IT'S been a particularly long and dreary winter but Easter comes early this year and offers a chance for us finally get out and about.
And Exeter has plenty to offer people of all ages, tastes and budgets.
If you like to be in the open air, the area is ripe for exploration on foot, by bike or even boat. But remember it is only early spring, so the weather could still be chilly!
Exeter has a wealth of history to discover and some tourist attractions reopen for the season or extend their hours from Easter. Many run seasonal activities, often in the warm. Shopping and eating are also well catered for.
Something new on offer for Easter Sunday is Gemfest at the Phoenix Centre. This charity festival includes a family-oriented daytime event and a ticket-only evening music night, which also includes comedy, magic and films.
It is being organised by Gemma Wensley and Susan Luscombe, who hope to make it an annual event. It follows a smaller private festival three years ago held to celebrate Gemma's 30th birthday.
Gemma has an inoperable brain stem tumour and at that time had been told she had just months to live. But the tumour began to shrink and although she still has chemotherapy, she is well.
“Gemma is doing marvellously,” said Susan. “Her success so far is proof of the benefits of being positive and never giving up.
“We thought it would be nice to hold the festival in Brain Tumour Awareness Month and it is incredible how it has taken off. We have had so much support, especially since the Phoenix Centre gave us the venue for free. Everyone wants to be involved so we hope we can raise a good amount.”
We’ve found 10 eggs-citing events for Easter in Exeter to tempt you.
1. Many treasures at Gemfest - From noon to 5pm on March 31, the festival is free to attend and will include arts and crafts, storytelling, stalls, films, face painting, games, competitions and more Some activities have a small charge to cover costs but most of it is free. Pre-booking is required for some music, dance and drama workshops.
The evening runs from 6pm-2am and will be tickets only. Two music stages will showcase local and national performers and a variety of genres. The main stage will finish up with a DJ set including live visuals. All profits will go to Brain Tumour UK/The Brain Tumour Charity (Currently in the process of merging to form the largest brain tumour charity in the country).
Tickets will be £15 on the door or £12 in advance available from Exeter Phoenix Centre Box Office or www.exeterphoenix.org.uk/category/buy-tickets/ where you can also find venue information.
For further details visit www.gemfest.org
Gemfest, Exeter Phoenix Centre, Bradninch Place, Gandy Street, Exeter EX4 3LS T: 01392 667080
2. Subterranean eggs-ploration - The Easter Bunny is set to be busy under the streets of the city in 2013, scattering free range Easter eggs to be sought after by young (and perhaps not-so-young) visitors to the Exeter Underground Passages.
Easter Egg Hunts take place in the unique attraction from March 29 to April 14 and participants could be in line for a special prize.
Guided tours of the vaulted passages, which date back to the 14th century and were created to bring clean drinking water from natural springs into the heart of the city, often sell out at busy times, so arrive early at Paris Street or book in advance. Entry prices at £5.50 for adults and £4 for children and the centre is closed on Mondays.
Exeter Underground Passages: 2 Paris St, Exeter EX1 1GA T: 01392 665832
3. Jam tomorrow - Festivals and hard-hat adventures are not for everyone – but who doesn't enjoy a Devonshire cream tea? Exeter is not short of places that serve delicious home-made scones, tasty farmhouse preserves and fantastic thick clotted cream. There are teashops in the city centre, in the surrounding country, on the historic quayside and near the cathedral, where you will find Tea on the Green in Cathedral Close. Or you could take a trip to Topsham, where the Georgian Team Room in the High Street offers truly traditional treats.
Tea on The Green, 2 Cathedral Close, City Centre, Exeter EX1 1EZ T: 01392 276913
Georgian Tea Room, 35 High St, Topsham, Exeter EX3 0ED T: 01392 873465
4. A cracking collection - There's an Easter theme to a free exhibition at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum until April 14. It features one person's collection of all things egg-shaped, from antique and modern and fashioned from wood to semi-precious stones.
The museum reopened in December 2011 after a £24 million extension and refurbishment, which has revealed the Victorian building in Queen Street in all its splendour. Displays and galleries reveal Devon's rich history and global connections. It hosts events and exhibitions throughout the year, including currently the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year, which is on until June 2.
The RAMM is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm, but is closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Admission is free.
Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Queen St, Exeter, Devon EX4 3RX T: 01392 265858
5. Gothic glory - Exeter Cathedral is one of England's most beautiful mediaeval cathedrals and one of the finest examples of decorated Gothic architecture in the country. It is famous for its two Norman towers, impressive west front carvings and the longest unbroken stretch of Gothic vaulting in the world since medieval times and has been visited by pilgrims for centuries.
