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The Circle of Life

The problem with dogs is that they don’t last long enough, it is said that one man year equals seven dog years, whatever the answer I know that every fourteen or so years I have to say goodbye to one of my closest friends. A month ago I said goodbye to fifteen year old Ted, when finally his body said I’ve had enough. So it was with a heavy heart that we took that all too familiar trip to the vet and saw him drift away peacefully. He was a great sheepdog, naturally gifted with genetic material passed down over decades, and highly trained over years to do a job that cannot be done by any other animal or machine. He served the museum well herding and holding the sheep for various tasks and thrilled the visitors with his skills in our working displays, he even pitched in with a spot of acting when the film crews were around, most famously in Downton Abbey when they filmed in the farmyard in series two.

Sheepdog, Ted at Chiltern Open Air MuseumChiltern Open Air Museum proudly owns one of the few flocks of Oxford Down Sheep in the country, a breed established around 1830 in the south of England originally in the Oxfordshire area. My job at the museum is volunteer shepherd, something I’ve done here for 23 years and it’s because there’s a saying “there’s no good shepherd without a good dog” that I find myself about to embark on the long struggle towards the perfectly trained sheepdog once again.

Don’t think for one minute I don’t enjoy it, there are few thing’s I like more than the early stages of sheepdog training, trying to assess the latent potential, working out the best way to overcome the problems etc. All dogs are different, like children, and need a slightly different approach, although you can generally categorise them and use tried and trusted methods for each. So, I can’t wait until my new charge is about six month old and I can begin to introduce her to the flock.

So who is she? Well ‘she’ arrived several months too early! As a family we planned to wait until the new year before taking the plunge but a chance conversation with an old friend uncovered a single pup left from a litter from good working dog stock, the sire has competed in the English National Sheepdog Trials. Quickly we organised a trip with an overnight stay in the West Country and collected our new charge, many names were bandied about but ultimately it was Jess that was chosen. So I know how my spare time will be taken up next summer and you maybe lucky to catch a training session at the museum sometime (the early ones can be a bit over enthusiastic).

Steve Stone
Volunteer Shepherd
Chiltern Open Air Museum

 


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The Charcoal Kiln

Next to the Bodger’s Area in our woodland is a charcoal kiln that is used to make charcoal that is sold in our shop. The Estate Team fired up the kiln in August and document the process for us to share with you all.

We started off by making bridges of wood across the bottom of the kiln. This ensures there is good air flow. Then we place the not quite charcoaled wood from the previous burn onto the bridge.

On top goes some smaller bits of chopped wood and dry brash.

Then you can begin to fill the kiln with chopped, dry wood.

Once the kiln has been filled the lid is replaced and some longer lengths of wood are used to prop the lid open to encourage air flow.
The kiln is lit by using a pole, a rag and some paraffin.

The kiln soon begins to smoke

At first, the smoke is thick

For the first hour or so the kiln will continue to be smoky.

After an hour, the wood propping the lid open are removed as the kiln becomes fully lit. We now have to work quickly to pack and keep in the heat.

This is done by using soil or in this case old turves to pack in around the base of the kiln and also around the lid, ensuring the vents are kept open.

Now we wait until the smoke becomes clear and this tells us we can shut down the kiln. There are four chimney’s and each one will need closing down separately depending on wind direction and air flow.

It is now approximately a 12 hour wait until we can shut the kiln down so I’m busy working on a hurdle.

It is important to ensure heat is not allowed to escape as much as possible so we try and fill any gaps with soil.

It’s always exciting taking the lid off after two days of cooling to see how the charcoal has turned out.

The charcoal is then emptied and put in bags.

When we can’t reach the rest, we tip the kiln on it’s side.

There will always be tiny bits of charcoal we can’t bag up with the rest. But it doesn’t go to waste. It can be used as bio char, a soil improver for the garden.

The charcoal all bagged and ready to be sold in our shop.


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We need your support

We would usually open every year daily between the end of March and October. However the Covid-19 emergency means we haven’t yet had the chance to open our doors to the public in 2020.

As an independent museum and charity, we receive no government or local authority funding and have now lost all our regular income from tickets, Annual Passes, events, weddings, school visits, filming and our shop and café. This represents around 80% of our total income.

