Explore Winchester's Hidden Heritage For Free

Winchester Open Weekend (WOW) returns this weekend with a bumper programme of FREE events and activities allowing curious locals and visitors to peek behind the doors of some of the district's most intriguing buildings.

The event is co-ordinated by Winchester City Council's tourism service and runs alongside the Civic Trust's annual Heritage Open Days, a scheme which aims to encourage the public to take an interest in the architectural and cultural heritage on their doorstep.

From visits to the court cells to a Tudor extravaganza at the Westgate Museum, or a re-enactment of a Saxon burial to a rare opportunity to visit the King Alfred Buses restoration workshop, the programme offers an event for everyone, whatever their age, interests or background. To allow more time to get round the 55 events and activities, Winchester Tourism has extended the traditional weekend this year to run from Thursday 7 to Sunday 11 September, providing even more chance to see these often unnoticed buildings.

Winchester Cathedral is also offering its support to the event with a diverse range of activities, tours and demonstrations on Saturday 9 September. If you haven't yet experienced the tower tour it really is worth climbing the many steps for the spectacular view over the city.

Further afield, the historic town of Wickham is well worth a visit as a number of events have been organised locally; from an intriguing family treasure hunt by bicycle along the old Meon Valley Railway to an extra special tour around Park Place Pastoral Centre, not forgetting Chesapeake Mill with its curious background. From Wickham, the village of Southwick is not far away; try the Southwick Brewhouse to see inside a fine example of a Victorian steam brewery.

Winchester City Council's Special Events Officer, Elaine Robbins, said, "This is the most popular event in Winchester Tourism's calendar and this year there are more buildings than ever taking part. Thanks to the BBC's Restoration Village series, the public's interest in historic buildings is at an all-time high. I hope this weekend will prove to be an inspiration to everyone."

Leader of Winchester City Council and Portfolio Holder for Economy and Tourism, Cllr George Beckett, added, "WOW is a real highlight in the Winchester district calendar. With free entry to all events, it's a wonderful opportunity for residents to discover the treasures on their doorstep. It also gives visitors a rare chance to look 'behind the scenes' of some of our best-known attractions. We are particularly grateful to the many property owners, official tourist guides, volunteers and organisations who have given their time to ensure the success of WOW."

Programmes containing complete listings of all events and activities for the weekend are available from Winchester Tourist Information Centre, telephone 01962 840 500, email tourism@winchester.gov.uk  or visit the website at www.visitwinchester.co.uk . Programmes are also available from local Parish Councils.