Autumn festival of fun events

Colourful lights transform a willow sculpture in Chesterfield's Garden of Light into a strange, super-sized insect.
Colourful lights transform a willow sculpture in Chesterfield's Garden of Light into a strange, super-sized insect.
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Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble... A bewitching brew of ‘spooktacular’ events is on the boil to send shivers down the strongest spine and freak out the whole family during the Peak District and Derbyshire’s annual autumn festival of fun.

Scores of blood-curdling capers ranging from Hallowe’en half-term fun to fantastic firework displays are on the stocks as official tourist board Visit Peak District & Derbyshire rebrands the area as Spookyshire.

From the fortnight-long Scarefest at Alton Towers Resort, the UK’s largest theme park, to a bewitching Garden of Light transforming Chesterfield’s award-winning Queen’s Park into a fairytale fantasy world, there’s plenty to keep witches and wizards of all ages happy from dawn to dusk.

Stir some ghoulish ghost walks and wonderful wildlife events such as bat walks and fungus forays into the magical mix – and you have the perfect potion to make anyone’s eyes water, stomach churn and toes curl!

“The lively and varied programme of events planned for this year’s Spookyshire festival offers a great excuse to spread mirth and mayhem across the area, as children and adults alike get involved in some fiendishly exciting celebrations,” said David Thornton, Head of Marketing and Deputy Chief Executive of Visit Peak District & Derbyshire.

“The first week-long festival two years ago proved so popular that last year we decided to prolong the fun throughout October – and while the main focus for this year’s event will be during the half-term school holiday, this time we are looking forward to an equally successful event throughout the autumn.

“By extending it to include an even wider spectrum of events, we aim to appeal to both people who live in the area and visitors from elsewhere planning an exciting short break.

“Since we launched the festival, it’s become clear that the Peak District and Derbyshire must be one of the spookiest places in the UK – with lots of our historic houses, attractions and places to stay having their own resident ghosts, and Derby reputed to be the most haunted city in the country.

“And the area’s also a welcoming bolthole for people who prefer quieter pursuits and like to get close to nature amid beautiful and varied landscapes, enjoying activities ranging from wild food walks to woodland festivals.

“So it’s the ideal location to make the most of everything from Hallowe’en and firework celebrations to getting out and about in the great outdoors – and I hope as many people as possible will join in this year’s celebrations at a wide variety of attractions across the area.”

Among this year’s haunting highlights will be:

Spectacular firework displays at venues such as Chatsworth, Alton Towers Resort, Rother Valley Country Park near Sheffield, Midland Railway – Butterley near Ripley and Catton Hall, Walton on Trent

Ghost walks in Chesterfield and Derby – said to be the UK’s most haunted city - and Ghost Tours at Peak Cavern in Castleton

Chesterfield Arts and Market Festival, including storytelling for Hallowe’en and a spellbinding Festival Finale – a Lantern Parade from the Crooked Spire Church to the fascinating Garden of Light

Derby Feste – a thrilling two-day street festival when the city centre will be transformed into a mysterious sea bed, complete with giant illuminated fish and creatures from the deep

Matlock Bath Illuminations – with its fantastic flotilla of illuminated boats and family entertainment ranging from juggling and fire shows to firework displays – all in the spooky setting of the dramatic Derwent river gorge

Fascinating Discovery Days – including heritage events, walks and activities, open days at Heage Windmill and scary Hallowe’en stories – to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site

Fun outdoor activities for all the family – such as the Swadlincote Scarecrow Walk, bat walks in Chesterfield, Buxton and the National Forest, forays for fungi in the Staffordshire Moorlands, Upper Derwent Valley, Baslow, Derby and Elvaston and a Woodland Festival Weekend at Elvaston Castle Country Park

Scary stories in Robin Hood’s Cave at Creswell Crags as part of a stomach-churning ‘Gore in the Gorge’ event, and spine-tingling Time Travellers event and ‘Ghostly Castle at Night’ goings-on at Bolsover Castle

Witch Willoughby in her Hallow’en hideaway, Pumpkin Trail and The Great Masson Cavern by Candlelight at The Heights of Abraham, and Costume Parties, Scare School and a Spooktacular Firework Finale at Gulliver’s Kingdom, Matlock Bath

Hallowe’en and autumn-themed events at National Trust properties, ranging from an Apple Day at Calke Abbey, Ticknall, and an Autumn Tree Walk at Kedleston Hall, near Derby to a Murder Mystery Evening at Hardwick Hall, near Chesterfield and Petrified Pumpkins at Lyme Park, Disley

For full details of this year’s action-packed programme, visit www.visitpeakdistrict.com/events/spookyshire2011.