SU CARROLL rounds up the very best activities to do and things to see close to the coastline in October.
1. FREE FOR ALL
Dartmouth Food Festival has everything you’d want – an exciting mix of local artisanal food and drink stalls, chef demonstrations, wine seminars, product tastings, book talks and lively food debates. And best of all, most of it is free.
The beautiful Royal Avenue Gardens are at the heart of the festival, and home to a street food vendors offering everything from dim sum and bao buns to vegan mac’n’cheese and gut healthy bowl food. Over 80 additional stalls then spill out down the picturesque Embankment and up into the Old Market Square. Here you’ll find an abundance of locally-produced, high quality ingredients including award-winning cheeses, hand-made preserves, delicious breads, amazing wild game and artisan coffee.
The festival, from October 20-22, welcomes many special guests, from internationally renowned chefs to celebrated writers and critics. This year the line-up includes Dartmouth restaurateur and festival advocate Mitch Tonks (pictured), Matt Tebbutt, Mark Hix and Jane Baxter alongside local chefs such as Elly Wentworth from The Angel.
The Food Matters programme will cover topics such as regenerative farming, eating for the planet and how aquaculture may help solve our food supply issues. The Festival is keen to promote sustainability and reduce food waste and on the Monday following the festival, a few local chefs and volunteers produce a fabulous array of dishes using all the leftover food that would otherwise be thrown away. This is a free lunch and open to anyone who wants to attend. Go to dartmouthfoodfestival.com.
Since 1864 sailors heading for safe harbour in Dartmouth have been cheered by the sight of the Daymark, an 80ft tall Grade II listed tower. The unusual octagonal structure is visible from miles around helped mariners find the entrance to the harbour which was considered difficult to locate. It can be accessed by foot from Froward Point or a short walk from the National Trust’s Brownstone Car Park. This beautiful spot is home to many rare birds and plants and offers stunning sea views. visitsouthdevon.co.uk
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2. FERRY TALES
Take the ferry across the Solent for the Isle of Wight Literary Festival – packed with speakers on history, crime, nature, fiction and topical issues. This year is rich with journalists including veteran journalist and former MP Chris Mullin, BBC journalists past and present Justin Webb, Martin Sixsmith and Rory Cellan-Jones, and Sky’s Martin Brunt. Also appearing are actress Maureen Lipman and War Horse author Michael Morpurgo. The main venue is the Grade II-listed Northwood House (pictured).
Part of the festival, which runs from October 5-8, is the Isle of Wight Book Awards, now in its second year. There are three categories with the awards’ founder Hunter Davies once again judging the non-fiction books; Alan Titchmarsh, the festival’s vice patron, resuming his role overseeing the children’s books and this year they are joined by fiction judge Georgina Moore, who is a publicist for some of the biggest names in literature and whose debut novel, The Garnett Girls, is based on the island. Georgina is one of the speakers at this year’s festival. isleofwightliteraryfestival.co.uk
Poo. Your gut reaction may be one of horror, but the National Poo Museum is dedicated to something of interest to us all. After all, where else could you discover that wombats do square poos? Situated in the Sandown Barrack Battery, you can (ahem) follow the journey of poo from ancient times, through the Romans to the Victorians and to today. Not a bog standard museum and definitely not a flash in the pan. Seasonal opening. Check details at poomuseum.org.
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3. SMALL CITY BIG SOUNDS
Expect great music, fascinating culture and spectacular scenery at the Boia Festival in St Davids, Britain’s smallest city. This is only the second festival from a community interest company and promises an exciting contemporary music line-up headlined by Gaz Coombes, former lead singer of Supergrass, and Katy J. Pearson whose latest release Sound of the Morning was number one in the UK independent album chart.
Set in the heart of the tiny city, gigs are split between two venues just 200 metres apart, allowing festival goers to easily attend every gig. In addition, there’s a free Music Trail with live music performances throughout each day at three of the city’s pubs.
The Boia Festival is in an area steeped in history, set in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park with local beach, Whitesands (pictured). Boia Festival is from October 27-29. boiafestival.co.uk
St David’s Cathedral bestows city status on this tiny Welsh community. A church has stood on the site since the 6th century with the cathedral devoted to Dewi Sant (Saint David) begun by a Norman Bishop in 1181. An impressive Bishop’s Palace followed in the 14th century. The cathedral is a spiritual and architectural marvel with its nave timber ceiling and ornate hanging pendants. The shrine to St David was restored and re-opened in 2012. Visit stdavidscathedral.org.uk.
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4. THERE BE DRAGONS
The Welsh Museums Festival offers two whole weeks of special events and activities for all ages at museums across Wales, many of them free. The festival includes half term activities with dragons to find, riddles to solve, scintillating science events, crafts to make and time travel to delight younger visitors plus a special Instagram photo competition just for teens.
