20 things you must do this summer

Don’t worry if you haven’t got badges for the Royal En­clo­sure at As­cot or Cen­tre Court tick­ets for Wim­ble­don: Anna Tyzack rec­om­mends the best al­ter­na­tive ways to en­joy the Bri­tish summer sea­son

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POLE mar­quees, pound­ing hooves, straw­ber­ries and the sweet scent of freshly mown lawns: there’s noth­ing quite like the Bri­tish summer sea­son. For the past 300 years, oc­ca­sions such as the Chelsea Flower Show, Royal As­cot and Hen­ley Royal Re­gatta have been an ex­cuse to dress up and drink Pimm’s when the coun­try is at its green­est and most abun­dant. Ed­ward VII en­cap­su­lated per­fectly the spirit of the summer sea­son when he de­scribed rac­ing at Good­wood as ‘a gar­den party with rac­ing tacked on’.

Out­side the grand en­clo­sures of these glo­ri­fied gar­den par­ties, how­ever, there are plenty of other quintessen­tially Bri­tish spec­ta­cles that are equally ex­hil­a­rat­ing, al­beit less par­tic­u­lar about hats, hems and badges. Take the Ae­gon Queen’s Club Cham­pi­onships, in Lon­don, for ex­am­ple— a chance to watch world-class ten­nis a fort­night be­fore Wim­ble­don—or Hamp­ton Court Flower Show, which has more space yet just as many show gar­dens as Chelsea.

Al­though these al­ter­na­tive so­cial events might be more re­laxed than some tra­di­tional oc­ca­sions, the same ba­sic rules ap­ply: bring a pair of binoc­u­lars and a pic­nic— and don’t for­get your um­brella.

Au­gust 24 The Melplash Agri­cul­tural Show, near Brid­port, Dorset

Held at the West Bay Show grounds, this an­nual jamboree fea­tures proper, tra­di­tional live­stock classes that see all man­ner of an­i­mals—from heavy horses and don­keys to cat­tle, sheep, goats and pigs—chas­ing rosettes. Tick­ets from £14 (www.melplashshow.co.uk)

July 1–2 Wales Na­tional Air­show, Swansea

A chance to see an RAF Chi­nook, a Bat­tle of Bri­tain me­mo­rial flight, the Tigers para­chute dis­play team and, of course, the Red Ar­rows, at Wales’s big­gest air­show. Free en­try (www.walesna­tion­alair­show.com; 01792 637300)

June 19–25 Ae­gon Queen’s Club Cham­pi­onships, Lon­don W14

At this pre-wim­ble­don warm-up, you can watch the world’s great­est male play­ers, in­clud­ing Juan Martín del Potro and Rafael Nadal, ad­just their game to grass. The hottest clashes usu­ally take place on day five, al­though you can ex­pect nail-bit­ing ac­tion through­out the tour­na­ment. When Wim­ble­don be­gins two weeks later, you’ll know ex­actly who to put your money on. Tick­ets from £33 (020–8487 7000; http://ae­gon.seet­ick­ets.com)

June 8–Au­gust 4 Long­bor­ough Fes­ti­val Opera, More­ton-in-marsh, Glouces­ter­shire

This in­ti­mate the­atre nes­tled in the rolling Cotswolds hosts the world’s most tal­ented di­rec­tors, con­duc­tors and artists. This summer’s pro­gramme in­cludes Wag­ner’s Tris­tan und Isolde, Beethoven’s Fide­lio and Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Pic­nic es­sen­tial, black tie op­tional. Tick­ets from £22 (01451 830292; www.lfo.org.uk)

June 14– Oc­to­ber 7, Luna Cin­ema, var­i­ous lo­ca­tions

What could be dreamier than a film un­der the stars in the grounds of your lo­cal coun­try house? Along with Dirty Danc­ing at Stonor Park in Wilt­shire (July 22) and Break­fast at Tif­fany’s at Blein­heim Palace (Au­gust 13), there will be clas­sic films screened at ru­ined abbeys and cas­tles across the coun­try. Bring your own pic­nic or buy Cham­pagne and Si­cil­ian street food at the venue. Tick­ets from £16.50 (0844 858 6767; www.the lu­nacin­ema.com)

