“Show me the Mummy!”
Boo! Half term crept up on you too?! Fear not, Muddy to the rescue with the ultimate guide to Halloween hi-jinks and surviving the school holidays in Coventry and Warwickshire.
Words: Rhiannon Pursall
NATURE & OUTDOOR
Halloween is looking and it’s time to let the kids loose on a poor old pumpkin. If you want to turn it into more of an adventure than merely popping into ASDA, how about picking your own at a local farm? Hilltop Farm in Hunningham near Leamington has a bumper crop of the iconic squash; head on over to pick your own pumpkin from Sat 19 Oct-Thu 31 Oct. Lily Ellis will also be running a new Bee Wild and Free Forest School on this lovely family-run farm on Mon Oct 28, Wed Oct 30 and Fri Nov 1 for 6-11-year-olds from 9.30am – 3.30pm with loads of outdoor fun including den-building, woodland activities and some spooktacular Halloween fun (£29 per child; £25 for siblings or £25 for two or more sessions). Email: email@example.com to book your place.
Another family-run pumpkin farm, Pumpkins R Us in Leamington Road, Kenilworth, has thousands of pumpkins to choose from, in all shapes, sizes and colours across 50 different varieties.
Pumpkin Spooktacular returns to Hatton Adventure World from Sat 26-Thu 31 Oct, when ghosts, cobwebs and pumpkins descend. New this year is a Magic & Mayhem Illusion show and Whizzie the Wizard’s Masterclass, plus Zombie Run, Death Match Laser Combat Battles and more. Spot prizes are handed out to children for the finest fancy dress and best pumpkin carving. Throughout half term there’s Pumpkin Carving at Mary Arden’s Farm in the Falconers’ Field to carve a spooky pumpkin ready for Halloween, a small additional charge applies per pumpkin.
Warwickshire’s Country Parks host a wonderful series of events from Sat 26 Oct-Fri 1 Nov, including a Halloween Family Fun Night, an Autumn Fairy and Elf Adventure and Sticky Campfire Apples and Survival Dens at Ryton Pools; and Halloween Lanterns at Kingsbury.
Work your way down the ‘signs of autumn’ spotter sheet and having a go at making a wild crown under the gorgeous glow of the rusty leaves at Upton House & Gardens.
If you’re keen to make the most of the abundant free food lying around at this time of year, learn about foraging and what to do with autumn fruits and leaves on Wed 30 Oct in Iris’s tea room, complete with pumpkin scones.
Coughton Court has Halloween Family Fun Days from Sat 26 Oct-Sun 3 Nov, including outdoors trails and take-home crafts. If you’re getting a bit sick of the rain, pop inside for Coughton’s Pop-Up Jigsaw Festival from Thu 24 Oct-Sun 3 Nov.
Baddesley Ghost Tour 2019 is an after hours candlelit ghost tour of the moated manor house on Fri Oct 25 and Sat Oct 26. Learn all about Baddesley’s creepy tales and ghostly goings on. Tea and cake in the restaurant is included.
There’s also Ghostly goings on at Shakespeare’s New Place from 26 October—3 November, 12pm-4pm. Create your own crown or laurel wreath in honour of two of Shakespeare‘s famous ghosts, Old Hamlet and Julius Caesar, or write a ghost story in a cartoon format using supernatural activity in Shakespeare’s plays as your inspiration.
Fancy a stroll and culture combined? Why not head over to the University of Warwick’s Coventry campus to check out the first large-scale outdoor dinosaur sculptures by British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman incorporated within the new art trail Walking Through Time.
Boo at the Zoo is Twycross Zoo’s most spectacular Halloween ever from Sat 19 Oct-Sun 20 Oct and Sat 26 Oct-Sun 3 Nov. Explore four brand new attractions and wicked activities, including Broomstick Training, Scary Trails, Singing Pumpkins and the eerie-eyed lemurs known as the Ghosts of Madagascar.
Another great rainy day destination is the National Sealife Centre in Birmingham; embark upon the immersive A-scarium trail learning about the freakiest inhabitants of the oceans and searching for five secret potion ingredients hidden in various tanks. Those who successfully navigate the trail will be rewarded with a prize from the Sea Witch’s treasure chest.
Our county’s enchanting collection of castles, stately homes and historical sites offer a feast of frightening half term fun this Halloween. Are you brave enough to explore the castle after dark? Kenilworth Castle has been named as one of English Heritage’s most haunted sites, have you got what it takes to experience their Fright Nights on Fri 25 Sat 26, Wed 30 and Thu 31 Oct? The 6 – 7.30pm slot is suitable for families with children aged between 5 and 10 years; while the 7.30-10pm slot is suitable for over 10’s.
