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Sussex summer hols What’s On

Over 30 ideas from bat hunting to slime experiments and a neon circus in the big Muddy school hols guide

DROP OFF The Observatory Science Centre workshops, Herstmonceux, various Aug dates

Always a great spot for educational fun, in addition to the centre’s hands-on exhibits there will be daily telescope tours and spectacular science shows three times a day included in the admission price. In August a series of half-day workshops (£12.50) for 6-8s and 9-11s have enticing titles like Light and Colour, Alien Life, Astronaut Academy and Crime Detectives. Meanwhile Chemistry Lab full-day workshops mean you can drop the kids off 10.30 – 4pm for £23.50 – stampede! You’ll need to book ahead and unsurprisingly they tend to sell out early.

Pop-up woodland camping, Great Walstead School, Lindfield, until 28th August

Great Walstead school has launched its first pop-up campsite this August opening up its private woods for families to camp in the wilderness, switch off and enjoy getting back to basics. Price sare from £25 for two adults for a night. I visted the school at the end of term and met pupils on an overnight camping out and the woods are gorgeous and extensive.

Family Art Activities, Charleston House, Firle near Lewes,  5, 12 & 19 Aug & 2 Sept

Charleston already has an artistic tradition and it’s now inviting families to create their own art while visiting. Free sessions are hosted by the house’s friendly volunteers, during which you can create a range of exiting things including paper lampshades and clay models. Activities have been inspired by the art and lives of the Bloomsbury group. Parents or carers are required to stay with their children and to create artworks together. It’s for everyone aged 3 and over.

Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers, Arundel Wetland Centre, Sat 21 July – Mon 3 Sept

This summer at Arundel WWT Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers encourages children to take on bushcrafts, orienteering, foraging. knot tying and animal tracking challenges. As ever there will also be chances to take a boat safari in search of water voles and kingfishers, hand feed rare geese, go pond dipping and take to a hide. The lakeside cafe is a good spot for some parental relaxation during a day of action. Book ahead online to save 10%.

Themed weekends, Fishers Adventure Farm Park, Wisborough Green, various dates from 28 July- 02 September

Alongside its regular attractions, Fishers has an action-packed range of holiday events. Little Farmers Weekend (28 Jul – 29 Jul) gives youngsters the chance to operate a tractor and get hands on with farm animals. Then there’s Cowboys and Cowgirls Weekend (04 Aug – 05 Aug); Superheroes Weekend (11 Aug – 12 Aug) with face painting and a mighty inflatable assault course and Wiggly Weekend (18 Aug – 19 Aug) letting children encounter reptiles, bugs and amphibians from around the world. Finally, a Beach Party (25 Aug – 26 Aug) includes games like volleyball and limbo plus a water slide then there’s a chance to earn a medal for completing the assault course on Army Weekend (01 Sep – 02 Sep).

Museum Explorer days and family events, Amberley Museum, Amberley, near Arundel, Jul 29 – Aug 29

Always good for an educational step back in time, Amberley Museum has heaps of extra events for the school holidays
On July 29 there’s a classic car show on site with shiny vintage vehicles from 1955 to 1991; on Aug 12 a family cycles day will see people in period costume riding old bone shakers. Several special Museum Explorer days with children’s activities running from 10.30 to 3.30 include one about buses on Aug 1 and another about fire engines on 29 Aug.

Children’s Have A Go Volleyball sessions, Yellow Wave, Brighton, Thurs 26 July & Tues 7, Tues 21, Thurs 30 Aug

This beach volleyball court with a nice cafe on Madeira Drive is a great family-friendly place to hang out at any time and watch sportier people doing their thing especially as there’s a sandpit on site and a playground next door. For the school holidays it has Have a Go sessions for children mixing fun games, drills and skills. There are different times for 5-7s, 8-11s and 12-16s on Thurs 26 July and Tues 7, Tues 21 and Thurs 30 Aug and each session is £6.50. Leaflets are available on site, or give them a call. There are regular clubs for youngsters who get a taste for the sport. Also check out regular kids classes from craft to ballet in the clubhouse.

