Ideas for family days out and things to do in Kent this spring
From music festivals to events celebrating 250 years of the humble sandwich, there is something for everyone in Kent this spring.
Whether you are looking for a boozy bank holiday sampling local beer or a family day out at the seaside you will find it somewhere in the county.
A number of events focus on history and heritage from a vintage fair at the Bickley Arms at Chislehurst, to a 50s weekend at Leeds Castle.
But by far the biggest historical happenings focus on famous people or events that are synonymous Kent.
On May 12 and 13 the town of Sandwich is laying on a spectacular spread of events in honour of the 250th anniversary of the Earl’s famous culinary concoction.
And in Gravesham there are a number of very special events to mark the bicentenary of Victorian literary legend Charles Dickens.
The annual Discover Gravesham has added a number of Dickens-themed events in honour of the landmark, including walks around the countryside that inspired him, an exhibition and guided tours of his former home at Gad’s Hill Place.
Graham Cole, communications manager at Gravesend Borough Council said: "The really new and unique thing this year is the opportunity to visit Dickens family home at Gad’s Hill Place. It has hardly ever been open to the public and the guided tours are something that hasn't been done before at the festival. It was the place he lived, the place he died and the place he completed some of his most famous books including Great Expectations and The Tale Of Two Cities. It was also where he wrote The Mystery of Edwin Drood which was never finished."
The old house has recently been used as a school but with the school moving this summer it is set to become a permanent memorial to the author.
Afternoon tea will be served in the grounds during the guided tours and people will also be able to walk through the tunnel under the road Dickens built to reach his writing chalet and the local pub.
Graham said: "People tend to associate Dickens more with Rochester but there is an awful lot connecting him with Gravesham and this is where he actually lived.
"The festival has plenty of events that return year on year because they are very popular but this year with the bicentenary there a lot more Dickens events."
The Discover Gravesham festival has been running for eight years and offers an eclectic line-up of events including everything from guided tours of Gravesend Cemetery to concerts.
It has now become a firm fixture in the calendar for locals and visitors alike, attracting around 20,000 people each year.
Graham said: "Quite a few people visit from outside the area but the area lot are residents who want to find out more about the local history or points of interest. People tend to take the place they live in for granted but if you can tell them something new about the place they live it makes them walk a bit taller and take more pride in the area."
To discover the details of Dickens life in Gravesham or the hidden gems on your doorstep check out our list of the top events in Kent this spring.
1. Discover Gravesham, various locations in and around Gravesend, for details contact Gravesend Visitor Centre, 01474 337600.
Activity/attraction: Heritage festival.
When: Throughout May.
Highlights: Gravesham During Dickens' Time, an exhibition on the author and his connection to the area and guided tour of his former home at Gad's Hill Place.
Tickets/price: Free to £12.
To mark the bicentenary of literary great Charles Dickens, this year's Discover Gravesham features a number of events exploring the life of the author and his connection the area.
This includes guided tours of his former home at Gad's Hill Place where he wrote some of his most famous works including Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities.
Other Discover Gravesham events include tours of Meopham Valley Vineyard live music at Gravesend cemetery and a number of guided walks.
2. Broadstairs May Fair, Victoria Gardens and Promenade, Broadstairs, CT10 1QL, 01227 700894.
Activity/attraction: Family festival.
When: May 5-7 from 10am.
Highlights: Fun fair rides, craft stalls and live music.
Celebrate the May bank holiday in style at beautiful Broadstairs.
From May 5-7 the Promenade and Victoria Gardens will host stalls, a fun fair and live music from 10am each day.
And while you are there you can also check out the beach - one of Kent's very best- as well as taking a stroll through the picturesque streets or visiting the nearby Dickens House Museum.
3. Vintage At The Bickley, Bickley Arms, Chislehurst Road, Chislehurst, BR7 5NP, 07947 714971.
Activity/attraction: Vintage festival.
When: May 12, 11am-4pm.
Highlights: Fun fair rides, craft stalls and live music.
With classic cars to vintage makeovers, this festival celebrates the very best of days gone by.
Pick up a unique gift at one of the vintage or craft stalls or lindy hop to your heart's content accompanied by live bands including The Three Belles.
Family friendly, the event offers free children's entertainment throughout the day as well as candy floss, a coconut shy and a picnic menu that can be enjoyed in the pub’s extensive garden.
There is also complimentary Pimms on entry.
4. Sounds New, various locations, Canterbury, 01227 787787.
Activity/attraction: Music and arts festival.
When: May 4-15.
Highlights: The Veil Of The Temple featuring Tenebrae, Canterbury Cathedral Choir and the English Chamber Orchestra Ensemble (May 11) and The King’s Singer Jubilee Concert (May 15).
Tickets/price: Free to £30.
