BREAKING – Americans find history festival…

If you have had a look at ‘Things to Do’ and ‘Hidden Festivals’ you will have guessed that I am a great fan of the Chalke Valley History Festival, the must-visit festival of the summer for the whole family and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

But what makes it so special? In a way, the Chalke Valley History Festival is as much a social occasion as a celebration of history past and present. It personifies that wonderful sense of ageless Englishness where one could be forgiven for thinking that nothing has changed, everything is right with the world and always will be. Held in the beautiful Chalke Valley in June, the festival embodies a sense of civility, intellectual curiosity, and intimacy (more akin to a family gathering – after all, where would you find the quiz being conducted in the tea room by Michael Gove)! One can listen to leading politicians, historians, war veterans, leaders in commerce and a smattering of celebrities, all sharing their insights, and love of history in a celebration of past and present, all followed up by a cup of tea or glass of wine to ease the mental exertion. 

On that note, in all my years of attendance, I have never come across any visitors from abroad, or at least not until last summer when I struck up a wonderful conversation in the bar with a couple from the U.S. visiting friends in Wiltshire.  Their enthusiasm for having found this hidden treasure so far off the beaten track could hardly be contained. For them, they had found real England – or at least the England of their imagination.

Having myself lived and worked in the U.S. for many years and resided in Wyoming (a state you might be interested to learn has a population of only 500,000  and yet is larger than England, Wales and Scotland combined), I have come to love their country, sense of enthusiasm, positivity, openness, and hospitality. Americans have always been so appreciative of the English and our history, a reputation I am not sure we always deserve, yet I have always wondered why American visitors have never found their way to this glorious part of the world and its hidden treasures except by accident – as in the case of my new found friends. 

Most Americans seeking the quintessential English countryside and village experience visit Gloucestershire, I think more out of force of habit than anything else. Even though it is only 1 and a half hours away, I have asked many American friends why they don’t visit beautiful Dorset or the surrounding region on their visits. The answer almost invariably seems to be, ‘well that’s what we do’ which really makes my point. 

There is no doubt that Gloucestershire and its picturesque villages are quite beautiful, but this is just skirting the surface. To really experience any place you need to also interact with its culture and peoples. What better than a visit to the History festival – I have no hesitation in saying you will love it!