Fancying a ghoulish day-out? During the day, from 11am – 4pm, kids can get up-close to a host of real life ‘beasts’ in Spooky Kenilworth Castle with Creepy Critters from Sat 26 Oct-Sun 3 Nov. Meet some proper creepy crawlies – including snakes, spiders and more, enjoy some wicked crafts and a spooktacular Halloween quest around the castle.
Warwick Castle is one of the slickest family entertainment operations around and Halloween is no exception – the Medieval Haunted Castle makes for a perfect setting. From Sat 19 Oct-Sun 3 there’s the return of the Witches Tower, Haunted Hollows, a new Junior Ghost Hunt for younger kids or scaredy-cats (guilty!) and Falconer’s Quest Show featuring 50 birds of prey.
Further afield check out Ghost Fest at Oxford Castle and Prison, (25 Oct – 3 Nov).
Oxford Castle’s Halloween event returns for its 10 year ‘Spookiversary’. Lots of activities going on across the week including Potion Making, Trick or Treating around the castle’s rooms with a few spooky characters, a Mystic Market selling Goth-y goods and spooky tours around the prison cells. oxfordcastleandprison.co.uk
The hugely popular Birmingham Stage Company are back at the Belgrade with another Horrible Histories half-term double-bill. The side-splittingly silly shows this year are Awful Egyptians and Terrible Tudors, featuring a mix of live theatre and spectacular 3D special effects, from Wed 23 Oct-Sat 26 Oct. On Fri 25 Oct and Sat 26 Oct, Zoo Co presents Messy – a visual, enthralling performance by a Deaf and hearing cast with Sign Supported English.
Free family fun kicks off at the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon, with a celebration of difference ahead of the eagerly-anticipated new musical adaptation of David Walliams’ The Boy in the Dress. A fusion of football and fashion begins proceedings on Sat 26 Oct with a family fun day across Swan and Bancroft gardens. Local youth footballers Stratford Town Colts FC play matches across the afternoon and Guinness World Record holding freestyle footballer Rebaz Mohammed gives performances and a workshop.
Events continue throughout the week, including stereotype-smashing sessions in the PACCAR room, exploring identities through art, craft and fashion. The outputs from the week’s activities, with the help of artist Megan Clark-Bagnall, will contribute towards the upcoming vibrant exhibition RULES DON’T APPLY, which opens on Fri 8 Nov to coincide with the first previews of The Boy in the Dress and continue to March 2020.
During half-term Lyngo Theatre Company’s 45-minute magical retelling of Tom Thumb for ages 3+ comes to Warwick Arts Centre and is performed entirely on and under a kitchen table!
The Motionhouse Dance Workshop at Macready Theatre in Rugby is a perfect way to tire them out on Wed 30 Oct; and they’ll be kept quiet with showings of Kubo and the Two Strings on Mon 28 Oct and Paper Planes on Tue 29 Oct.
ART GALLERIES & MUSEUMS
Celebrating the release of the new Where’s Wally? book, there’s a Big Museum Hunt at The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum from now until Sun 3 Nov in collaboration with Walker Books and Kids in Museums. What’s more, the frightfully fabulous Festival of the Dead explodes into The Herbert from Sat 19 Oct-Sun 3 Nov, with drop-in craft sessions to create windsocks, sugar skull jars, dyed doily bunting and more.
Another must-see at The Herbert for teens 13+who love their tech is Heritage Storeys, Thu 3 Oct – 3 Nov, an intriguing prototype Virtual Reality experience!
You travel through time in a lift and immerse yourself in a series of compelling historical stories about exhibits such as the 175 million year journey of the Herbert’s ichthyosaur skull – trace its route to Coventry from discovery in a quarry back to this giant marine reptile swimming around Warwickshire’s Jurassic seas. As the doors slide open, a fully explorable scene is revealed – from oceans to battlefields and Bronze Age settlements. Each experience lasts around 3 minutes. Return as many times as you like and choose a different storey!
Teens studying for photography at GCSE or A levels can see a truly inspiring exhibition charting the world through the lens of some of the most iconic and influential photographers of the past 50 years right on their doorstep. Compton Verney is the only UK destination for Magnum Manifesto (Sat 12 Oct – Sun 15 Dec).
The Magnum Photo Agency captures the influence of events and emotions on human rights and the experience of life. Rarely seen emotive images dating from 1947 through to the 21st century document the rise of the Taliban and the impact politics, war and terrorism has had on people and relationships.
The British Motor Museum hosts a rocket-fuelled riot from Sat 26 Oct-Sun 3 Nov, including family science shows and the chance to make recycled rockets and rocket K’nex cars. The Halloween Black Cat Trail also returns; search for cat eyes with your torch and claim a spooky treat at the end. For further STEM-inclined fun, look to Brick or Treat at Legoland Discovery Centre, in Brum with a thrilling array of play experiences to keep small monsters entertained.