This loss of income is incredibly worrying. We have some reserves that will keep the basic essentials of the museum ticking over for a few months. However the reserves we have built up over several years mean we’re not necessarily eligible to apply for many of the Covid-19 grants available to museum and heritage charities. While it is good news that we have these reserve funds to keep us secure for a while, the real danger from the loss of income due to the forced closure is that we may not have the opportunity to generate enough income over the 2020 season to survive through the winter 2020-21 closure. Even if the government relaxes the rules allowing us to open in the summer, it is likely there will be restrictions on activities and visitor numbers for a further period which will inevitably limit our ability to recover the lost income.

The management team have reduced outgoings as much as possible and the majority of staff are now on the Government backed Furlough Scheme. Nevertheless a number of essential staff are needed to keep the museum going, to ensure the 45 acre site is secure, maintain the building collection, and feed, water and care for the livestock of goats, cows, chickens and a flock of sheep now increased by around 16 lambs in the last month.

Our beautiful site is a popular place for wellbeing, learning and calm and our museum, like many, is therefore appealing to the community, heritage enthusiasts and supporters for help. We’re asking people to pledge their support by buying an open ticket to visit the museum when it re-opens, to buy an Annual or Lifetime Pass, make a donation or sign up to be a volunteer.


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Echoed Locations- Recording the Sounds of the Chilterns

Help record the sounds of the Chilterns

Noise. Something which is all around us and we mostly tune into either when it is an annoying sound (someone else’s music on the train, fighter jets overhead, rush hour traffic) or when we want to tune out of the environment around us (by plugging into a podcast or our favourite music). But what about all the noise we are not listening to, but which could have huge benefits for our mental health and wellbeing? This is where Echoed Locations comes in- a project aiming to create the first ever sonic map of the Chilterns.

Chilterns Conservation Board Echoed Locations

Initiated by the Chilterns Conservation Board as part of the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs Landscape Partnership, the project aims to create a sonic map of the Chilterns, which can be used as a resource for years to come. The project has designed sound recording workshops- available to local schools and community groups- which focus first on attentive listening, before moving on to practical and accessible sound recording techniques. The project aims to encourage residents, visitors and especially young people to contribute to the sonic map- but it isn’t just natural sounds that can be submitted.

You could record any of the following (and probably plenty we haven’t thought of) as part of the project:

  • Bird song in your local park
  • Rush hour traffic in Wycombe
  • Reading a poem
  • Singing a song
  • Interviewing your friend, or family member about what makes the Chilterns special to them
  • Rain on a windowpane
  • The babble of a little stream as it passes through a park
  • The chatter of children as they walk to school

When you read this list, hopefully you are thinking about just how many seemingly ordinary sounds like these are what make the Chilterns a unique and special place to live. Echoed Locations was developed because soundscapes (the overall sound ‘picture’ of a place) are unique and important and inform how we feel about a place. When you step off the bus as you arrive home, it is not just the smell of your neighbours’ garden or the sight of your front gate that makes you feel at home- it is likely also the steady hum of a radio nearby, your mother’s voice calling you inside, far away traffic rumbling by. It is only when these sounds are lost from our day-to-day lives do, we really begin to listen- for example, when you arrive in a wood where no birds are singing- it feels odd and we notice the absence of a familiar sound.

As the world around us changes, with increased urbanisation, big industrial projects and climate change, now is the perfect opportunity to record the soundscape of the Chilterns, as a legacy for generations to come. Soundscape recordings are increasingly being used by scientists around the world to monitor the health and biodiversity of natural environments, and this alone is a great reason to get outside and start contributing to this first ever sonic map of the Chilterns.

We want to stress, that no prior knowledge of sound recording is required to get involved! You can read a short ‘Sound Recording Top Tips’ document, as well as submit recordings and access our sonic map on the Chiltern Conservation Board’s website

So please submit your recordings (old or new) which represent sounds across the Chilterns that mean something to you and make this beautiful region feel like home. Recordings should be a minimum of 30 seconds long, and no longer than 10 minutes in total.

If you are interested in having a sound recording workshop held at your school or community group, please get in touch with Elizabeth Buckley on lbuckley@chilternsaonb.org .


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The Colne Valley Regional Park

Chiltern Open Air Museum is part of the Colne Valley Regional Park. The area boasts beautiful walks and other beauty spots and places to visit. Alex Gaffney, PR and Communications Manager, at the Colne Valley Park Business Centre tells us about what the Regional Park has to offer.