June 17–18 Open Squares Week­end, Lon­don

Lon­don is at its pret­ti­est on this week­end in June when more than 230 pri­vate, hid­den and lit­tle-known gar­dens are open to the pub­lic. From Trum­peters’ House in Rich­mond to Car­lyle’s House in Chelsea and square gar­dens in Not­ting Hill that are usu­ally locked to the pub­lic, this is a chance to ex­plore be­hind the cap­i­tal’s locked gates. Tick­ets from £10 (020– 7839 3969; www.open­squares.org)

June 30–July 2 GWCT Scot­tish Game Fair, Perthshire

Wilder and more rau­cous than its English equiv­a­lent, this an­nual gath­er­ing at Scone Palace in Perthshire cel­e­brates the best of Scot­tish game, wildlife and coun­try sports. Stock up on sport­ing sup­plies, sam­ple the finest hag­gis and smok­ies and watch gun­dog dis­plays, fish­ing and shoot­ing com­pe­ti­tions and ter­rier rac­ing. Tick­ets from £20 (01738 554826; www.scot­tish­fair.com)

July 4–9 Hamp­ton Court Flower Show, Sur­rey

For bud­ding gar­den­ers, Hamp­ton Court—the world’s largest flower show—pro­vides a unique op­por­tu­nity to glean ad­vice and in­spi­ra­tion from grow­ers and land­scape de­sign­ers and to pur­chase new plants. By far the most el­e­gant way to ar­rive is by river­boat down the Thames. Tick­ets from £21.50 (0844 995 9664; www.rhshamp­ton­court­palace.seet­ick­ets.com)

July 6–9 St James’s Place Bar­bury In­ter­na­tional Horse Tri­als, Wilt­shire

This three-star event at the Iron Age hill fort Bar­bury Cas­tle on the Marl­bor­ough Downs is a smaller ver­sion of Bad­minton and spec­ta­tors can view the ma­jor­ity of the cross-coun­try fences from their pic­nic rug. Ex­pect lo­cal trade stands and a packed beer tent. Tick­ets from £10 (01285 712955; www.bar­bury­horse­tri­als.co.uk)

July 8–9 King Pocky’s Der­went Wa­ter Re­gatta, Cum­bria

First held in 1781 and re­vived by the Na­tional Trust in 2014, al­most all the spec­ta­tors at this re­gatta end up on (or in) the wa­ter. The fleet will in­clude kayaks, cata­ma­rans, float­ing bath­tubs and a Viking long­boat. There’s the in­au­gu­ral Stand Up Pad­dle­board race on Satur­day fol­lowed by a bar­be­cue. Bring beach shoes and a towel. En­try free, ac­tiv­i­ties can be booked on­line from the end of May (01768 774649; www.na­tion­al­trust.org.uk/bor­row­dale)

July 7–17 Ways with Words Fes­ti­val, Devon

In its 26th year, this 10-day feast of lit­er­ary talks at Dart­ing­ton Hall is more in­ti­mate than the Hay Fes­ti­val, with a dis­tin­guished list of speak­ers—bet­tany Hughes, Roy Hat­ter­s­ley and Matthew d’an­cona are con­firmed. Ac­com­mo­da­tion can be ar­ranged on-site within easy reach of the var­i­ous stages. Tick­ets from £10 (01803 867373; www.wayswith­words.co.uk)

July 7–8 Rock Oys­ter Fes­ti­val, Corn­wall

The north Corn­wall crowd flocks to this summer party on the banks of the Camel es­tu­ary to en­joy Cham­pagne, live mu­sic and suc­cu­lent Porthilly oys­ters. This year, it’s mov­ing to new pas­tures on the Pad­stow side with more space for the farmer’s mar­ket, food stalls, big top and fun­fair. Tick­ets from £24 (www.rock­oys­ter­fes­ti­val.co.uk)