Summer Explorers, Wakehurst, various dates from July 23 – 2 Sept

This school holidays at Wakehurst besides the usual chances to run wild in the outdoors there’s a bumper Summer Explorers programme with Survival of the Species race against extinction games (23 – 29 July); crafts like woodland printmaking, clay sculpture (27 Aug – 2 Sept) and wand making; nature photography for 7 -11s (30 July – 5 Aug), guided tree climbing with proper ropes and harnesses (20-26 Aug); musical crafts and sound ‘foraging’ (13 – 19 Aug) and story-telling in the woods (6 – 12 Aug). You can also hire a Summer Explorer rucksack stuffed with activities. Workshops are from £3.

Willow +Wild Box activity kits, monthly subscriptions

Want something to keep little ones occupied at home? Try these new kits from Heathfield-based Willow +Wild Box. Developed by a keen gardener and mum and aimed at ages 3-8, the kits are packed with a variety of nature-related gardening, craft and cooking activities to sow, grow, bake and make. Buy a one-off box or take out a three, six or twelve month subscription. Prices start from £7.25 a month. There are also travel and party kits.

England’s Medieval Festival, Herstmonceux Castle, Fri 24 – Mon 27 Aug 

Immerse yourself in the thrills and spills of the Middle Ages this summer when England’s Medieval Festival comes to lovely Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex. Over 1,000 costumed performers travel from across Europe to help recreate the spectacle with jousting knights, court jesters, siege recreations and crafts like blacksmithing and arrow making, with a chance to have a go at many. Children can even join warrior and princess schools. Advance day tickets are £17 for adults £7 for children over 5 (£46 for families). Don’t miss our Muddy prize draw to win a family weekend ticket with camping worth £250!

PART FREE School hols tours and activities, Theatre Royal, Brighton, various Aug dates

The Theatre Royal has some charming activities for children this holidays. Turn up at 2pm on Thurs Aug 2 and 23 for a free tour behind the scenes. Linger for crafts, demonstrations and behind the scenes peeks at the open day on Wed 15 Aug. Make a potion and go on a magical journey around the theatre during The Secret Life of Fairies (Sun 12 Aug for 4 – 8s, £12.50) and join a Twilight Picnic with songs and stories on Fri 17 Aug (£8.50). There are also torchlight tours (17 & 18 Aug, £8.50) and a technical Backstage World workshops for older children exploring light, sound and more (£8.50 or £22.50 for an adult and two children). Look out too for the theatre out and about at Brighton Marina (14 Aug) the BAi360 terrace (21 Aug) with free seaside themed arts and crafts.

FREE Polo at Cowdray, until Sun 23rd Sept

The public are welcome to watch polo at Cowdray throughout the season, with matches held every Sat, Sun and Bank Holiday Mon and on most weekdays. Bring your own picnic, or order one from the Cowdray Farm Shop & Cafe. There’s also a snack bar in the grounds. Except during the Gold Cup, weekends and bank hols tickets are £5 each (under 12’s free) and weekdays are free for all. Call 01730 813257 or see the tournament section of the website for the day’s play.

FREE Drop in workshops/birthday party, Littlehampton Museum, 2, 10, 11, 16, 23 and 30 Aug 

Drop in activities for ages 5+ during the holidays include mini scarecrow making, creating decorations ready for the Museum’s birthday party and making artwork for the big end of year WW1 exhibition. On Sat 11 Aug there will be a day of celebration for the museum’s 90th birthday with cake, games and activities for all ages.

DROP OFF Craft and writing workshops, Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, Thurs 2 Aug, Thurs 16 Aug, Sat 18 Aug, Thurs 23 Aug

Ditching Museum Of Arts And Craft has creative workshops for all ages this summer. Colour and Collage with Olivia Marjorie, (Thurs 2 Aug) helps children 7+ create their own Corita Kent-inspired posters and explore her messages of peace. Creative Story Writing with author Beth Miller (Thurs 16 Aug), encourages 13-16-year-olds to explore new inspirations and ideas, while teens and adults make particularly enjoy Badge UP! on (Sat 18 Aug), creating badges based around social commentary, politics and the environment. Creating Science (23 Aug) then has children 7+ upcycling objects to create a kinetic monster sculpture and more. The badge workshop is free, the others £23.50 (£22.50 if booked by phone)

Science Saturdays, Petworth House, Sat 4, Sat 11, and Sat 18 August

Book ahead for Science Saturdays at Petworth House this summer. Join hands-on workshops from Dragon’s Den winners Sublime Slime filled with goo, smoke and bubbles. Children also get the chance to create their own sweets. It’s £7 per child and will depart from Church Lodge reception to a secret location, so house entry tickets are not required. Book ahead on 0344 249 1895. The house also has  an inventors’ trail inspired by former inhabitant and experimenter Elizabeth Ilive and suitable for 4- 12s.

