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Fab free things to do near you this summer

Bank balance groaning? We hear ya. You don't need to splash the cash to have fun this summer. We've hunted out fab free ideas for days out with mates, family or solo.

GLORIOUS GARDENS

Girl in lavender field

It is officially lavender season – and we’re lucky to have the world-famous Norfolk Lavender on our doorstep, and even luckier that a walk round the headily scented, near-on 100-acre garden costs absolutely nada (with free parking to boot)! This insta-tastic sea of purple will be in bloom until mid-August when it is harvested. If you’re aching to spend some dosh, there’s a gift shop selling the farm’s organic lavender wares at very reasonable prices and an animal garden for walk-weary children.

Fancy snooping around other people’s gardens? Oh go on then. There are plenty of Norfolk gardens of all sizes ready to throw open their gates to us nosy types, as part of the National Garden Scheme. Whilst it may not be entirely free, the entrance charge is typically just a few quid (kids go free), plus it supports highly worthy charities such as Macmillan. Take a look at the list of open days dotted throughout the county, including this dreamy Dereham garden, Honeysuckle Walk (above), open on 3 and 5 Aug.

FANCY A FREE FESTIVAL

@holtfestival

Roll up, roll up for some circus antics at the Maynard Flip Flap’s Fabulous Festival Fun on 30 July at the Stage on the Field at Gresham’s Pre-Prep. One of the final events in the Holt Festival, it is fabulously free – that’s enough to make you smile even before the comedy capers start. Be sure to book a ticket though.

There’s a flurry of free activities in Great Yarmouth every Wednesday throughout August, organised by Out There Arts – the National Centre for Outdoor Arts and Circus. Great Yarmouth’s Big Wednesdays promise happy hump days with weekly street acts at the seafront, followed by evening fireworks. Feeling inspired to unleash your inner artiste? Unicycle over to Circus on the Plaza at St George’s Theatre for drop-in circus workshops, designed for a range of ages.

Want more free street entertainment? Hell yeah! This summertime save Sunday afternoons for Norwich’s annual festival Head Out, Not Home, which runs until Sept 4 from six city locations. Expect open-air theatre, circus and music ranging from harpists to jazz. Now in its ninth year, the festival attracts top-draw performers including The African Choir of Norfolk, Covent Garden’s Corey Pickett, north Norfolk rockabilly stars Those Deadbeat Cats, and Britain’s Got Talent star Ben Langley.

GO ON A TRAIL

We can’t talk purse-friendly events without mentioning the free sculpture trail that is GoGo Discover. Grab a map (£1 – after all it is raising money for Break) and have fun spotting uniquely painted prehistoric creatures all over the county. There are 55 dinosaurs in the city centre and 24 Steppe Mammoths in outer Norwich and Norfolk hotspots to tick off before 10 Sept.

@NN_DeepHistory

Fancy trying something a bit different with family-wide appeal? This is where the real world meets the virtual world. Using whizzy virtual reality tech, take a time-travelling tour of Caistor Roman Town or the many Deep History Coast discovery points along the 22-mile coastline between Weybourne and Cart Gap. Just download the free apps (search ‘Deep History Coast’ and ‘Caistor Roman Town AR’), head to the relevant location, and prepare to be transported to Norfolk’s ancient past.

BE A CARNIVAL QUEEN

Carnivals are the ultimate free family event and there’s a whole bunch of them parading into Norfolk over the summer. Between 29 July and 7 Aug, Wells Carnival will offer a week of traditional seaside festivities including floats, fancy-dress, gillying (crabbing) on the quay, and sandcastle and town-crier competitions. Cromer Carnival, between 13-19 August, features a Red Arrows display as well as plenty of kid-friendly games and entertainment, whilst highlights at the Sheringham Carnival, from 1-7 Aug, include the carnival parade and fireworks on the final evening.

GET YOUR ARTY FIX

You can’t beat a mooch around a gallery for cultural inspo, and there’s plenty of free exhibitions to hit right now. Let’s kick off with the Summer Exhibition at Mandell’s Gallery in Elm Hill, running until 27 Aug, which is showcasing contemporary and traditional fine art in fresh, summery hues.

Too sunny to be indoors? Art in the open air is what’s required. The Sainsbury Centre Sculpture Park at the UEA is veritable a who’s who in the world of sculptors with contributions from the likes of Henry Moore, Elisabeth Frink and Antony Gormley. Play spot the artwork as you wander through the 350-acre parkland – you’re unlikely to miss the two new striking additions: Usagi Kannon by Leiko Ikemura (above) and Goodwood Steps by Anthony Caro. Make sure you glide into the Sainsbury Centre itself to see acclaimed ceramic artist Richard Slee’s 14 majestic swans – it’s free, don’t ya know.

Fancy an arty day by the coast? Dotted with sculptures, the garden at Yare Gallery in Great Yarmouth is an idyllic spot to soak up some culture whilst scoffing cake from the newly opened cafe. Their free summer Fauna and Flora exhibition runs until 1 Sept and features wall-worthy art by 100 new and established East Anglian artists. 

The Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Gallery at Cley marshes has to be the ultimate setting for a freebie summer art display. Local artist Rosalie Gibb’s Norfolk and Beyond exhibition, from 3-16 Aug, is a celebration of coast and countryside. But first you have to tear you eyes away from the gallery’s panoramic views over the marshes towards the sea. It’s also worth checking out the free family events while you are there, including bird mobile making on 7 Aug for all ages and abilities.

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