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Step back in time during heritage weekend

Tours and exhibitions showing off historically significant places and sights will be on offer from September 11 to 14, as part of the annual Heritage Open Days. The event celebrates England’s fantastic architecture and culture by offering free access to places that are usually closed to the public or normally charge for admission.

The Library at Canterbury Cathedral will be displaying a collection of rare and ancient books from across East Kent. The oldest tomes date back to the 16th century. Tours take place from 10am-4pm on September 12 to 13. Advance booking is required and can be made by calling 01227 865330 or e-mailing library@canterbury-cathedral.org.

A re-designed display at the Canterbury Roman Museum is also expected to attract a lot of interest. Built within a bustling Roman town house, the museum shines a light on the lives Roman settlers led here, as part of the city of Durovernum Cantiacorum. The museum is also offering special close-up tours of some of their Roman artefacts. Advanced booking is required for the tour, at 01227 862162, or by e-mailing beaney@canterbury-museums .co.uk. The close-up tour is on Friday September 12 from 3pm to 4pm.

The Zoar Chapel, one of the most unusual sites of worship in the city’s history, is built directly into the bastions of the city wall. Formerly a reservoir for Canterbury, it has served as a place of worship for some Baptist groups since 1845, and will be open for viewing on Friday September 12 and Saturday September 13. The Friday viewing is between 5pm and 7pm, while the Saturday show is 10am until noon. The chapel is in Bugate Lane, Canterbury. Booking is not required.

For the nostalgic, there will be a tour of the remnants of the Crab and Winkle Line between Canterbury West Station and Whitstable. Visitors will take a train from Canterbury West station to the North Tunnel Portal, followed by a two-mile walk along parts of the line, with information about the route’s history. Once the walk is done, participants are free to return to Canterbury by bus or on foot, or to continue the walk to Whitstable. Terrain will be uneven, and the trip is therefore unsuitable for wheelchair-users. The whole thing starts at 10am on Sunday September 14 outside Canterbury West Station.

The Old Synagogue, a 19th-century Egyptian-style building in the heart of the King’s Mile will also open its doors to the public. Built in the 1840s by Hezekiah Marshall, the synagogue was used for divine services until 1931. It was renovated in 1982, and was sold to The King’s School, which has since used it as a musical recital room. The building has a lot of history to share, and will be open to the public on Sunday September 14, from noon until 4pm. Participants will find it on King’s Street, Canterbury.

To celebrate the bicentennial of the formation of the Sturry to Herne Bay Turnpike Trust, a group dedicated to maintaining the road between Herne Bay and Canterbury, there will be an illustrated talk about the bay’s proud transport history.

From the town’s first bathing machine in the 1770s, Herne Bay has always attracted people as a coastal resort, and this talk will look at the role transport played in that development. The talk is on Friday, September 12 from 7.30pm to 9pm at the Herne Bay Little Theatre.

The Herne Windmill, a 200-year-old building and museum, will also be open to the public over the weekend.

The Grade 1 listed building used to be a smock mill, but nowadays serves as a museum of milling technology, complete with working machinery. The whole thing is run by volunteers. Children are welcome, as long as they are accompanied by responsible adults. The mill is open on Saturday, February 13, and Sunday, 14, from 2pm-5pm. The Windmill can be found on Mill Lane, Herne.

Reculver Towers, one of the oldest buildings in Canterbury district, is opening its 12th century doors to the public.

Visitors will get the chance to climb the ancient towers (weather permitting), and take in the stunning views of the Kent coast. A little closer to earth, the Visitor Centre will showcase a demonstration on how to spin yarn from 11am-4pm. People are free to drop by and learn the ancient craft using a traditional spinning wheel and drop spindle. There will also be an extended tour of the Roman Fort by Brian Philp of the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit.

The day runs from 11am-4pm on Sunday December 14, with the tour from 2pm. The tour must be booked in advance, by calling 01227 740676. The day is free, but donations to the Kent Wildlife Trust and Kent Archaeological Rescue Centre would be welcome.

Those with an interest in Herne Bay’s past can also enjoy a choice of two guided walks through the town. The walks will be led by members of the Herne Bay Historical Records Society.

The gentle walks are designed to bring the past of the town alive, and are sure to fascinate anyone with an interest in local history. The walks will run from 2.30pm-3.30pm on Saturday, September 13. Each walk will last between an hour and 90 minutes, and begins from the Herne Bay Museum on William Street.

The thriving Whitstable Playhouse will open its doors to anyone with an interest in the town’s theatre scene.

A converted church, the Playhouse can seat almost 200 people, and is filled with a combination of up-to-date theatre essentials, and more traditional items. The tours will be given by the Lindley Players, and include refreshments, tours of the stage, control box, workshops, and dressing rooms. The tour is on Saturday, September 13 from 10am to 12.30pm. The Playhouse can be found on the High Street.

Whitstable Castle, one of the finest landmarks in the district, will be offering guided tours to those interested in the history of the former Victorian family home.

The castle and its gardens have been restored by the Heritage Lottery and Canterbury City Council, for the public to enjoy. With three acres of landscaped gardens, a pirate playground for children, and tearooms in the Victorian style, the castle has something for everyone.

The castle will be open from 11.30am to 4pm on Saturday September 13, with tours every half hour.

Fordwich Town Hall, built in the reign of King Henry VIII, will be open for the public to come and learn about its varied past.

Since its construction in 1544, the building has served as everything from a courtroom, to a prison. Currently used by the town council, it is the smallest, and oldest town hall still in use. There will be an audiovisual history of the building available throughout, in the Undercroft. Alternatively, visitors are free to explore the ancient brick and timber for themselves.

The town hall will be open to the public from Thursday September 11 to Sunday 14, from 1.30pm to 4pm. It can be found on King Street, in Fordwich.

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