Dynamic and challenging the Sounds New festival returns this year with a line-up showcasing some of the most exciting contemporary musicians, poets, vocalists and artists around.
This 2012 line-up is an eclectic as ever with a heady mix of live music, talks, art instalments, film screenings and poetry.
Hidden gems and highlights are to be found throughout the programme, from the free music event in Whitefriars Square to the challenging, The Veil Of The Temple concert at Canterbury Cathedral. Written by John Tavener, it starts with a 13th Century Sufi poem followed by a Tibetan horn and two hours and 40 minutes of East meets West musical magic.
The festival will be brought to a rousing close on May 15 by celebrated vocal group The King’s Singers who will be performing a number of new pieces including one written specially for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
5. Sweeps Festival, 95 High Street, Rochester, Kent, ME1 1LX, 01634 338141.
Activity/attraction: Heritage festival.
When: May 5-7.
Highlights: Performances from more than 60 Morris sides.
Set up to recreate the joyous scenes on the one day young chimney sweeps were allowed off work each year, the modern Sweeps festival offers a colourful mix of music, dancing and entertainment.
This year’s event features more than 60 Morris dancing sides and an array of stalls and live entertainment. The weekend promises to be a spectacle not to be missed.
6. Crabble Corn Mill Beer Festival , Lower Road River, Dover, CT17 0UY, 01304 823 292
Activity/attraction: Beer festival.
When: June 1, 3pm-11am, June 2, 11am-11pm, June 3, 11am-7pm.
Highlights: More than 60 beers and ciders and live music from Cultured Pearl and Captain Patch and the Mermaid Mollies.
Tickets/price: June 1, £4 (advance bookings only), June 2, £2.50, June 3 £1.
This year’s Crabble Corn Mill Beer Festival promises to be bigger and better than ever.
With its peaceful riverside location, live music and more than 50 local ales and 17 ciders on offer there it is the perfect place for a boozy bank holiday.
Drinks to look out for include the eminently quaffable Millis Gravesend Guzzler beer (3.7%) through to the rather more potent Duddas Tun cider from Pine Trees Farm (7.5%).
7. Pat-A-Lamb Day , Mount Ephraim Gardens, Staple Street, Hernhill, Faversham, ME139TX, 01227 751496.
Activity/attraction: Chance to hold a lamb.
When: May 6-7, 11am-5pm.
Tickets/price: Adults £5, Children (4-16) £2.50.
On May 6-7 Ephraim Gardens is offering the unusual opportunity to get up and close cuddly with its cute collection of spring lambs.
While you are there you can also explore the 10 acres of idyllic gardens from the tranquil Japanese gardens to the challenging grass and wildflower maze.
The estate also offers stunning spring bulbs, rhododendrons, camellia, magnolia and magnificent views of the Swale and Thames estuaries.
8. Australian Wine Evening , Crescent Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells, TN1 2LY, 01892 526455.
Activity/attraction: Wine tasting.
When: May 10, 7pm.
Highlights: Appearances from cricket legends Sir Ian Botham and Bob Willis.
Tickets/price: £90 (booking essential).
Combining fine wine and cricket chat, the Australian Wine Evening at Hotel Du Vin is a winning combination.
Aussie winemaker Geoff Merrill will be joined by England legends Sir Ian Botham and Bob Willis for tasting and a talk about their joint venture the Botham Merrill Willis Range.
9. 250 Years of the Sandwich, various locations, Sandwich, 01304 612860.
Activity/attraction: Celebration of the humble sandwich.
When: May 12, events 9am-7pm and May 13, 10am-4pm.
Highlights: Food festival, street lunch and historical re-enactment of the invention of the sandwich.
This year is the 250th anniversary of the humble sandwich and to mark the occasion the town where it originated is pulling out all the stops.
Events over the two-day celebration include a food fair and an historical re-enactment of the moment its signature snack was invented, featuring actors in full period dress.
There will also be live music, a teddy bears’ picnic and a street lunch hosted by the current Earl of Sandwich – and you can probably guess what’s on the menu.
10. Diamond Jubilee 50s Weekend , Leeds Castle, Maidstone, ME17 1PL, 01622 765400.
Activity/attraction: Jubilee celebrations.
When: June 2 and 3.
Highlights: Big screen broadcast of the jubilee, fireworks and open air cinema (from June 3 from 6pm).
Tickets/price: Adult £19.75, child £12.50, concessions £17.50 (includes free repeat visits for a year).Fireworks and open air cinema evening adults £20, children £15.
A former royal palace itself, Leeds Castle offers arguably the best diamond jubilee celebrations in the county.
During the day you can experience the best of the 1950s from classic cars to authentic artefacts.
On June 3 you can bring a picnic and watch the flotilla and other festivities from London live on a big screen.
The weekend comes to a close with a fantastic firework display and an open air screening of the ever-popular film Grease which is set in the 50s.