25 free things to do in the UK in March

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Something for everyone in our monthly bumper guide

1. Mother’s Day

26 March, nationwide

Make your mum some sweet treats and deliver them in person – click here to see some of our ideas to help get you started . Alternatively, take her to one of the many free events around the UK, such as…

Free entry for mums at Painshill Park

Portsmouth Road, Cobham, Surrey KT11 1JE

Spend the day with your mother in the beautiful 18th-century landscape of Painshill Park. Wander around grottoes, a waterwheel, a vineyard and enjoy a tasty lunch in the tea-room. Entry is free to mothers when accompanied by their children.


2. Red Nose Day

24 March, nationwide

Red Nose Day 2015 netted an incredible £99.4 million, taking the total raised since Comic Relief started in 1988 to over £1billion. Expect to see plenty of fun and unusual stuff going on nationwide on 24 March – all kind of free, although do feel free to make a donation!

While you’re waiting, have a look at the (arguable) highlight of last year’s Sport Relief: Michael Crawford recreating his role as Frank Spencer after 38 years, with guests including Gemma Arterton, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Roy Hodgson.

Some Mothers Do Ave Em - Sport Relief 2016 by DoctorsFan2010_beac_8703f

3. See inside Kylie’s dressing room  

Theatre and Performance gallery, V&A, London SW7 2RL


There are 4.5 million objects in the V&A’s collection, but surely no gallery with quite the pull of the Theatre gallery which, isn’t, it soon becomes clear, all about theatre...

See Fred Astaire’s tail-suit (surprisingly small), Adam Ant’s Prince Charming costume (beautifully put together), Bjorn from Abba’s tour jacket and a full-size recreation of Kylie Minogue’s dressing-room, with all her original stuff. All this plus Tommy Cooper’s stage props, miniature set designs from a range of famous West End productions and much more. Even the corridor leading to the gallery demands you stop to look at Beatrix Potter’s original Peter Rabbit drawings. All free, incredibly.


4. See Back to the Future for free in a church in south London

25 March at St Luke's Church, West Norwood, London SE27 0HS 

The classic time-travel caper with Michael J Fox kicks off the South Norwood free film festival, with a programme also including The Goonies, Memento, Paterson and Northern Soul (among others), all in unusual local venues. There's also a chance to get involved by making your own film in the 48-hour film competition: turn up on 24 March and you'll be given the brief for your film and have 48 hours to go and make it. More on the West Norwood Free Film Festival here: freefilmfestivals.org/filmfestival/west-norwood/

The festival is part of a network of free festivals across south London (and extending to Guildford), bringing films into local communities. For full details: www.freefilmfestivals.org

5. Celebrate St Patrick's Day

17 March

Celebrations nationwide, including Manchester Irish Festival, running 3 – 18 March: a fortnight of events, many free, with the ever-popular St. Patrick's Parade held on Sunday 12 March. Tens of thousands turn out to line the route of the parade and revel in the party atmosphere.


....And/or celebrate St Patrick's Day in London on 19 March with a parade through Central London and a free festival in Trafalgar Square, showcasing the best of Irish culture, food, dancing and music. Beware, pubs will be rammed! For a list of other free events in London see visitlondon.com/st-patricks-day

6. Ride through the longest cycle tunnel in Britain

Bath, Somerset

Opened in 2013, the Two Tunnels Greenway is a new traffic-free walking and cycling path along a four-mile stretch of disused railway line, taking in two long tunnels and the Tucking Mill viaduct.

One of the tunnels – the Combe Down tunnel – is, at 1.67km, the longest cycling tunnel in Britain and features an interactive light and sound installation. For more adventurous walkers/ cyclists, the route also connects to the 13-mile Bristol and Bath Railway Path.


7. International Women’s Day

8 March, nationwide

Although its celebration has become more widespread and high profile over the last decade, International Women's Day is not a new thing: its origins go back as far as 1909. In 1914, the suffragettes marched to Trafalgar Square on 8 March. The tradition was upheld in various ways until 1977, when the United Nations declared 8 March UN Day for Women's Rights, leading eventually to the current International Women's Day.