July 30 Last Night of the (BSO) Proms, Pow­der­ham Cas­tle, Devon

On the cas­tle lawns, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra will per­form pieces from its reper­toire for the BBC Proms at the Royal Al­bert Hall the fol­low­ing week. The mu­sic will close with a spec­tac­u­lar fire­work fi­nale over the Exe Es­tu­ary. Tick­ets from £27.50 (01202 255161; www. prom­satthe­cas­tle. co.uk)

July 31–Au­gust 6 Gal­way Races, Repub­lic of Ire­land

This seven-day meet is the jewel of the Ir­ish rac­ing cal­en­dar—as W. B. Yeats wrote in

Gal­way Races: ‘There where the race­course is/de­light makes all of the one mind.’ Ex­pect the world’s finest race­horses, vast crowds and the most out­landish hats ever made. Not one for the faint-hearted. Gen­eral ad­mis­sion from €20 (00 353 9175 3870; www. gal­wayraces.com)

Au­gust 3–6 Wilder­ness Fes­ti­val, Oxfordshire

This most civilised of mu­sic fes­ti­vals on the bu­colic Corn­bury es­tate is a favourite with lo­cal GPS, politi­cians and su­per­mod­els. As well as mu­si­cal acts, there are ban­quets by Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi and a Neal’s Yard spa with hot tubs and yoga ses­sions by the lake. Even the mud is so­phis­ti­cated. Tick­ets from £178 (01608 811276; www.wilder­ness­fes­ti­val.com)

Au­gust 7–Oc­to­ber 30 Summer ex­hi­bi­tion, Good­wood, East Sus­sex

Lord March’s small summer ex­hi­bi­tions at Good­wood House have be­come a pop­u­lar lo­cal fix­ture. This year’s show fo­cuses on the life of Charles Len­nox, 2nd Duke of Rich­mond (1701– 50), whose widerang­ing in­ter­ests are ev­i­dent in his col­lec­tion of let­ters and manuscripts, paint­ings and fur­ni­ture. Tick­ets from £9.50 (01243 755055; www.good­wood.com)

Au­gust 27–28, Cad­hay NGS gar­den open­ing, Devon

Take a late-summer stroll around the pri­vate gar­dens of this El­iz­a­bethan manor house and ad­mire the herba­ceous bor­der walks, rhodo­den­drons and me­dieval fish ponds planted with gun­nera. There’s also a walled gar­den and a cafe for af­ter­noon tea and cake. En­try £4 (01404 813511; www.ngs.org.uk)

Un­til Septem­ber 24, Gif­fords Cir­cus, lo­ca­tions across the West Coun­try

Nell Gif­ford’s vil­lage-green cir­cus has a Euro­pean twist this summer, with danc­ing horses, chick­ens, ac­ro­bats, clowns and Brian the goose join­ing the 17th-cen­tury Span­ish Court. The big top is trav­el­ling to towns across the South-west, com­plete with the new Cir­cus Sauce res­tau­rant. Tick­ets from £15 (0845 459 7469; www.gif­ford­scir­cus.com)

July 17–21, Bird­song at the Mi­nack The­atre, Porthcurno, Corn­wall

Se­bas­tian Faulks’s mov­ing de­but novel charts the tu­mul­tuous af­fair be­tween a Bri­tish army of­fi­cer and a French woman, fol­lowed by the hor­ror of his ex­pe­ri­ences in the trenches at the Bat­tle of the Somme. Rachel Wagstaff’s pow­er­ful drama­ti­sa­tion prom­ises to en­trance the au­di­ence in this most evoca­tive of out­door au­di­to­ri­ums. From 8pm to 10.30pm, tick­ets from £10 (01736 810181; www.mi­nack.com)

Au­gust 17 Natwest T20 Blast: Sur­rey vs Glouces­ter­shire, Lon­don

If you can’t make a Test match, an evening Twenty20 cricket match at the Kia Oval is the next best thing. Never has cricket been such a party, with thump­ing tunes, beer tents and a fast-paced, high in­ten­sity, hard­hit­ting game. Tick­ets from £22 (0844 375 1845; www.kiao­val.com/tick­ets/natwest-t20-blast)

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