From colleges to castles... heritage gems open to all
A 15th century restored castle, a memorial garden, a ladies' college and a gentleman's club are among scores of historic or interesting houses, buildings and gardens that are opening to the public this weekend.
Two initiatives are coinciding – the Heritage Open Days and the National Gardens Scheme – and across the West, the owners of beautiful gardens, ancient cottages and unusual buildings will be hoping for fine weather on what could be a last hurrah for the summer.
In Somerset, the public will be given their first chance to see the newly-restored Castle House in Taunton, which was the star of BBC show Escape to the Country. The programme featured the £1 million restoration scheme that has breathed new life into the 15th century property.
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The building, which is in the courtyard of Taunton Castle, is grade one-listed and is owned by the county's Archaeological and Natural History Society. It was restored by Somerset's Building Preservation Trust.
Trust chairman, Russell Lillford, said: "It is wonderful to see this hidden gem of a medieval building, which was in such a poor state, brought back into public use."
The upper floors of Castle House have now been furnished by Vivat Trust and will be available for letting to holidaymakers, while the ground floor will be used to tell the story of Castle House and some of the people who lived there.
In Gloucestershire, a host of historic buildings are open to the public this weekend, particularly in Cheltenham, where parts of the famous Ladies' College are being opened – strictly through pre-booked guided tours today and tomorrow morning.
Across town, The New Club, which opened as a private gentlemen's club on Hallowe'en in 1874, is also flinging open its doors.
Originally, the club was intended for prominent citizens and the higher ranks of the Armed Forces, and moved to Montpellier Parade 43 years ago.
Perhaps the smallest building being opened as part of the Heritage Open Days is in Bradford-on-Avon, in Wiltshire, where the town's 'blind house' – a double-cell jail building on the town's famous bridge – is being unlocked between 10am and 4pm both tomorrow and Sunday.
And the public are also getting the opportunity to see inside the time-warp Victorian village school at Sevington, near Chippenham, which has shown generations of youngsters on school trips what life was like for their predecessors 125 years ago.
Also in Wiltshire, Lydiard House and the Georgian Walled Garden, near Swindon, are being opened up to the public for free, while dozens of gardens are opening this weekend, from Exmoor to the Cotswolds.
In south Wiltshire, a garden that was opened to help the rehabilitation of spinal injury patients at Salisbury's hospital is among those that will be available to the public this weekend.
Horatio's Garden was created in memory of Horatio Chapple, the 17-year-old who was killed by a polar bear on an expedition to the Arctic Circle in 2011.
Before he died, Horatio worked on the planning of a rehabilitation garden at the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre, where his father is a consultant.
The gardens are normally reserved for patients, but are open on Sunday afternoon from 2pm, with products, plants, cakes and teas on sale.