, near Lyndhurst. If you’re really keen, you can take a guided eight-mile bluebell walk with a volunteer ranger the following weekend. The walks start at Clayhill Heath, near Lyndhurst and you get the full lowdown on the flowers, plus the wildlife and everything else you might see along the way. 15 April 10am–4pm, £5 per person – book in advance on 02380 286840.
Britannia Coco-nut Dancers
Every Easter Saturday, at the Travellers Rest Pub in the old mill town of Bacup near Rochdale, the Britannia Coco-nut folk dancers get dressed up in pink and white hooped skirts and funny-looking fluffy turbans and, er, black their faces, before dancing through the streets of the town accompanied by members of The Stacksteads Silver Band, naturally stopping off at various pubs along the way. It’s a sight, to be sure, and although no one quite knows how it all started it’s been going a long time, with roots in ancient folk, perhaps pagan traditions. Whatever the origins, it’s a great event, which the whole town turns out for – and certainly quite unlike any other Easter celebration you’ll see.
Like all the best sporting events, the World Marble Championships has a spiritual home. In this case, the Greyhound pub near Crawley in Sussex plays host to around a hundred competitors (believe it or not) who have congregated to contest the individual and team events since the 1930s. In case you were wondering, anyone can join in but obviously you'll need to know the basics and have, er, all your own marbles. The Greyhound, Tinsley Green, Crawley, West Sussex, 01293 884220. Friday 6 April 10.30am–5.30pm– spectator tickets free.
Humans have always got up to weird kinds of antics in springtime, but the Eden Project is more interested in nature and the strange and sometimes downright bizarre things plants do to survive. For two weeks this Easter holiday, Freaky Nature showcases the weirdest stuff it can find –from carnivorous plants to exploding plants and beyond. Littler people can dress up as sticky seeds or creepy crawlies, listen to freaky tales and follow a plant adaptation obstacle course. Could learning be more fun than this? (Image courtesy of Lorna Brown)
You probably don’t want to admit it but chances are you’ve pondered making your own Easter Bonnet on more than one occasion. Well the good news is that this year, at Cardiff Castle, you can do just that, at their annual Easter Bonnet Workshop. Kids love it and the great thing is you get to join in the procession afterwards to show off your magnificent creation (Image courtesy of Peter Matlock).
If you’ve yawned your way through the recent TV drama, you might be glad to know the antidote to the Julian Fellowes’ version of events –Titanic: the Musical – is being staged over the Easter weekend and beyond at the amazing open-air amphitheatre carved into the cliffs at Porthcurno. Commemorations culminate in an evening performance to mark the centenary of the disaster on the evening of April 14. The theatre is also staging various children's theatre shows telling seafaring and Cornish fairy tales through puppets and live music.
This Easter, the Roald Dahl Museum in Bucks is the perfect place to introduce the little ones to the writer’s classic stories, plus it’s more or less the home of chocolate (giant Wonka bars provide the doorway to one room). There are craft activities, storytelling, galleries depicting Dahl’s most famous creations and most importantly, for Easter at least, an Easter egg hunt around the museum, with prizes for smart kids who manage to find all the eggs. For grown-ups, and new for this season, you can see the garden hut where RD wrote daily for 35 years, including his tatty armchair, hand-made green baize writer's slant and collection of inspirational curios - including the hip-bone he had removed during WWII! You could take some time also to explore Dahl’s old haunts in the village, by way of a marked-out the Village Trail; the writer lived here for 36 years, and his widow still lives in the village.
For an entirely chocolate-free, more spiritual Easter, you could consider Brighton’s Soul by the Sea festival, which has everything needed to do the Christian festival justice this year, including the South Oxhey gospel choir (famously formed on the BBC show), a Christian rock band – Phatfish – and a performance of the Christ’s Passion, staged right on the beach on Easter Sunday. The latter was a huge success last year and promises to be even better this Easter, and there’s plenty of entertainment and activities for the kids too. Sat 7 April, 11am–5:30pm, Sun 8 April 2pm–5pm – tickets free.
The steamers that tour the beautiful expanse of Ullswater in the Lake District are worth a look at any time of the year – the lake is in some ways at its best as spring approaches, but for two weeks either side of Easter you can jump aboard one of the steamers to enjoy various seasional activities and competitions on board. The first 50 kids on board the 10.30am sailing on April 3 go free, so get yourself down there. It’s also that time of year for spotting Wordsworth's famous daffodils (he was inspired to write the poem by the dancing daffs of Ullswater's lakeshore) – get there before they all begin to droop.