Exciting things to do close to the capital in May, all easily accessible in a day trip.
SWEEPS FESTIVAL: Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cher-ee, Kent's sweeps come out to show off to thee. For three days, the Sweeps Festival takes over the Medway town of Rochester, harking back to the times when the bank holiday was the one time of year the sweeps had off work. The highlight is the sweeps procession through the high street, but keep an eye out for Morris dancers, roving performers, and all manner of stalls in the castle grounds. 4-6 May (Kent)
GARDEN SHOW: More than 100 flowery exhibitors from all over Hertfordshire bring plants, garden furniture, water features and other outdoors-y wares to Knebworth House for Hertfordshire Garden Show. For green-fingered types, more than 30 nurseries sell plants, flowers and shrubs, and keen gardeners go head to head in a flower show. Kiddie rides, a brass band and a craft area provide plenty of other entertainment. 4-6 May (Hertfordshire)
LITERARY FESTIVAL: Unless you're very familiar with Kent, you've probably never heard of Chiddingstone (lovely village, by the way), let alone its castle. But a castle it has, and once a year, that castle hosts a literary festival. Chocolat author Joanne Harris, historian Tracy Borman and narrative history writer Giles Milton are among the guests at this year's event. 4-7 May (Kent)
ROYAL WINDSOR HORSE SHOW: Equestrian fans flock to Windsor in mid-May for the Royal Windsor Horse Show, five days of showjumping, dressage and pageant shows, all against the backdrop of a certain royal residence. 8-12 May (Berkshire)
TRANSPORT FILM FESTIVAL: If a combination of steam trains and transport films gets your engine running, Tunbridge Wells is the place for you. The lovely Spa Valley Railway — which runs between stations in Tunbridge Wells, Eridge and Groombridge — hosts a Transport Film Festival, with movies screened at all three stations, and inside a vintage mobile cinema bus. Ships, planes, cars and trains all feature on screen, in films dating from 1930s to the present day. 11-12 May (Kent)
MOTORS BY THE MOAT: Vintage and classic cars park up against the beautiful backdrop of Leeds Castle (which is definitely not in Leeds) for Motors by the Moat. Wander among the historic vehicles, watch a live motor stunt show, and see jet skiers show off their skills on the castle moat. 11-12 May (Kent)
STEAMBOAT CRUISE: Take a ride on a genuine Victorian steamboat between Runnymede and Windsor, sailing through Old Windsor Lock and past the castle. Choose either a single or return ticket — on the morning sailing a ploughman's style lunch is included in your ticket, while on the return, you're served afternoon tea. 12 May (Berkshire)
NATIONAL FLOWER SHOW: Flower Power takes over the grounds of Hylands House for the National Flower Show. The centrepiece is a floral pavilion where nurseries from all over compete for the Best In Show award, but elsewhere you can stock up on everything from gerberas to gazebos, attend gardening talks, and wander around floral art installations. 17-19 May (Essex)
RUSH WEEKEND: How does a muddy obstacle course set in the grounds of a secret bunker sound? Choose from a 7km or 12km course at Rush Weekend and tackle man-made and natural obstacles close to the Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker. A 'deathslide', zip lines and 'gorilla bars' are also available to have a crack at. 18-19 May (Essex)
WATERCRESS FESTIVAL: Watercress probably doesn't feature much in your day to day life, but it's big news in the bucolic town of Alresford. Thousands of visitors descend to celebrate watercress, which is grown in abundance locally — there's even a railway line dedicated to it. The Alresford Watercress Festival is a huge street festival with stalls selling a lot more than just watercress, and includes a parade of dancers and performer waltzing up the main street, handing out bunches of watercress to the crowds. 19 May (Hampshire)
SCIENCE FESTIVAL: Kew Gardens' country cousin Wakehurst hosts a week of science events for half term. Meet Wakehurst scientists and find out how they conserve rare species of plant, hold the world's largest seed, and carry out your own experiments in the lab. 25-26 May (West Sussex)
ALL ABOUT DOGS: Take your pooch along to All About Dogs at Hyland Park and see if they can earn themselves a rosette or two in one of the dog shows. Let them see how it's done in shows by the K9 display team and stunt dog demos, and have a go at the agility course. New for this year is the dog and duck show, in which untrained sheep dogs attempt to herd ducks in front of an arena full of people. What could possibly go wrong? 26-27 May (Essex)
MEDIEVAL FAYRE: Head down to 1066 Country and immerse yourself in Battle Medieval Fayre, a two-day festival of knights, jesters, jokers, maypole dancing, fortune telling, pottery making, and other medieval pastimes. While you're there, check out the Abbey and 1066 battlefield. 26-27 May (East Sussex)
For further ideas for escaping London, take a look at our guide to day trips from the capital — there's even a map to help you plan.