Chichester International Film Festival outdoor screenings, Priory Park, Fri 3 – Sun 5 Aug 

The start of the 2018 Chichester International Film Festival is heralded by a trio of open air screenings at Priory Park. This year Grease(12A) is the word on Fri 3 Aug, then it’s kid friendly Incredibles 2 on Sat 4 Aug and a sing-along version of The Greatest Showman on Sun 5 Aug. The outdoor shows have sold out the last two years, so get organised!

FREE Sunset Screenings, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, Sat 4 to 25 Aug

The De La Warr is putting on Sunset Screenings on an outside sea-facing wall this August, with plenty of retro family-friendly options across the school holidays to keep kids giggling and adults sighing with nostalgia. The season starts with UP (4 Aug), then we’re back to the 70s and 80s for The Love Bug, (11 Aug) Back to the Future, (18 Aug) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (25 Aug). Bet you still hide from the Child Catcher, eh? Sunset is expected around 8.30pm and there are live bands and a DJ from 2pm and family-friendly activities from 6.00pm beforehand. Best of all, it’s all free! For more outdoor screens see the full Muddy round-up here.

Have a Go at Archaeology, Fishbourne Roman Palace, near Chichester, 24 July to 3 Aug

Ever wanted to try your hand at archaeological excavation or wondered how the past can be recreated from just a few tiny pieces of pottery and bone? Visit Fishbourne Roman Palace this summer to find out, as part of the National Festival of Archaeology.

DROP OFF  West End Comedy Theatre Workshop, Tues 28 – Fri 31 Aug / The Play That Goes Wrong Mon 27 Aug – Sat 1 Sept 

Tickets are selling fast for this West End hit on tour, suitable for ages 8+. The farce is all about a Drama Society’s attempts to stage a 1920s murder mystery battling on through collapsing sets and the like. It won an Olivier award for best new comedy and apparently made Joanna Lumley cry with laughter. You can test it out for yourself with tickets from £16. Meanwhile, 10 – 16s can learn the secrets of silliness in a West End Comedy Theatre Workshop before watching the show and meeting one of the cast. Slapstick and physical theatre are to the fore in this multi-day drop off. The course fee is £100 and sessions run for at least five hours a day at varied times.

Play link:  Workshops link:

Canadians in the Park trail, Sheffield Park and Garden, Uckfield, Sat 21 July – Mon 3 Sept

From 1941 to1944 Sheffield Park and Garden became the home and training ground to thousands of Canadian troops. This holidays between 10am and 4pm families can pick up a free map and follow co-ordinates to find mission checkpoints. At each location you’ll be put through your paces with everything from code breaking and target practice to keep fit exercises. There’s also a re-created Nissen hut in the garden and a new assault course at Ringwood Toll.

FREE Airbourne, Eastbourne seafront, Thurs 16 – Sun 19 Aug

Eastbourne’s International Airshow boasts a two mile flying display line along the seafront with military and civilian aviation  teams including the RAF Red Arrows, Tigers parachute display team and more, and all for free! This year the Red Arrows will fly on the Fri, Sat and Sun. Ground displays open 10.00am – 6.00pm daily, with flying happening in a packed schedule from lunchtime until around 5.00pm. It’s a great day out.

Teletubbies Live, The Hawth, Crawley, Sat 11 & Sun 12 August

Say eh-oh to Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po as they bounce into Crawley on their live tour. Noo Noo and the sun baby will also be in attendance I hear and there will be plenty of songs and actions. Just try getting that song out of your brain afterwards. performances are at 10am and 1pm, tickets are £15 for adults, £5 children and under 2s free.

