Capel Manor

This is where the green fingered gravitate. is London's only specialist college of horticulture and countryside studies. It is a splendid Georgian manor, set in 30 richly planted acres, and has 50 themed gardens open to the public. The whole place is designed to give information, whether you are wandering around the water-gardens or doing a course in forestry. There are so many year-round activities going on that you can practically hear the place grow.

The Garden Design Summer School (4-8 July) gives a week's introduction to basic drafting, measuring, planning and planting, with a chance to design and work on one of the small gardens on site. It is extremely popular, attracting a mix of types from make-up artists to architects. Fee: pounds 120.

Harder physical work is the Landscape Construction course, also for one week (date still to be fixed) which teaches you how to build a wall, lay paving, put up fencing and make paths. Fee: pounds 120.

If you are planning to hike up the Himalayas but dread getting lost, a one day map and compass course (17 July) shows you how to explore off the beaten track with confidence. You practise how to take compass bearings, plot your whereabouts, work out distances and read maps. As part of the course you are taken to a secret location, and have to find out where you are. It is a fun day out. Fee: pounds 20.

Another memorable trip is a duskwatch fox and badger safari (21 and 28 July). Small groups are taken to a specially-built hide where the furry darlings can be observed feeding and frolicing. Fee: pounds 8.

, Bullsmore Lane, Enfield, Middlesex ZN1 4RQ.

Tel: 081-366 4442.

The Slade Summer School

Now in its seventh year, this is the place where art junkies from all over the world gather to brush up their skills.

The great draw is to use the marvellous studios of the Slade and to be taught by the cream of fine art teachers. All Slade's summer classes are small, so you are guaranteed space and attention. 'The idea is to bring out each person's creative talents, whether they are complete beginners or mature artists,' says the summer school's director, Jo Volley. People get hooked and come back year after year. Expect to meet doctors who want to be painters, models who want to sculpt, eccentric old ladies, fey aristocrats, swimmers, actors and assorted intellects. Courses run between 4 July and 9 September at various lengths.

If you've got 10 weeks to spare, the Alternative Foundation is possibly the most exciting course of its type in London. It takes place in the former home of the Courtauld Institute in studios that most art students would trade nose-rings for. You have a complete introduction to drawing, painting, sculpture, etching and print-making. It attracts people who have never given time to their artistic side, and the amount of blossoming that takes place rivals Kew Gardens in spring.

There are one to four week courses in drawing, painting, bronze-casting and printmaking, as well as a new course in fresco painting which teaches you how to turn your walls into an art form. Every day there is an hourly lecture programme with talks by famous artists and writers.

Course prices are pounds 210 per week, or pounds 2,000 for the Alternative Foundation.

The Slade Summer School, University College London, Gower Street, WC1 6BT. Tel: 071 380 7772.

The Bloomsbury Summer School

If you have a keen interest in the past and want to meet colourful academics, Bloomsbury is for you.

It offers a high-powered historical gallop through the ages, with field trips and privileged access to museums, galleries and other arty places rarely open to the public. Run by University College's history and archaeology department, the Bloomsbury Summer School was established four years ago.

Most popular are the Egyptology courses, which appeal to intellectual crusaders from all over the world. The foundation course given by David Rohl, a distinguished lecturer, writer and former rock musician, puts the Cecil B De Mille back into Egyptology. He presents epic themes with a fresh eye and a questing mind.

He is also running a course on ancient Egypt and the Bible, introducing new research that for the first time gives archaeological settings for Old Testament narratives such as the Israelite sojourn in Egypt.

Rohl's findings are the subject of a book shortly to be published and a Channel 4 documentary. Other Bloomsbury courses sweep incisively through Ancient Rome and into The Victorian Age.

Courses last one week, and run between 11 July and 5 Aug. Fees: pounds 170- pounds 180.

The Bloomsbury Summer School, UCL, Gower Street, WCI. Tel: 071-387 7050.

Central St Martins

Somthing of a fashion barometer, the St Martin's summer school has been going since 1990. This year it offers more than 70 courses in fine art, design, fashion, textiles and media-based studies. It has exceptionally talented tutors, many of whom teach their pet passion during the summer, giving you the chance to plug in to really original thinking.

Particularly interesting is Peter Cusack's 'The Creative Sound Studio'. Apart from learning basic recording, multi-tracking and mixing techniques, your project is to build up and record ambient, studio, street, vocal and musical sounds. The idea is to break barriers and to see how sound is used across the arts. the studio runs from 25 to 29 July. Fee pounds 270.

On a more tactile front, 'Creative Costume' shows you how to make a fabulous 18th century ladies costume out of scraps and ingenuity. You learn how to dye, print, glue, bead, cut and improvise with anything from curtains to skip finds. 8-19 August. Fee pounds 425.

Other courses: photography, illustration, magazine production, jewellery, millinery, documentary-making.

Central St Martins Summer School, Southampton Row, WC1. Tel: 071-753 0388.

