Discover the history on your doorstep

Discover the history on your doorstep Fascinating lives, intriguing stories and life-changing events from bygone years fill our communities and have moulded our environment to what it is today. With so much local history surrounding them, children are sure to enjoy an influential journey of discovery as they explore in more depth the lives of people and places of past years.

Our country is steeped in history, so luckily nobody needs to look too far to start that step back in time.Children will learn the tales of ancestors and investigate how history has evolved before sharing their discoveries with others. It’s all guaranteed to grab the imagination and provide mental stimulation.

Britain’s ancient heritage is so colourful and diverse that it can be hard deciding where to start. Yet, to help a child gauge the different phases of history, delving back as far possible will provide a good starting point. Here, history blends beautifully with the nation’s geography, as archaeological landscapes, prehistoric caves and caverns are unveiled by the intrepid young explorer.

It’s not long before children realise that history can be fun. Many a family-friendly site encourages hands-on activities to feed a child’s imagination and interest. Scouring the shoreline of coastal waters for fossils brings excitement and intrigue – it’s easy to spend endless hours in this way on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Caves and prehistoric settlements nestling in the British countryside encourage children’s imagination to run riot as they can ‘pretend’ living there. Without warmth and comfort, the young will soon learn about the hardships that people used to encounter and it will help them to appreciate the luxuries that surround them today.

Progressing along this historic journey, children will stumble across vivid and perilous stories of battles, famine, disease and torture. Most of these stories will have that shock factor, but again they will allow a natural comparison where children will view their own lives in a more favourable light. One of the best ways to stir the senses and get a child to fathom what life was really like is to visit a castle or fortress. Dominating, unrivalled locations built between 1066 and 1500, these often lovingly- preserved buildings represent the quality of the structures built and the brutal strength of the people who lived within their walls. Many castles run re-enactments and hands-on activities that bring history to life. Court jesters are brought in to entertain and enthral the crowds just as they did centuries ago; treasure hunts take the family on an exciting adventure through narrow passages and up imposing towers; quizzes test the history-related grey matter of all family members. Some castles have crumpled in time and have become inhospitable ruins, while others provide the visitor with a real taste of royal luxury.

Other ways to retrace the footsteps of Britain’s historic high society is to pay a visit to a stately home. The country is scattered with impressive properties and gardens that boast a stunning combination of grand architecture circled by miles of tranquil gardens and acres of open land. It’s easy to imagine yourself as Lord of the Manor at a location such as this, and again, many stately homes offer activities specifically aimed at children, allowing them to take a glimpse at the lavish lifestyles of past landlords and ladies. Vast gardens give children a great chance to roam freely, play croquet on the lawns and explore mazes that will leave many bemused.

At the other end of the lifestyle scale, taking a look at the poorest of ancestors will open the eyes of any youngster. A trip to a mineshaft, quarry, dungeon or even prison is sure to capture the interest of any visitor, albeit with morbid fascination. The concept of childhood is still relatively new – as recent as the nineteenth century, when children were expected to work in the mines or docks to earn a mere pittance to pay for food. Trips to such venues are hugely educational - and captivating for all visitors.

Another fascinating part in the country’s history is Britain’s involvement in both World Wars. The scars of the tragic events from the early twentieth century are still fresh in the minds of many grandparents, who, incidentally, provide an insightful and vivid example of living history. Museums display impressions of the scars, the bleakness and the awful casualties of war. Children will find that, as it is a more recent part of our history, it is easier to relate to - and acts as a cautious reminder, to boot. In general, museums provide a fabulous window through which to look into the country’s history, with many providing interactive displays from different eras. During the school holidays, many museums arrange children’s workshops that have a historic theme - usually based on one of their exhibitions. These events are usually free or attractively priced. And for cost-conscious families, the free entry to many museums is a huge bonus, too.

On their discovery, children will learn they will take their own place in history and they may also want to keep the past alive for the next generation to enjoy.