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Things to do in the South West this spring

26 Apr 2018
It may have taken even longer than usual this year, but spring has now – finally – well and truly sprung! With much of the UK recently basking in a pre-summer heatwave, many people’s attentions have now turned towards getting out and about to enjoy the best of what the country has to offer. Those of us fortunate enough to live in the beautiful South West will be well aware of the endless countryside that can be explored once the weather improves, but the region also hosts a number of fantastic annual events which allow those attending to enjoy a wide range of fun activities with family and friends. Below, you will find more information about some of the very best such occasions that are coming up over the next few months.


Toby’s Garden Festival – Powderham Castle, Exeter (27-28 April) Toby's Garden Festivals Toby’s Garden Festivals are hosted by Toby Buckland, one of the UK’s favourite gardening personalities. The upcoming event at Powderham Castle near Exeter will feature a wide range of exhibitors across its two days, with highlights including plants from award-winning nurseries, artisan food and drink from local sources, and a great selection of family-friendly entertainment. The team behind the festival were also kind enough to share some more information about what’s going on this year: ‘TV presenter Toby Buckland's Garden Festival at Powderham Castle near Exeter boasts two days of horticultural speakers, workshops and more than 200 exhibitors offering rare and unusual plants, local crafts and delicious West Country food. ‘Highlights this year include talks from BBC Gardeners' World presenter Rachel de Thame and Radio Two's organic veg expert Terry Walton plus a giant Willow Wonder woven by Serena de la Hey, as part of the campaign to save her iconic M5 Willow Man near Bridgwater. For information and tickets, visit’ If the dates of this festival are a little too short notice for you, don’t worry – Toby and the team will also be visiting Forde Abbey in Chard, Somerset on 15-16 September. You can find out more about that event by clicking here.


Brixham Pirate Festival – Brixham (5-7 May) Brixham Pirate Festival - El Galeon For something a little different, there is surely no better way to spend a weekend than with a visit to the extraordinary Brixham Pirate Festival. This much-loved, grog-fuelled celebration on the South Devon coast was actually at risk of not going ahead this year but, due to a fantastic local fundraising effort, was saved at the 11th hour. Don’t miss out on this unique and special occasion, more details of which were shared with us by the organisers: ‘On the first May Bank Holiday weekend each year thousands of would-be pirates gather in Brixham, wearing their best pirate costumes and widest smiles. They come to Brixham Pirate Festival, held around the picturesque harbour. It’s free, and it’s the first pirate festival of the year. ‘To celebrate the Tenth Anniversary, there will be a great programme of music at the Quay on the Main Stage, headlined by The Dolmen, with Pirates of St Piran, The O’Marleys, Sea of Mirth, Hornswaggle, Boarding Crew, Captain’s Beard, Pyrates, Captain Morgan’s Rum Do, Talisker and Black Friday. Gurdybird will play wherever takes her fancy and there will be buskers, street entertainers and traders spread around the Harbourside. Children aren’t forgotten: there is a family area and stage near the Marina with an entertainment team, storytelling, games and music. ‘Twice a day on Saturday and Sunday there will be some very loud bangs! Cannon will fire, militia and pirates will skirmish, El Galeón will be boarded. In quieter moments there is a Shanty Town to be visited, a coin striker to watch, and El Galeón to be toured. Purchase tickets on the day or from ‘Coming to British waters for the first time ever, El Galeón is sailing into Brixham on the morning’s high tide at 9:19 am on Thursday 3rd May, ready for the Festival. The reproduction of a C17 Spanish galleon, beautiful and awe-inspiring, she is 50m long and has 5 decks. Moored on the Marina Pontoon, she can be visited from 10am - 8pm, and when she leaves she is taking trainees with her, on a 1½ - 2 day navigation course. For €240, you too can leave Brixham, and arrive in Dieppe. Visit to sign up or for more details. ‘The 2018 Festival Grand Opening is at 10:15 am on Saturday 5th May, at the top of Fore Street, when the Chair of Brixham Town Council will cut the ribbon. Then a Pirate Parade will walk down to the Quay, led by Street Samba. Festival events start at 11am, ending at 6pm (5pm on Monday), with more music in and around the town in the evening.’ Salcombe Crab Festival – Salcombe (6 May) Salcombe Crab Festival One of the most beautiful coastal towns in the South West, if not all of England, makes the perfect setting for the popular Salcombe Crab Festival. Even if you are not a big fan of seafood, you will be pleasantly surprised by the day’s eclectic entertainment programme, which is organised by the Rotary Club of Salcombe. Here’s some more details about what’s on this year from the organisers themselves: ‘Salcombe Crab Festival - or Crabfest - returns to the South Devon coast on Sunday 6th May, featuring a cracking line-up of cookery demonstrations, quality food and drink stalls, live music and fun culinary competitions.  ‘Celebrity Chef Matt Tebbutt (BBC's Saturday Kitchen, ITV’s Save Money: Good Food and Channel 4's Food Unwrapped) will open the festival at 10am and later team up with local food heroes Mitch Tonks (The Seahorse and RockFish) and Jane Baxter (Wild Artichokes) in the Chef’s Demonstration Kitchen where they’ll prepare some of their favourite seafood dishes. Joining them on the bill are Jane Devonshire (MasterChef Champion 2016); Freddy Bird (The Lido, Bristol, and Thames Lido); Allister Bishop (South Sands Hotel); Joseph Robinson (Wild Artichokes) and Andy Richardson (The Oyster Shack). Salcombe Crab Festival - 2 ‘Festival-goers can pick up a series of brand new seasonal crab recipes created exclusively for Favis of Salcombe and fill their shopping bags with world-class local produce – not forgetting a bottle of the limited edition Crabfest 2018 Gin produced by Salcombe Distilling Co. ‘Don’t miss Salcombe Holiday Homes’ Great British Bake Off-style cake competition judged by Matt Tebbutt or The Rotary Omelette Challenge, inspired by the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen and hosted by Soar Mill Cove Hotel. ‘Families with young children will find a range of fun activities awaiting them at the Coast and Country Cottages stand. Don’t forget to enter the 2018 Salcombe Crabfest Competition while you’re there! ‘Funds raised by this family-friendly festival are donated to local charities and entry is free. Image credits for Salcombe Crab Fest Norsworthy Photography Dart Music Festival – Dartmouth (11-13 May) Dart Music Festival Many of the South West’s best events feature excellent live music, but true musos won’t do better than taking a trip to Dartmouth to enjoy the Dart Music Festival in May. Taking place across more than 20 venues throughout the town, the festival is famous for its performances spanning almost every genre and, even more impressively, all being completely free to attend. Read on for some details from the festival organisers about the biggest and best acts visiting this year: ‘The countdown to the Dart Music Festival 2018 is well and truly on! ‘Taking place on 11th, 12th and 13th of May, our headline act this year is Dodgy, a stalwart of the 1990s Britpop era. Their biggest hit, ‘Good Enough’, is officially one of the most played tracks on British radio over the past 20 years. ‘In addition, we have a very special performance from Charles Hazlewood and his All Star Collective. Charles recently featured in the BBC Four documentary “Tones, Drones and Arpeggios: The Magic of Minimalism” where he explored four great American minimalist composers who rebooted classical music in the 20th century. ‘This year also sees the introduction of innovations including reusable plastic glasses, a Zero to Landfill initiative, a subscription service on the website that allows you to access the time and venues of the acts from your electronic devices and a new range of Dart Music Festival merchandise. ‘You can find out more from our website or follow us on Facebook (@dartmusicfestival) or Twitter (@DartMusic_Fest).’ Devon County Show – Westpoint, Exeter (17-19 May) - Avenue F, Stand 271 Devon County Show A true highlight of the region’s events calendar, the Devon County Show is a renowned celebration of farming, food, fun and all other aspects of rural life. There is so much going on throughout the showground across the three days that it is tricky to pick out just a few highlights. However, the team who put the packed programme together were able to share some of their favourite new additions to this year’s show, which you can find out more about below: ‘This year’s Devon County Show on May 17, 18 and 19 at Westpoint showground, Exeter, promises a packed day out for all the family with lots of new attractions, more food and drink and even live bands playing in the evenings.  ‘“Let us entertain you!” said Show Secretary Ollie Allen. “We are living up to our reputation as Devon’s big day out with an incredible variety of traditional and contemporary attractions.” ‘New this year is the Watering Hole, a huge red and blue marquee accommodating street food, live music and plenty of seats. For the first time, music will carry on into the evening with Queen tribute band Rhapsody on Thursday and a Sparks tribute act on Friday. Devon County Show - Boy with fire engine ‘Life-sized inflatable ocean creatures will float inside the new Ocean Discovery Zone staged by marine conservation organisations and the children’s farm will offer youngsters a wide array of hands-on activities. ‘Zorb football matches, a Monster Truck display team and the magnificent grand parade of livestock will be among the highlights in the main arena. ‘There will be thousands of farm animals and horses, a huge food and drink pavilion, a fabulous floral art, gardens and rural crafts feature, a busy countryside area, a wide variety of exciting and entertaining displays and, for the farmer visitor, plenty of agricultural machinery to look at. ‘In the crafts and gardens feature the clock will turn back to the First World War with displays about the Women’s Land Army alongside 30,000 handmade poppies which commemorate the South West lives lost in the conflict.   ‘The Show will be throwing a huge Royal wedding party on the Saturday with live TV coverage, a mass confetti throw and a head gear competition. There will be wedding trees for visitors to write their good wishes and, after the Show, the messages will be transcribed into a book and sent to the Royal couple together with a Devon tree sapling.  We are delighted to be exhibiting again this year - find out more about what we have planned.


