Ian Weightman

Media Services

What have the Romans ever done for us?

OK.  So there’s no Royal Wedding, Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, or Olympic Games this year.  But Britain’s still marking some great events and anniversaries.  And they’re giving us a great opportunity to “look again” at some familiar (and not-so-familiar) destinations in a new light as we help to highlight what else is happening around the country.

Allow me explain…

It’s 100 years ago since the birth of one of Britain’s greatest composers, Benjamin Britten.  Which means we can also take a fresh look at (say) The Gustav Holst Birthplace Museum, Cheltenham.  And in terms of news, there will be references to Holst in the new-look Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, which is set to re-open in June 2013, following a £6m restoration and improvements scheme.

Talking of centenaries, it’s also the 100th anniversary of the Chelsea Flower Show in 2013.  One of the exhibitors this year will be Stoke-on-Trent – surprisingly, the greenest city in the UK, as well as the World Capital of Ceramics.  Now, it’s turning its hand (and its wheels) to creating a unique garden for the 2013 RHS Chelsea Flower Show featuring hundreds of hand made ceramic flowers.

Other partners on the Stoke-on-Trent stand will include The Trentham Estate - whose gardens are now high in the Top 10 list of most-visited paid-for garden attractions in the whole of the UK - and where a new “Art in the Gardens” arts & sculptures trail will be unveiled in 2013.

Another destination with strong horticultural appeal is the Isle of Wight - home of the Botanic Garden in Ventnor, and the National Collection of Lavendula with over 230 cultivars of Lavender.

Don’t forget: the Isle of Wight is also on the doorstep of another of the big stories for 2013 - the opening of the new Mary Rose Museum in Potsmouth.

The 125th anniversary of the last victim of Jack the Ripper is also giving rise to a number of “Horrible History” stories for 2013.

Tewkesbury, for example, will host the biggest Medieval Festival in the whole of Europe as it commemorates one of the bloodiest battles on British soil over the weekend of July 12th-14th.  Gloucestershire is also where King Edward II met an untimely and especially horrible death in in 1327 at Berkeley Castle.

But if you’re looking for something even more horrible, then a trip to Derby could haunt you for a lifetime.  A city famous for being the scene of England's final hanging, drawing and quartering, and the venue for the very last pressing to death in this country it's especially frightening to think that it's possible to decide for yourself whether Derby really does have more 'ghoulies, ghosties, long-leggety beasties, and things that go bump in the night', than any other city in England!  You can even book a 'lock-in' at Derby Gaol, complete with ouija board and séance!

The Pompeii & Herculaneun at the British Museum will help to focus minds on Roman Britain in 2013.

There’s a saying: “Scratch Gloucestershire and you’ll find Rome”.  Cirencester, in particular celebrates the region’s Roman past, and the Corinium Museum there is the “must see” attraction.  Also in 2013, Sudeley Castle in Winchcombe will mark the way in which the current day castle stands on the site of a Roman settlement.

The Isle of Wight also became an important agricultural centre in Roman times.  And today, Brading Roman Villa is one of the finest Roman sites in the UK – with an award winning Visitor Centre and Museum.

The launch of RIDE could also lead to the hunt for some of Britain’s Best Bike Rides in 2013.  So it’s worth repeating that The Isle of Wight was named in Lonely Planet magazine’s Top Ten destinations for the world’s best cycling routes.  And if you want more details, you’ll find them here

The Yorkshire Wolds - forever associated now with David Hockney - is one of the latest “hot” destinations for cyclists.  The crescent of rolling chalk hills extending from the Humber estuary at Hessle to the magnificent cliffs of Flamborough Head and Bempton gives visitors the freedom to explore this hidden corner of England at their own pace.  A range of cycling routes introduced as recently as 2012 can be found here.

Finally, the 50th anniversary of Dr Who may leave you wanting more Sci-Fi experiences in 2013.  If so, it’s worth noting that Edge-Lit 2 is all set to return to QUAD in Derby for a day of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Writing.  Edge-Lit 2 runs on Saturday, July 13th.  

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