Oxford Open Doors is taking place across Oxfordshire this weekend, against all the odds, with an ambitious and exciting programme of outdoor and online activities.
From tours of Osney Lock Hydro to hidden heritage walks, conservation work parties to story-telling, lectures, family activities and exploration – organisers have packed some juicy offerings into its 2020 schedule, to enjoy from the safety of your own home or outside in a safe, socially distanced environment.
Stephen Dawson from the Oxford Preservation Trust says: “Yes we are still going ahead this weekend.
“We hope it will still enable the people of Oxfordshire to enjoy the county’s green spaces, in limited numbers in Oxford itself, and for those who would prefer to enjoy Oxford from their own homes, there is a huge amount to choose from.”
You can now download and access the self-guided walk programme in which the 15 self guided walks and family activities are divided up into three categories: green spaces, hidden heritage and partner walks.
These include delights such as joining a conservation work party as far afield as Heyford or Boar’s Hill, visit St Sepulchres Cemetery off busy Walton Street, Rewley Road Railway Bridge or even Iffley Church.
Or go on one of the 30 virtual events including a language taster session, a lecture with leading architect Clare Wright, a tour of the Turrill Sculpture garden in Summertown, insights into ‘hidden nature’ within The Bodleian Libraries collections, a virtual tour of Trinity College, or listen to Liz Woolley on Zoom discuss the men who built Oxford.
“Essentially we don’t want to encourage too many people to venture out which is why there are booking systems in place, and numbers are limited for the real events, but we do want local people to come and take part in some way,” Stephen explains.
With plans ready for all eventualities, Oxford Preservation Trust, which runs the event, is confident in their programme, despite having to change it extensively in light of the pandemic and its nuances.
“We have tried to make it as virtual as possible right through the weekend while ensuring that people stay safe,” Stephen adds.
“It has been a huge challenge, ever since lockdown began, to revise the Open Doors event accordingly, but we knew we wanted to hold it in some capacity, even though it meant scrapping what we’d already planned and starting from scratch.
“Moving it outside was our first move but even that held its own problems because understandably people found it hard to commit, and often their key staff were furloughed, or the colleges were focusing on getting their students back, quite rightly, which is why we have been firming up the details right upon until the last minute.”
Bearing in mind last year Oxford Open Doors organised 150 different things or places to enjoy, enjoyed by 35,000 visitors, and you’ll understand their conundrum.
“Our aim is still to share Oxfordshire’s heritage with local people, to spend one weekend being a tourist in your own city and county and to experience so many of the hidden parts,” Stephen adds.
“So while this year’s Oxford Open Doors is obviously smaller, everyone has been very supportive of what we are doing.”
Oxford Preservation Trust has also strived to keep open their 1,000 acres to the public during lockdown, as well as continuing their restoration projects where possible.
“We are a charity and while we haven’t been at the frontline of the pandemic we have done what we can to help in a supportive way, for Oxfordshire and the people who live here,” Stephen says.
“We think what Oxford Open Doors offers this year is different in a good way and we are really pleased with what we have planned.”
Indeed the team are considering extending the virtual dates beyond the weekend, while the guided walks will be available until September 20.
The virtual content goes live at 10am on Saturday until 6pm on Sunday, and while you can see whats on offer until then, you can’t take part until it goes live.
Oxford Open Doors 2020 runs over the weekend of 12/13 September.
Go to https://www.oxfordpreservation.org.uk/content/oxford-open-doors for booking and info.