18 ideas for the summer holidays in Hertfordshire
- Credit: John Chase
Whether it's family ideas for the school holidays or a memorable escape for two, here are a selection of day out ideas to make the most of the summer in Hertfordshire.
Among the 70 acres of gardens and fields surrounding Henry Moore's former home in the village of Perry Green are more than 20 of his monumental bronze sculptures. Take in the spectacle before cooling off in the studios, gallery and cafe. For more British artworks outdoors, take a guided tour of the University of Hertfordshire Sculpture Walk.
Let's go fly...
Thousands come to Therfield Health to see the skies full of colour at Royston Kite Festival. There’s professional kite displays and you can join in by bringing your own or the kids can build a kit. On terra firma there's children’s entertainment and a classic vehicle show. Bring a picnic or make the most of the food stalls. Takes place Sunday August 7.
Summer wouldn’t be the same without strawberries and cream. Pick your own at Graveley Fruit Farm before an afternoon tea in the cafe while littluns enjoy the play area. Cammas Hall Farm near Bishop’s Stortford grows a range of PYO. There's a farm shop, nature trail, several dining options, and you can (temporarily) lose the kids in the maize maze.
Day at the mill
The picturesque 18th century watermill on the river Lea in Hatfield has exhibitions and events over the summer. Its programme of Live @ the Mill includes folk music, a male choir and ladies barbershop chorus. For tykes, there's a Teddy Bear Fun Day on August 25. See Mill Green Mill in action and take home freshly milled flour to make your own bread.
Take a boat
Experience life at a more leisurely pace aboard a boat. Lee Valley Boat Centre in Broxbourne hires out a wide range, while at Cow Roast in Tring you can hire a narrowboat for the day, and the Waterways Experiences offers day trips down the Grand Union Canal from Nash Mills, Hemel. Get more active at Stanborough Park in Welywn where you can kayak, pedalo, paddleboard or sail.
leevalleyboats.co.uk, narrowboatdayhire/home, wexp.org.uk/boat-trips, better.org.uk
Sink into a deck chair and spend a lazy Sunday afternoon listening to music performed on the beautiful bandstand in Watford's Cassiobury Park. The summer programme of free shows includes swing, brass and gospel.There are also music, mantra and meditation sessions. The restored park has splash pools, nature areas and cafes.
Delve into the county's rich history at a stately home. The splendid Jacobean Hatfield House displays the famous Rainbow Portrait of Elizabeth I among its many treasures - she grew up in the Old Palace next door. Or walk through 500 years of history at Knebworth House. It's hosted Dickens, Churchill and some of rock's greatest bands. Both Hatfield and Knebworth have beautiful gardens and grounds to explore.
If the family is up for a challenge, ride the rapids at Lee Valley White Water Centre. As well as rafting the 2012 Olympic course, there's hydrospeeding and the more sedate canoe, kayaking and paddle boarding. Those who don't want to get wet can watch the action at The Terrace Bar and Café.
Get on the telly
An immersive outdoor experience brings children's telly to life as kids enter the worlds of Nickelodeon TV. They can find their super powers at The Thundermans school for superheroes or step into an episode of Henry Danger, race against the clock to solve the Hunter Street Escape Room or meet PAW Patrol's Chase and Marshall. The Nickelodeon Experience runs from August 14-27 at Knebworth House.
Entry to Paradise
Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne has big cats, meerkats and... dinosaurs. With mammals, primates, reptiles, birds and cats the Broxbourne zoo offers a round-the-world tour of wildlife. There are talks, experiences, adventure playgrounds and the impressive animatronic World of Dinosaurs. PWP also plays an important global conservation role.
Looking like he's just popped out, the home of George Bernard Shaw is a fascinating time capsule. The great playwright lived at Shaw's Corner in Ayot St Lawrence for over 40 years. View his revolving writing hut, Rodin bust and Oscar for My Fair Lady. The rooms are homely yet reflect his many interests and famous friends. The National Trust offers tours, there are often readings, and you can take tea in the orchard.
Climb the winding steps of the Clock Tower of St Albans for the best views of the city. Its 600-year-old bell first rang out during the Wars of the Roses and it is now England's last surviving medieval town belfry. Open weekends until September. Once you've worked up an appetite, lunch at one of St Albans' many restaurants or picnic in the cathedral's Vintry Garden or by the lake in Verulamium Park.
Fancy something a bit different from a country stroll? The Grove hotel in Chandler's Cross offers instructor-led Segway experiences through the trails of Asher’s Wood. No licence is required for the self-balancing, battery powered two-wheeler. There are also archery and laser clay pigeon sessions available.
On your bike
Get on your bike and explore our lovely county. If yours is rusting in the shed then Lee Valley Canoe Cycle in Broxbourne offers rentals. Cycle along the Lea towpath and enjoy all that nature has to off along the canal. Alternatively, take a ride through Lee Valley Regional Park. Tandems, tag-alongs, child bikes and seats can be hired too.
Time for tea
A quintessential British summer activity that should take all afternoon is afternoon tea. Dine al fresco on the terrace at The Manor, Elstree overlooking the gardens and with stunning views towards the capital, or in the exotically refurbished restaurant, Omboo, at St Albans' Sopwell House, or the fabulous former home of the Wernhers, Luton Hoo near Harpenden.
themanorelstree.co.uk, sopwellhouse.co.uk, lutonhoo.co.uk
To the lakes
Rickmansworth Aquadrome covers more than 100 acres made up of three large lakes - created by gravel extraction for the original Wembley stadium - grassland and woodland. Alongside water-skiing, canoeing and sailing there are walks along the Grand Union Canal and river Colne. The beauty spot is a Local Nature Reserve too.
Discover those magnificent men in their flying machines - well just the machines, although the volunteer are great - at de Havilland Aircraft Museum. The London Colney site displays historic aircraft from Hatfield's former de Havilland factory including fighters, jet airliners and training craft. A celebration of Herts' major contribution to aviation history.
Ashridge Estate walk
With 80 miles of designated paths through woodland, meadow and downland, the National Trust's Ashridge Estate near Berkhamsted offers walkers and cyclists the chance to really get away from it all. There are waymarked trails too - the ancient tree walk and woodland walk both start and end at the Bridgewater Monument with views for miles. There are children's activities every day until August 31.
An expanded version of this list appears in the current edition of Hertfordshire Life Magazine, out now.