Wild Sleep Out, RSPB Pagham Harbour, Sat 18 – Sun 19 Aug

Camping is not usually allowed at Pagham Harbour but Big Wild Sleepout is a chance for you and yours to break the rules. Take in the sights and sounds of the reserve after dark, get crafty, set up mammal and moth traps to check for live critters in the morning, hunt for bugs, and go bat detecting. One to book early as placed are limited. Adults are £44.69, children £18.23.

Bat Walk, Woods Mill Nature Reserve, Henfield, Thurs 26 July, 10 & 21 Aug

One for older children with later bedtimes. Once the sun sets, the bats emerge from their roosting spots around Woods Mill. Join a talk and walk to look and listen for them using bat detecting equipment. The events are free, though booking is essential as places are limited. They run 8.30 to 10pm; 7.45 – 9.45 or 7.30 – 9.30 depending on the day.

DROP OFF Lewes Railway Land, Holiday Clubs, 23 – 26 July & 30 July – 2 Aug

New for this year at Lewes Railway Land Nature Reserve are holiday clubs for 6 – 13 year-olds. Children can take on the fire lighting challenge, build dens and discover creatures in the ponds and birds overhead. There will also be stories, games, crafts and campfire cooking and the chance for older children to work towards an award. Use the web form to book two or four day blocks. The clubs runs 9am – 4pm.

Crafts and trail, Standen House and Garden, East Grinstead, July 25 – 2 Sept

This summer at arts and crafts gem Standen, kids can get creative making and launching ‘wish boats’ (selected dates between 28 Jul – 27 Aug), enjoy garden games on the green, win a prize on a nautical trail inspired by women of the WRNS or build a den in the Plantation.

Sharp Shots workshops and photo challenge, various dates, various Sussex locations. 

Sharp Shots is running school holidays photography day courses for kids and teens at Borde Hill, Wakehurst and Yellowave, Brighton (£39, £49 or £55). My nephew produced some lovely shots when he did a nature session. In an effort to challenge selfie culture it is also encouraging young people to get behind the lens rather than in front of it to explore their identity for a competition.  Through a series of photographic images they are invited to tell the story of who they are. Prizes include cameras and a feature in an online gallery on The Royal Photographic Society’s website.


Loxwood Joust, Loxwood, West Sussex, Sat 4 & Sun 5 and Sat 11 & Sun 12 Aug

It’s your chance again to tuck into a hog roast and ale and watch jousting and sword-on-sword action from armoured knights. Despite the violence there’s plenty of educational content at this big event with recreated Mediaeval villages and learning zones, a marketplace and workshops like chainmail and pewter badge making. The dedicated Children’s Kingdom is a festival within a festival where kids can try archery and have fun with wound painting, sword school, a bouncy castle and a very un-pc sounding game of ‘pelt the peasant’. Advance tickets are Adult £13, Child (4-14) £7. Gate prices £16 and £8.


Child-friendly app tours, Theatre Royal, Brighton, Saturdays 14 Jul – until 24 Nov

IMG_1230 (3)

Each Saturday morning over the summer at Theatre Royal, children can get their hands on an iPad on which they can watch clips, meet characters from the past and have fun with sound effects. I took this tour with my nephews and it’s good fun and educational too – see my review. You get to go backstage and find out about past problems with mice and flooding and novel associations with local fishermen. Tickets cost £7.50

Peppa Pig’s Adventure, Pavilion Theatre, Worthing, Wed 8 Aug

Photo by Dan Tsantilis

Peppa and friends are back in the brand new live show Peppa Pig’s Adventure. Bring your children to the Pavilion Theatre to join the animals on their camping experience. This 90 minute live show promises games, laughter and live music. Tickets are from £17.50, a family of four £62.

KIDS GO FREE Kew Science Festival at Wakehurst, Sat 21 and Sun 22 July

A wild weekend of family-friendly workshops is promised for the Kew Science festival at Wakehurst, celebrating its status as a global leader in plant research. Go behind the scenes in the Millennium Seed Bank vaults, join walks, watch demonstrations and take part in experiments and workshops like Foods of the Future and Botanical Drawing. The festival is free with garden admission. Adult tickets are £12.95 and there’s car park charge but under 16s go free. Download the full programme from the weblink and see below for Summer Explorer activities later in the holidays.