Guildhall Summer School

So, you want to be a rock star? Well, this one is for head-bangers, jazz fiends and anyone who wants to get their ya-yas out. In its eighth year, Guildhall's Jazz Rock and Studio Music summer school (17-29 July) is the largest in London, attracting hundreds of hopefuls, has-beens and music addicts.

Classes are run by Guildhall tutors, with visiting stars popping in for quick jamming sessions. You bring your own instrument and do classes in theory, harmony, rhythm, vocals, improvisation and instrumental playing. You take part in small band workshops, big band workshops, and at the end of each long day (10am-10.30pm), you can perform on the Open Stage with new-found soul or funk mates.

Fees: pounds 180 for one week, pounds 20 for two.

Other courses: music technology weekend (pounds 70), introductory jazz weekend (pounds 60), gospel day (pounds 25).

Guildhall Summer School, Silk Street, Barbican EC2. Tel: 0702 714733.

The City Lit

One of the biggest providers of short and part-time courses in the UK, the City Lit is a writer's, actor's, musician's and craftsperson's dream. It has been going for 75 years, operates from three sites in the Covent area, and has a full summer school programme ranging from performance workshops to paper-making.

The Writers' Summer School is particularly good. If you've got the next sex-and-shopping blockbuster lurking in your psyche, join 'From Rags To Riches' which is all about finishing unfinished business.

Or take novelist and poet Alison Fell's course, 'The Body In Question' which aims to unblock constipated prose. She sets all sorts of fun exercises designed to fracture language, allowing a looser, richer writing style to flower. Each of the nine workshops is run by a professional writer or poet and lasts for one week. They take place between 4 and 22 July. Fees range from pounds 46 to pounds 57 with concessions.

For thespians, City Lit's Drama Summer School (4-22 July) provides three weeks of intense excitement. You need to audition for it, but beginners are accepted. 'People get a taster of what it's like to be an actor' says drama head Valerie Colgan. There are classes in movement, voice, speech, improvisation, acting, rehearsal and performance. People like Stephen Berkoff and Richard Wilson started their acting careers at the City Lit, and teaching standards are high. Fee: pounds 225 (concessions pounds 112.50).

An interesting new drama option is the one-week Stage Combat Summer School (25-30 July) which teaches a skill that is increasingly in demand for TV commercials, plays and films. Well-known fight directors Wolf Christian and Richard Ryan show you how to punch, slap, fall, brawl and fight with swords and daggers. The skill is in looking fierce but playing safe. It is based on choreography, and is quite beautiful to watch. Fee: pounds 150 (concessions pounds 75).

The City Lit, 18 Stukely Street, WC2. Tel: 071-242 9872.

Other Summer Schools

BIRKBECK COLLEGE

A very well-established summer school (4-22 July), specialising in British theatre, literature and culture since 1940. Courses include visits to shows, discussions with actors and directors, tours to places of special interest. New this year is the Jewish University (3-7 July), with 12 short courses on Jewish history, culture, rabbinics, philosophy, film, literature and music - with concerts and screenings.

For Jewish studies telephone 081-883 2674. Other courses: Birkbeck Summer School at 26 Russell Square, WC1. Tel: 071-631 6633.

MORLEY COLLEGE

The oldest adult education centre in the UK, and a place of excellence. Famous for its music and dance summer schools. Also courses in alternative health, ceramics, food and social studies. (4-23 July).

61 Westminster Bridge Road, SE1. Tel: 071-928 8501.

LONDON COLLEGE OF FASHION

Over 30 courses in public relations, photography, marketing, retail display, bridalwear, fashion and beauty make-up. (July/Aug).

20 John Princes Street, W1.

Tel: 071-409 2868.

KING'S COLLEGE

The Summer Language School has been running for three years.

Courses in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Greek and Japanese at three different levels. (11-15 July).

170 Strand, London WC2.

Tel: 071-873 2485.

LABAN CENTRE

The International Dance Summer School (17-28 July) offers intensive ballet, jazz, contemporary dance, improvisation, movement observation and dance therapy.

Laurie Grove, London SE14.

Tel: 081-692 4070.

WORKING MEN'S COLLEGE

Ignore the title. A huge range of general interest, low-price courses for everyone. Summer school in computers, word processing, counselling, psychology and the arts. (July/Aug).

44 Crowndale Road, NW1.

Tel: 071-387 2037.

LONDON GUILDHHALL UNIVERSITY

Famous international summer school specialising in law, business, shipping, jewellery and silver-smithing. (11 July-2 Sept).

84 Moorgate, EC2.

Tel: 071-320 1000

NEAL'S YARD AGENCY

Billed as 'Travel Agents for Inner Journeys', Neal's Yard hold summer workshops in self-development and alternative therapies - everything from Voice Healing to Biodanza and Cranio-Sacral Therapy. Workshops last from a day to a week. 'Taster' evenings enable you to sample examine what is on offer before taking off.

14 Neal's Yard, Covent Garden WC2. Tel: 071-379 0141.

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