As ever, there will be a range of discussions and celebrations across the world

In London head to the Southbank’s Royal Festival Hall for the Women of the World Festival, running 7 – 12 March, with a full programme of events for all ages, including live performance and comedy, exclusive video pieces and discussion. southbankcentre.co.uk/wow

In Nottingham, on 25 March there's a free concert with four singer-songwriters to mark the end of International Women's Month at the Nottingham Contemporary Café Bar. nottinghamcontemporary

In Liverpool, between 4 – 11 March, head to the National Museums of Liverpool which are holding free talks celebrating the roles and achievements of magnificent women. A creative workshop ‘Sewn Heroines', guides you through making your own sewn portrait of an inspirational woman. www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk

In Manchester, the People’s History Museum is running  a festival between 2 – 12 March called Wonder Women. It features a programme of cultural events including performances, film, debate, talks, workshops and exhibitions, many of which are free. www.visitmanchester.com

8. British Science Week

10 – 19 March, nationwide

The annual celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths features a range of engaging events across the UK where organisations, attractions and laboratories throw open their doors. 

On 11 March there's fun for all the family at the British Science Week mini-space festival at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, with a free morning of hands-on activities and demos.

See the website for the full list of events nationwide, most of which are free. britishscienceweek.org

There's also lots of downloadable activities and experiments for children (and, of course, adults, if you're so inclined) to try at home.

9. Walk the path

North and south banks of the River Thames, London

Follow the lifeblood of London, the River Thames, on this 40-mile walk. Stretching from the lost floodplains of Richmond to the Dickensian stretches of the eastern marshes, the Thames Path offers walkers lots to see and do. Stroll by Hampton Court Palace, through the heart of London to the East India Dock on the north bank and the River Darent on the south bank.


10.  Walk in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia (in Dorset)

A six-mile, circular self-guided walk through the beautiful Dorset countryside in the area that TE Lawrence (buried in St Nicholas Church, Moreton - above) made his home for the 12 years before his death in 1935.

Download from www.dorsetforyou.com

11. Talk about football

13 March and the second Monday of every month, National Football Museum, Manchester, M4 3BG

A new initiative from the excellent National Football Museum, urging football fans to come forward and share their memories of the beautiful game, using England's 1966 World Cup win as a starting point. More information: www.nationalfootballmuseum.com

Photo: Fans at the 1966 World Cup final 

12. See TV's biggest stars for free

Apply for free tickets for shows including Britain's Got Talent; Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway; David Walliams' new version of Blankety Blank; Jeremy Clarkson and Co's Grand Tour and many more...


13. Celebrate rural Wales

MOMA, in the foothill of Snowdonia, is worth the trip: a little shop front in a market town that opens out to a network of galleries, with an always-intriguing roster of changing exhibitions.

One highlight this month is ‘The Drovers Roads of Wales’, dramatic black and white photographs of the Welsh landscape, taken in the 1970s by photographer Fay Godwin. The nearby Penrallt Gallery Bookshop is also showing a sister exhibition featuring the work of other photographers inspired by Godwin.

There’s also a special day event on 11 March (costing £15), which includes a preview screening of a new film about Godwin’s work and a panel discussion of Godwin’s work with photographers who have been influenced by her.


14. Step inside Britain’s favourite picture

Painted in 1821, John Constable’s The Hay Wain has long been the top-selling print and postcard at the National Gallery, capturing a lost, rural moment of English history.

The Flatford Mill site, where it was painted, is still idyllic today with views out over the Suffolk/Essex fields. Now, though, there is a small National Trust Museum, with information sheets offering a short, guided walk of locations with Constable connections.

This little slice of old England is all free – apart from the car park and the tea and gift shops – and makes a perfect spring day out.