There are also talks, lectures, crafts, behind the scenes explorations, and conservation sessions to intrigue and delight history buffs of all ages. The Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales has more than 100 members from collections in small towns to the mighty Museum of Cardiff (pictured).
This year’s Festival runs from October 22 until November 6. Find out more at museums.wales.
A century ago Cardiff was the biggest coal port in the world and with over 50 nationalities settled in the busy Docks area, was nicknamed Tiger Bay. Today it is very different with new and unique architecture and lots of fascinating places to see. A two-hour Cardiff Bay Walking Tour in small groups takes in the Pier House, The Senedd-Welsh Parliament, Norwegian Church, Mermaid Quay, Mount Stuart Graving Docks, Coal Exchange and Canal Park. Book online at Cardiff-tours.wales.
5. BIRTHDAY SHOW
The first exhibition in the newly opened Velarde Gallery in Kingsbridge on the South Hams coast celebrates the 60th birthday of Gareth Edwards, a graduate of Goldsmiths College, an elected RWA Academician, a member of the Newlyn Society of Artists, and a resident of St Ives’ prestigious Porthmeor Studios in West Cornwall.
The artist describes his Four Seasons exhibition, including Summer (pictured) as ‘a metaphor, for a life lived, a life entangled with nature, beauty, art and atmosphere’.
Inspired by 20th century abstract artist Cy Twombly, Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke and composer Max Richter’s reworking of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, this collection a powerful series of four large pieces of work, and eight smaller works, accompanied by a sound installation by artist Paul Lewin that will lend an additional layer of atmosphere to the audience’s experience of the exhibition.
The new contemporary Velarde Gallery will offer year-round exhibitions of exceptional painting, sculpture, photography and contemporary craft.
Gareth Edwards’ work is on display from September 15-November 4. velarde.co.uk
The best coastal walk near Kingsbridge is undoubtedly Start Point on one of the most exposed peninsulas on the English coast. The headland is dominated by the Start Point Lighthouse which has guided vessels in passage along the English Channel for over 150 years. The views are breathtaking with plenty of sea birds to spot on the way. There’s a visitor centre and seasonal Lighthouse tours – the last one for 2023 is October 26. startpointdevon.co.uk
6. TURNER AT EASTBOURNE
The striking exterior of the Towner Eastbourne belies the fact that this has been home to contemporary art for 100 years. As the centrepiece of the centenary celebrations, the gallery will host the Turner Prize 2023 – the world’s leading prize for contemporary art.
An exhibition highlights the work of this year’s four shortlisted contenders– Installation artist Jesse Darling is nominated for two solo exhibitions; Ghislaine Leung has been commended for her work in turning the exhibition structure on its head in Fountains in Copenhagen; Rory Pilgrim interweaves stories, poems, music and film, created in collaboration with local communities in London and Barbara Walker is nominated for Burden of Proof, portraits about the impact of the Windrush scandal.
Established in 1984, the Turner Prize is awarded to a British artist for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work in the previous twelve months. The winner – who will be named on December 5 – gets £25,000 and the other artists receive £10,000.
The Turner Prize exhibition is at Towner Eastbourne (townereastbourne.org.uk) until April 14, 2024.
Beachy Head, with its spectacular Seven Sisters cliffs, was a familiar sight for the pilots of Bomber Command during World War Two. It was the major operational route out of the United Kingdom for the airmen of the Royal Air Force. Imagine yourself in the jump seat as you visit the memorial that stands in tribute to them close to the Beachy Head pub. Details at iwm.org.uk.
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7. ART AND LANDSCAPES
The South Hams Arts Forum promises its largest arts trail to date with 75 artists putting on displays in 35 locations across this beautiful part of South Devon. Being in the heart of the South Hams most venues are situated near stunning walks, beaches and award-winning pubs giving visitors the perfect opportunity not only to visit artists’ studios and exhibitions, but to have a great day out.
Many new makers will be among those showing off their work, along with established artists who are regulars on the arts trail in an area which boasts a thriving arts scene. This year visitors will discover the most eclectic, diverse range of artwork ever showcased at the annual SHAF Arts Trail.
Unique artwork will be on show at a range of venues, from artist’s studios to historic locations, including Kingsbridge Market Hall. Visitors and art lovers can meet the artists, see some of them at work and purchase some special pieces to take home.
Opening days and times may vary during the Arts Trail, which runs October 14-29. Free brochures are available at Tourist Information Centres and many local businesses or download it at SHAF.org.uk.
Slapton Sands (which is actually more shingle than sand) on the coast in South Devon has a beautiful National Nature Reserve, Slapton Ley – a freshwater area separated from the coast by a strip of land. Surrounded by woodland, reed beds and marshes, it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. History buffs can visit the Sherman Tank which serves as a memorial to the 946 American servicemen on Operation Tiger who were rehearsing for the D-Day landings when their craft was sunk by passing U-Boats. visitsouthdevon.co.uk
8. MUSICAL NOTES
Have you ever wondered how a piano works? After all, it’s actually a percussion instrument with black and white keys, 88 hammers hitting strings and three pedals for two feet.