Royal Cornwall Show – Whitecross, Wadebridge (7-9 June) - Stand 659 Royal Cornwall Show - Cornish flag at show One of the biggest annual events to be held in this beautiful county, the Royal Cornwall Show is a yearly highlight for all who attend, either as exhibitors or guests. As well as all the livestock, agricultural machinery, food and drink, and craft stalls you would expect to find at any high quality rural show, this particular event also plays host to a wide variety of unusual and exciting displays. Here’s some more information about what visitors can expect to enjoy this year from the Royal Cornwall Show’s organisers: ‘Be sure to consult the programme and look up into the skies at the right time when you are at the Royal Cornwall Show (7-9th June). ‘Then you’ll be sure to see one of the most spectacular of sights – the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team, descending spectacularly from high above the showground to land with pinpoint accuracy in the main ring. ‘They are scheduled to perform each day and form part of a packed programme of entertainment at Cornwall’s largest event. ‘If you like your thrills on four wheels then The Kangaroo Kid will be right up your street. Australian quad bike maestro, Matt Coulter, serves up incredible, death-defying stunts and tricks. Royal Cornwall Show - Quad bike display ‘On Friday and Saturday the Cavalry of Heroes, never seen before at the Royal Cornwall, will mark the 100-year anniversary of World War One with a special show remembering the role that the valiant horses and soldiers played in The Great War. ‘Poignant and dignified, the professional riders will combine tricks and stunts on horseback with a great music score, a rousing sing-a-long and a final cavalry charge. ‘Thursday and Saturday will see the Band of HM Royal Marines (Plymouth) put on a superb musical and marching display.  ‘Known as one of the leading agricultural shows in the country, thousands of the finest animals will be in attendance, their owners hoping to win a trophy or rosette. Golowan Festival – Penzance (15-24 June) As spring gives way to summer, the unique, fun-packed and diverse Golowan Festival sees the Cornish town of Penzance hold over a week of traditional community celebrations with a contemporary twist. Based on the historic processions and ceremonies that were unique to the county and widely held until the late 19th century, the modern-day festival was revived in the early 1990s and has gone from strength to strength ever since. Here are some words from the team behind this year’s event about what will be taking place there this June: ‘Golowan Festival is an annual community arts festival which takes place in June to celebrate midsummer and the Feast of St John. This year's festival will run from 15 - 24 June but the main Golowan events will be over the long weekend of Thursday 21 - Sunday 24 June.  The theme for 2018 is “Golowan Goes Wild about All Creatures Great and Small”. Golowan Festival - Golowan Band '21 June sees a Mock Mayor Election in the evening, and late evening on Friday sees a spectacular fireworks display. The magical and much anticipated Mazey Day follows, when the streets of the town centre throng with people who are there to watch the amazing and colourful street parades – four throughout the day – which see children along with adults carry the wonderful structures that they have been working on in the run up to the festival. Throughout the town there will be music and other entertainment, a street market, children’s activities and more, including a Torchlit Procession at 10 pm.’ ‘On the final day of the festival - Quay Fair Day - the action moves to the harbourside where again there will be a street market, entertainment, a youth market, a Kids on the Prom event, theatricals at Jubilee Pool and activities for young people at the Golowan Youth Space.’ As you can see, there is no shortage of fantastic events set to take place throughout the spring months across the South West this year. Whichever ones you choose to go to, make sure that you get there in style and comfort with one of the extensive range of models available from our Exeter, PlymouthTruro or Taunton Mercedes-Benz dealerships.   Image Credits: Royal Cornwall Show, Ed Ovenden,, Nao Victoria Foundation, Norsworthy Photography, Dart Music Festival, Charlie Marshall, Fototek, Peter Dean, John Stedman
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