Animalcolm, The Royal Hippodrome Theatre, Eastbourne, Fri 20 & Sat 21 July

Malcolm doesn’t like animals, which is a problem because his family love them. Following a school trip to a farm however, something strange starts happening to Malcolm. He starts turning into the very pets he shuns. Tickets are £15 adults, 12.50 children, or £45 for a family of four.

FREE Aardvarks Annual Summer Picnic, Preston Park, Brighton, Tues July 24

Calling all Aardvarks (or at least young children and their carers) – get down to Preston Park for this musical gathering. No booking, no charge just a few songs and a game of What’s the Time Mr Wolf from from local group Music for Aardvarks. Bring a picnic, with some bits to share, musical instruments and friends and meet outside the northern gate to the playground, under the trees, in front of the basketball courts.

KIDS GO FREE Enchanted Horsham, Horsham Park, Fri 27, Sat 28, Sun 29 July

Enchanted Horsham

Want to see a unicorn? Well, I have it on good authority one will be trotting about in Sussex this July. It’s part of Enchanted Horsham, a three day family-friendly Summer wonderland event where bands, street theatre, circus workshops, a vintage funfair, mermaid tales and life-size puppets are all part of the fun. After dark things will get really magical, with unicorns and dragons’ eggs waiting to be discovered and the gardens illuminated with projections and fire. You can even set yourself aglow by donning some UV face paint and joining a silent disco. Adult tickets are £20 but under 16s go free!

The Great Houndini, Brighton Open Air Theatre, Sun 22 July

Witness the impawssible at Brighton’s first ever dog-friendly magic show The Great Houndini! Featuring doggy mind-reading, illusions, mindbeagling tricks and even Britain’s Got Talent’s Neil Henry. The performers are some of the UK’s top magicians – plus their four-legged friends. An unfurgettable afternoon for all the family (including dogs). The organisers take no responsibility for any disappearing picnics. Full price £7.50, children and concessions £5, dogs £1.

Milkshake Live; The Magic Storybook, The Capitol, Horsham, Sun 22 July

Bob the Builder, Little Princess, Noddy, Fireman Sam, and more will be singing songs and sharing stories with youngsters at this stage version of Channel 5’s Milkshake!  There are two afternoon performances at noon and 15.30. Tickets are £16.

FREE Family Music Festival, The Bell in Ticehurst, Sun 22 July

Just as the schools break up for summer, The Bell in Ticehurst is hosting a FREE family-friendly music festival, featuring great local bands and artists. Staged on the amphitheatre in The Bell’s gardens, this summer Sunday promises to be the perfect laid back afternoon of great music featuring some amazing talent. From chilled out jazz and acoustic sets to full on high energy bands rock up between 1.30pm – 8.00pm to catch it. There will also be entertainment for the kids and snacks from the pub’s chef. Call 01580 200300 for more info.

Creepy Crawlies Weekend/ meet Peppa Pig/ Hello Kitty  Drusillas, Alfriston, Sat 22 and Sun 23 July / 26 July 27 July

Creep down to Drusillas Park for the weekend and come face to face with some mini monsters. The Discovery Centre, open between 11am and 4pm, will be swarming with weird insects, slimy molluscs and scary spiders. Experts from the British Tarantula Society (I can’t think of any club I’m less likely to belong to!) will be available to answer your questions. Rather less scarily Peppa Pig and George will be meeting youngsters at the park on 26 July and Hello Kitty on the 27th.


Horrible Histories, The Capitol, Horsham, Thurs 13 – Sun 16

Everyone’s favourite history teachers are back! With not only actors but 3D special effects this time, The Horrible Histories team, promise people from the past will hover at your very fingertips. On Thurs 13 – Sat 15 it’s Awful Egyptians and Thurs 13 – Sun 16 Terrible Tudors, with various day and evening times to chose. Tickets are £15.

Harry Hill Kids Show: How To Be Funny – for Kids! Theatre Royal Brighton, Fri 26 Oct

Get set for autumn half term by booking this show, aimed at helping kids with an interest in comedy to improve their skills by offering hints, tips and anecdotes. TV’s Harry Hill will be sharing his dos and don’ts as well as offering kids who fancy themselves as a bit of a joker the chance to express their own comedy skills. Tickets are £16.00.

Compiled by Debbie Ward and Lyla Dando

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