Playday is a national celebration of play, with play events up at down the country. We spoke to Paula Clarke, Community Engagement Officer at Devon’s Castle Drogo, about what she’s doing at the castle for Playday.
What are you up to on Playday?
Set against the fabulous backdrop of Dartmoor, Play is going to take over Piddledown Common (yes – Piddledown) on Wednesday 6 August from 2pm until 4pm. This will be the third year running that Playday comes to Castle Drogo. We’ll be joined by local play enthusiasts for a day of fun, free activities including arts and crafts, bushcraft, drama and games.
What else are you doing to get people playing?
I’ve been at Castle Drogo for eight years. Connecting the place with local people is a huge part of what we do. We don’t want to be that big posh house on the hill, so we’re exploring different ways to make the Castle relevant and attractive for people.
All through summer we have games out on the lawn: hula hoops, tennis, and free croquet lessons. It’s not just children who play. We’re exploring playful ways of encouraging people of all ages to explore the history of the castle. Drogo is home to a considerable collection of old postcards. Rather than lay them out in display cases, we’ve blown them up in size, stuck them on card and created a giant postcard theatre. People can dress up in Edwardian clothes and play their way through the landscape!
Why is Castle Drogo so special?
We’re surrounded by the wild; the castle is overlooks the woods, heath and moor of Dartmoor. We can do most of the 50 things here. Almost all of them, in fact – except the ones that require sand, sea and rock pools.
We take advantage of the wildness: Castle Drogo is one of the homes for Wild Tribe, a bushcraft club run by our rangers that gives kids the chance to try things like fire-making. It builds kids’ confidence and competence in the outdoors, helping them feel braver in the wild.
Children are at the heart of what we do. The castle was built by retail magnate Julius Drewe not to impress the local gentry, but to be a home for his family. I like to think that Mr Drewe would have wanted his family to be running around, exploring the house and the grounds.
Which is what we’ve been trying to encourage. Kids love to explore the castle, forever asking if they can lock their younger brother or sister in the dungeons. I haven’t the heart to tell them that we haven’t got any.
The castle is currently in the middle of a major restoration project to protect it from the Dartmoor weather. This building work means that the whole castle has been turned inside out and it has given us the opportunity to tell new stories, open bits of the castle never seen by the public before, have ‘Meet the Builders’ days and give people the chance to climb the viewing tower and see how the conservation work is going. Building work can be fun!
Join the Castle Drogo team from 2pm on Wednesday 6th August for Playday. Everyone is welcome for this FREE event. Just follow the bunting from the main car park to discover the Playday base.