Colne Valley Regional Park

The Colne Valley Regional Park

Forty-three square miles of water, woodland, farmland and villages from Rickmansworth in the North of the Valley, down to Staines in the South. The region is the first large taste of countryside to the West of London. The Colne Valley Park offers a huge variety of sights and scenery from the Grand Union Canal to our many nature reserves and from our stunning Country Parks to over 60 lakes and water ways.

Colne Valley Regional Park Winter Walks

There is so much to do and explore in this beautiful region, our top attractions include; Chiltern Open Air Museum, Rickmansworth Aquadrome, , The Colne Valley Park Visitor Centre, Hillingdon Outdoor Activity Centre, Denham Aerodrome, The Ankerwycke Estate (National Trust), Little Britain Lake, Batchworth Lock Canal Centre, as well as our many Country Parks, water sport venues and Nature Reserves. We also have 18 wonderful circular walks which allow you to explore the Regional Park and enjoy all the hidden gems.

Colne Valley Regional Park - Grand Union Canal

Please visit our website for more information on things to do, places to go and our circular walk www.colnevalleypark.org.uk

Follow us to hear all about our latest events, activities and news.
Facebook @colnevalleypark
Twitter @Colne_Valley
Instagram colnevalleyregionalpark

Colne Valley Regional Park Heron

We offer a world of opportunities for people and families to connect with their countryside and get close to nature. Please do come and explore this vibrant Regional Park soon.

Alex Gaffney
PR and Communications Manager
Colne Valley Park Business Centre


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Chalk Cherries and Chairs Landscape Partnership

Be a part of the new Chilterns Summer Festival in 2020

Our friends, The Chilterns Conservation Board, are running a new Heritage Lottery Funded project called Chalk, Cherries and Chairs Landscape Partnership. As part of this project they are running an exciting Chilterns Summer Festival in 2020, to help promote the Chilterns and its unique heritage and landscape. Chiltern Open Air Museum are taking part in it and you can get involved too!

Are you a local artist/ business/ organisation or just someone who loves a good day out in the Chilterns?

Chilterns Summer Festival Blacksmith at COAM

As part of the brand-new Heritage Lottery Funded Chalk, Cherries and Chairs Landscape Partnership, the Chilterns Summer Festival offers a 9-day schedule of fun, educational and family friendly events across the Central Chilterns.

Chalk, Cherries & Chairs (CCC) is an ambitious five-year scheme which aims to connect local people to the wildlife and cultural heritage of the Central Chilterns. The scheme operates under three themes – wildlife, heritage and people – each project that falls under these three themes are all designed with the Chilterns landscape in mind. There will be no less than eighteen interweaving projects which share common threads, including volunteering, learning and digital media. The scheme will also provide small grants to encourage community initiatives.

Chilterns Summer Festival Chilterns Conservation Board

The CCC aims to engage and empower local communities in the Chilterns, while conserving the breath-taking character of this region we call home. From 13 – 21 June 2020, the CCC will be putting on a wide range of fun and informative events, to bring communities together and ensure everyone has a great time celebrating the Chilterns and its unique heritage and landscape. 

What kind of events will the festival include?

  • Brewery tasting and tours
  • Outdoor cinema events
  • Guided walks
  • Cherry themed events
  • Family-fun days in town centres
  • Light shows and installations
  • Adventure suppers
  • Music and dance performances
  • And much more!

The Chilterns Conservation Board are very excited to be working with lots of local businesses, farmers, and community groups on this new festival (which will run annually until 2024) and would love to work with more as well.

Chilterns Summer Festival

What are they looking for?

  • Volunteers (to help at town centre events, first aid, stewarding, communications help, etc)
  • Local businesses who want to: host an event, sponsor an event, showcase their products, have a stall at one of the events
  • Community groups, to work with them on unique community centred events that reflect a community’s needs and interests
  • Sponsors: these events will be advertised across the Chilterns and offer a great opportunity to gain widespread exposure for your brand and business in this region. Sponsorship is flexible and CCB are happy to discuss arrangements which work for both parties.

Further Information:

If you would like to find out more about the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs projects, you can visit the CCB website

To learn more about the festival and upcoming events or volunteering opportunities, sign up for their newsletter

For any further information, or press opportunities, please contact Elizabeth Buckley, Communications and Community Engagement Officer of the CCC on lbuckley@chilternsaonb.org


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Countryfile and Harvest

Chiltern Open Air Museum to Feature on the BBC’s Countryfile

On the 19th September the BBC’s Countryfile visited the Museum to find out more about Harvest and its traditions.