Get energised and jog on down to the Move and Play exhibition at the Coventry Transport Museum. Celebrating Coventry’s title of European City of Sport 2019, 19 different physical challenges are presented, mostly accessible to all ages and abilities. Activities are collaborative and non-sporting (hurrah no family spats) and range from disco donuts to nostalgic tennis, thermal cameras to tightrope walking. You can also test yourself in individual pursuits such as ‘How Accurately Can You Kick?’ to discover if you have what it takes to be the next football star (maybe take off your heels for that one).
A Skeleton Gallery Hunt, Marvellous X-rays and Potion Jar Lanterns are just a few of the Halloween inspired holiday activities at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum.
Heading to the Big Smoke? There’s the brilliant Science Museum‘s cool interactive gallery – Wonderlab, with more than 50 exhibitions including hands-on, live experiments at the Chemistry Bar and daily shows. The Space and AI tech exhibitions are also worth seeing.
HALLOWEEN HI-JINKS AT NATIONAL TRUST PROPERTIES, HISTORIC HOMES & HERITAGE HOTELS
Over in Stratford, The Bard’s birthplace has a spooktacular packed programme from Sat 26 Oct-Sun 3 Nov including Ghostly goings on on at Shakespeare’s New Place, daily, 12pm-4pm. Create your own crown or laurel wreath in honour of two of Shakespeare‘s famous ghosts, Old Hamlet and Julius Caesar, or write a ghost story in a cartoon format using supernatural activity in Shakespeare’s plays as your inspiration.
Hubble Bubble at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage involves a walk through the sculpture garden and following the plant trail to find the ingredients that went into potions in the 1600s; while at Mary Arden’s Farm there’s Pumpkin Carving in the Falconers’ Field and a Haunted Halloween Hunt.
For ghoulish grandeur and a fabulous series of events, head to Coombe Abbey to indulge in Halloween Banquets and a treetop sundown challenge in the dark with Go Ape. Meanwhile, Ragley Hall has a bewitching Halloween Fireworks party on Sat 26 Oct.
Or, at Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes, there’s an ongoing family-friendly exhibition on cyber security, Secrecy and Security – Keeping Safe Online, which explores the link between data processing at Bletchley and the ever-evolving cyber threat through interactive and audio displays (until 1 Feb). You never know, it might convince iPhone-mad teens to step away from the screens for a while.
Blenheim Palace, just outside Stratford-upon-Avon near Oxford, has turned its train into, you guessed it, a ghost train complete with spooky dark tunnel, plus the the Pleasure Gardens cafe is serving pumpkin pizza (a fiendish way to get some veg into them) and “ice scream” (26 Oct – 3 Nov).
WINTER LITERATURE FESTIVAL
Along with the falling leaves, autumn brings Stratford Literary Festival, with some fantastic activities for children lined up for half term, including storytelling and craft workshops for all ages from Fri 1 – Sun 3 Nov at Stratford Play House. Comedian, actor and director, Ben Miller – one half of comedy double act Armstrong and Miller, star of Paddington 2 and BBC drama Death in Paradise – will be reading his story The Night I Met Father Christmas and talking about his latest book The Boy Who Made the World Disappear on Sat 2 Nov (3.30pm – 4.30pm).
Another highlight will be Blue Peter Book Award-winning writer Andy Seed, who is exploring the gruesome contents of his new book, A Giant Dose of Gross on 1 November, 4pm–5pm. Children can discover the smelliest, grisliest and wackiest animals on the planet including cannibals, earwax-eaters, bloodsuckers, bottom sniffers, poo-bombers and parasites that live on your face. Ideal for 7- 10 year-olds.
On 1 Nov Kate’s StoryTree will be entertaining younger children with morning and bedtime stories, 10am–11am. This free to attend event takes place at Boston Tea Party in Henley Street. Arty Splatz are also giving children the opportunity to explore the Very Hungry Caterpillar with fun messy play. The sessions last 40 minutes and is great for all ages from 6 months to 8 years. A drop in craft workshop creating a giant caterpillar celebrating 50 years since Eric Carle’s caterpillar first chewed his way into book history will run between 1.30pm and 3.30pm.
In a fun, interactive show for 4-11 year-year-olds, Sara-Jane and Fiona, The Word Wizards, will give children tips on foxing grown-ups using Roald Dahl’s insulting language with definitions and examples on 2 Nov, 11am – 12noon. The festival rounds off on 3 Nov with storytelling fun by the Really Big Pants Theatre Company, 11am – 12noon. Stratford Literary Festival. Tel: 0333 666 3366.