The cathedral is usually open to visitors from 9am (last entry at 4.45pm) from Monday – Saturday, at a cost of £6 for adults and £4 for seniors and students. Children visiting with family are free.
Sometimes visits are restricted when services are taking place.
Exeter Cathedral, 1 The Cloisters, Exeter EX1 1HS T: 01392 285970
6. Taste of the West - For those who like to seek out foodie pleasures, there's a host of opportunities in Exeter. Don't miss the weekly Farmers' Market at the junction of Fore Street and South Street every Thursday, where you will find an array of local produce.
Exeter has been voted one of the top places to eat out in the UK, by Which Good Food Guide. It is a Fairtrade City, with a growing number of shops, cafes and restaurants selling Fairtrade products.
The city offers luxury restaurants, intimate bistros, lively eateries and a variety of cafes. There are many high quality restaurants and cafes on Cathedral Green, among them Michael Caines’ Restaurant at ABode Exeter.
ABode Exeter, Cathedral Yard, Exeter, EX1 1HD T: 01392 319955
7. Devon daredevils - Ideas for action men and women include paintballing or taking to the water in a canoe or kayak.
Skirmish Exeter is a 120-acre paintball site in Stoke Woods. Players use marking guns firing biodegradable paintballs. Protective combat suits and safety equipment are provided. Participants are given missions and objectives to accomplish within the 18 game zones over terrain varying from open land to dense forest. There is a safe viewing area for spectators, and a picnic and barbecue area. Half-day packages from £12 and full day from £17.
For details visit www.skirmish-paintballexeter.co.uk
Saddles and paddles at Kings Wharf on the quayside has canoes and equipment for hire for all the family. Children must be accompanied by an adult. For landlubbers, it is also a cycle hire shop. It's open 9.30am to 5.30pm seven days a week. For information, go to www.saddlepaddle.co.uk
Skirmish Paintball, Stoke Woods, Pennsylvania Rd, Exeter EX4 5BW T: 01548 580025
Saddles and Paddles. No 4, Kings Wharf,The Quay, Exeter EX2 4AP T: 01392 424241
8. Fine feathers - Birdwatching is an increasingly popular hobby and the Exe Estuary provides a marvellous hunting ground for those bearing binoculars.
The RSPB and Devon Wildlife Trust manage internationally-important nature reserves on the estuary, with public trails, viewing platforms and hides allowing visitors to get close to the thousands of birds, ducks, geese and swans without disturbing them.
There are trails at Bowling Green Marsh on one side of the estuary, and Exminster and Powderham Marshes on the other side. Because of the open nature of the marshes, dogs are not allowed on site.
The area, with is reed beds, mud flats, sheltered beaches and salt marshes, is also important for its flora and fauna:mammals such as harvest mice, otters and water shrews have set up home here.
Exe Estuary Management Partnership, c/o Devon County Council, County Hall, Topsham Road, Exeter EX2 4 QD T: 01392 382236
9. Step out for spring - Exeter is a busy commercial city but it does not take long to find green open space. So however much or little free time we have, we can all get out and take a walk and enjoy the glory of nature.
The Riverside Valley Park, which runs for seven miles miles from Cowley Bridge to Topsham, has level paved circular routes, suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs, but also offers longer tracks to the coast.
The Exeter Green Circle is a 12-mile circular walk around the boundary of the city, through countryside and leafy suburbs, with viewpoints. Maps are available from Exeter Tourist Information Centre.
Stoke Woods, partly owned by the Forestry Commission and jointly cared for with Exeter City Council, also has marked walking trails. It is a haven for wildlife including roe deer, foxes, badgers, birds and butterflies, and provides great opportunities for picnics and dog-walking.
Exeter City Council Countryside Service, Civic Centre, Paris Street, Exeter EX1 1JN
T: 01392 262642
10. Shop till you drop - For some people, holidays from work mean more time for retail therapy. And if shopping is your leisure activity of choice, Exeter has lots to offer, from big-name stores – John Lewis opened last year – to independent shops and stylish boutiques.
It's a compact shopping centre, with plenty of traffic-free areas. The award-winning Princesshay Quarter has more than 65 new shops and 11 cafes and restaurants. High Street features all the popular store names while Guildhall and Harlequins undercover shopping centres are home to more familiar stores and small individual businesses.
Cathedral Quarter has classic independent shops set around the spacious Green. Visit Gandy Street for trendy clothes and gift shops and Fore Street for unusual shops in older buildings. It is in the West Quarter, which leads downhill towards the Quayside area.
Quay House Visitor Centre, 46 The Quay, Exeter, EX2 4AN T: 01392 271611