Internationally acclaimed classical pianist Dr Robert Taub hopes to demystify this centuries-old instrument in Open Rehearsal – The Piano and How it Goes. This is one of the opening events in the concert series, Musica Viva, now in its fifth year. Centred on the Levinsky Hall at the University of Plymouth, it features internationally acclaimed performers who will inspire, educate, challenge and unite audiences with concert performances, open rehearsals and informal talks.
Robert, director of music at the Arts Institute of Plymouth University and the man behind Musica Viva, says his aim is to let the music speak for itself.
After shining a light on the workings of the piano he is joined by Dr Anthony Caleshu and Dr Robert Vilain for The Details in the Devil which will look at the poems that inspired composers Ravel and Liszt and the Schönberg work that resulted in Thomas Mann writing Doktor Faustus. They are a prelude to a solo performance by Robert, Piano Passions. The programme includes some of the most challenging and expressive piano music ever composed including work by Beethoven, Ravel and Chopin. Visit plymouth.ac.uk for details.
Next to the main university building is Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir which dates back to 1592 when Sir Francis Drake oversaw the construction of a leat to bring water from Dartmoor to the City. Gardens dedicated to Drake were opened in 1891. The area fell into disrepair but the University and the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund supported a restoration which opened in 2014. It houses the reservoir and a wildlife haven with a small café. On North Hill (plymouth.ac.uk).
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9. PIECES OF EIGHT
The Parallel Lives exhibition looks at the careers and experiences of eight women artists, all born within 20 years of each other and whose lives spanned the 20th Century: Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Prunella Clough, Ithell Colquhoun, Evelyn Dunbar, Gertrude Hermes, Barbara Jones, Enid Marx and Monica Poole.
Their work covers a range of media: sculpture, painting, printmaking, textile design and book illustration. Stylistically diverse, they drew selectively on art movements with some at the forefront of developments within their artistic fields including neo-romanticism, realism, surrealism, folk art and abstraction.
What binds them together is an independent outlook and a willingness to pursue a singular artistic vision often in defiance of prevailing fashions and influences. Each was an original and innovative creative force, who built a career on their own terms and developed a significant and enduring body of work.
The exhibition at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery in Lymington, Hampshire, follows their successes while considering the challenges they had to address, noting also the moments when their lives and experiences overlapped or corresponded.
The exhibition continues until January 13. Details at stbarbe-museum.org.uk.
The pretty Georgian market town of Lymington on the edge of the New Forest has two marinas and a thriving sailing community but you can have fun in the water too at one of the oldest sea water baths in the country. First opened in 1833, the Grade II-listed lido has inflatables and is very family friendly. To check opening times go to lymingtonseawaterbaths.org.uk.
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10. BLACK LOOKS
In 1926 Coco Chanel designed a simple, short black dress. America’s Vogue magazine described the radically modern design as ‘the frock that all the world will wear.’ In the intervening decades the Little Black Dress has become a wardrobe staple that provided a blank canvas for future generations to reflect broader political and cultural shifts, challenge social norms around race, gender and sexuality and reflect evolving ideals of beauty and identity.
This new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland takes a closer look at its influence and explores how the colour black is used in fashion with over 60 items from renowned designers such as Chanel, Dior and Jean Muir, together with pieces from current designers, including Gareth Pugh, Simone Rocha, Comme des Garçons and ground-breaking Black British designers like Joe Casely-Hayford and Maximilian.
Beyond the Little Black Dress is at the National Museum of Scotland (nms.ac.uk) until October 29.
The Surgeons’ Hall Museums are owned by The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and offer a fascinating insight into pathology, surgery and dentistry. The collections date back to 1699 after ‘natural and artificial curiosities’ were publicly sought. In the 1800s, the original museum expanded to include the remarkable collections of surgeon and anatomists, Sir Charles Bell and John Barclay.
Originally developed as a teaching museum for students of medicine, the collections have been open to the public since 1832. For details go to museum.rcsed.uk.
Tickets for the spectacular Christmas Train of Lights on the Dartmouth Steam Railway in Devon sell out early, so start planning now. You depart from Queen’s Park Station, Paignton, travelling in style on a steam train with vintage carriages decorated with thousands of lights, both inside and out.
After a short journey, the show starts at Churston Station as you travel towards Kingswear. Emerge from the 450-metre Greenway tunnel into the enchanted forest which will be transformed by a multitude of lights with brand new feature displays, plus some old favourites.
The stunning show ends as you leave the forest to be greeted by the twinkling lights of Dartmouth reflected on the river Dart. You can alight at Kingswear to take photographs from the platform before the return to Paignton to experience the spectacle from a different direction.
Multiple services between November 24 and December 30. Book online at dartmouthrailriver.co.uk.