15. Explore the future of the world

Sygenta Photography Award exhibition, Somerset House, London WC2R 1LA. 9 – 28 March

The Sygenta Award draws attention to the challenges facing the world: this year’s theme ‘Grow-Conserve’ invited photographers to reflect on the apparently conflicting pulls of growing populations and consumerism – and the need to conserve our natural resources. The exhibition features 92 pictures taken by 48 photographers from 22 countries.


16. Run 5km with friends and strangers

Park Run, in parks throughout the UK. Every Saturday, 9am

Park Run is a free, organised running event open to all – including runners with dogs on leads and babies in pushchairs – see parkrun.org.uk to find your nearest one. 

17. Hooray for Hullywood (yes, Hullywood)

HIP Gallery, Princes Quay Shopping Centre, Dock St, Hull HU1. Until 2 April

A year-long programme of events to celebrate Hull continues with 'Hollywood Icons' – an exhibition of classic Hollywood moments recreated (and photographed) with people from Hull.


18. Square Eyes photography exhibition

Southville Centre, Beauley Rd, Bristol, BS3 1QG

An exhibition by Bristol-based photographer Becky Arnold, documenting her life and travels with photographs, printed in a Polaroid size of 8 x 8cm. The Southville Centre is also a popular Southbank Bristol Arts Trail venue each year in May, displaying work from local artists alongside live music and refreshments.


19. Starry starry night

Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

Visit the UK’s first Dark Sky Park, which was so designated in 2009. So few people live within the Forest Park that the nights are inky black, making it a brilliant place to enjoy the stars. Or go during the day for family friendly walks and a great visitor centre.


20. London’s new Design Museum

The Design Museum opened in its spectacular new building in Kensington in November.

It’s the only museum in the UK devoted to contemporary design and architecture – and now, housed on the site of the old Commonwealth Institute, it’s three times as big as before, when it was near Tower Bridge.

Check out its very satisfying preview video here: https://designmuseum.org/new-design-museum/the-story.

For info on the museum: https://designmuseum.org

21. Walk through the history of The Kinks

Ray Davies of The Kinks releases his first new album in a decade in April. As reviewed in the latest Boundless magazine, it’s a mix of Davies’ yearning for America and the lost England of his childhood.

You may be inspired to immerse yourself a little in his world: so here’s a free, self-guided walk through the locations that inspired some of his greatest 60s songs.


22. Wildlife photographer of the year

Touring exhibition, Beverley Art Gallery, Hull HU17 8HE. Until 22 April

The world-renowned Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, on loan from the Natural History Museum in London, is now at Beverley Art Gallery in The Treasure House in Beverley, featuring 100 awe-inspiring images (including this stunning image of an orang-utan by Tim Laban) from fascinating animal behaviour to breathtaking wild landscapes. 


23. Learn to play Javanese percussion

Bring your friends and family and learn to play the South Bank Centre’s beautiful Javanese gamelan orchestra – a series of differently tuned bells and drums. After a session, you could sound and look like this:


24. Architectural tour of the City of London

Here’s a great thing to do on a (dry) Sunday, when the streets of the City will be all but deserted. The City of London Corporation has produced a series of free-to-download self-guided tours, including this one, that takes you round 30 of the City’s most impressive buildings. From St Paul’s Cathedral to the Monument to all the glass-and-steel wonders/monstrosities that have sprung up in the last 20 years, you can explore one of the world’s most architecturally spectacular square miles…


25. Solve an Agatha Christie mystery

Agatha Christie was the best-selling novelist of all-time, her huge success built on her evocation of a cosy old England, full of vicars, afternoon tea and sudden death. Christie was born in Torquay in 1890 and lived here until she got married, the area providing inspiration for many of her books. This free self-guided tour, available from the Tourist Information Centre, takes you round Agatha Christie’s Torquay. There are 10 places to visit along the seafront – and even a little mystery for you to solve.

Click here: englishriviera.co.uk

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