At the heart of the Museum is a working historic farm with arable fields and livestock that is run (as much as possible) using traditional methods and equipment. The farm has the equivalent of two full time staff and is supported by a large team of wonderful volunteers.

Countryfile Filming at Chiltern Open Air Museum

Countryfile presenter, Helen Skelton, interviewed the Museum’s Farm Team to find out how they restored a beautiful pink 1947 Ransomes threshing machine and the role the machine would have played in farming history.

The programme also features our apple orchard, where each tree is a different heritage variety. Helen chatted to volunteer, Keith Baggaley, about the different types of apple and how they are harvested and then pressed into apple juice that is then sold at the Museum.

Apple orchard at COAM

Our red tin chapel, from Henton, was decorated in beautiful straw plait sculptures made by straw plaiters and volunteers, Heather Beeson and Veronica Main. Helen chatted to Veronica about the art of straw plaiting and the important part it played in a traditional Harvest.

Helen Skelton and the Countryfile crew were absolutely lovely to work with and really friendly and genuinely interested in the work that the team here do.

You can watch the show on BBC iplayer

Straw Sculptures

 


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Endangered Crafts

Endangered crafts COAM

We’ve all heard of endangered animals but have you heard of endangered crafts?

The UK has an amazing range of heritage skills and crafts some of which the Chilterns are known for, such as chair making, but sadly the knowledge of how to do some of these skills are becoming endangered.

The Heritage Crafts Association received a grant in 2015, to enable them to assess the viability of traditional heritage crafts in the UK. Their research has led to them publishing a red list of endangered crafts. They hope their research will help to shine a light on these dying skills and act as a call to action to those who have it within their power to resolve or alleviate these issues. The hope is that their project will mark the start of long-term monitoring of heritage craft viability and a shared will to avoid the cultural loss that is borne each time a craft dies.
See what crafts are on the red list

Endangered crafts straw hats

Chiltern Open Air Museum doesn’t only rescue and protect physical buildings, but the stories and traditions connected to the people who inhabited them. Onsite we try to carry out as many traditional practices and skills as possible, some, such as hurdle making, are used as par by the team who maintain the site, others, such as rag rug making, are taught and demonstrated in school workshops and events, and some skills are shared in the form of workshops and experience days. We are proud that we now offer ten different experience days or workshops that encompass traditional skills and techniques. Our aim is to be able to offer more opportunities for people to learn traditional skills in the future.

Endangered crafts working with straw

Working with straw and corn dolly making are one of the traditional skills listed on the Heritage Crafts Associations list of endangered crafts. The Museum is very fortunate that skilled straw practitioner, Heather Beeson has agreed to run Working with Straw experience days at the Museum to teach and pass on this beautiful skill to new people. We offer a variety of straw workshops for varying skill sets from complete beginners to those with a little more experience as well as courses suitable for children. Heather also runs mixed skills sessions for those who might be working on their own straw projects but would like a little guidance or support.

Other experience days and workshops that we offer are still viable crafts. Those on the viable list are deemed to have sufficient numbers of knowledgeable craftspeople who are able to pass it on to the next generation. However, these will only remain viable if there are opportunities and exposure to inspire and encourage people to learn them.

We currently run the following experience days and skills:

Working with Straw
Blacksmithing
Historic Baking
Historic Cooking
Willow Weaving and Sculpture
English Folk Singing
Family Prehistory
Watercolour and Sketching
Mindfulness

Experience days can be purchased via our website shop or via our ticket office.

Endangered Crafts Blacksmithing at COAM

In the future, using our traditional bodgers area, we hope to be able to have demonstrations and workshops on the endangered crafts of broom making, hurdle making, pole lathe bowl turning and rake making.

HCA Chair Patricia Lovett MBE said: “Traditional crafts are a vital part of the UK’s intangible cultural heritage (ICH)… not our monuments and historical artefacts, which are already well-protected by heritage professionals, but the living knowledge, skills and practices used to create them… along with many of the other things we treasure in this country. While we campaign for the UK to ratify the UNESCO Convention on ICH safeguarding (we are one of only 18 countries in the world that hasn’t), we will continue to catalogue our endangered craft heritage and focus attention on that which we are in danger of losing, so paving the way for the UK to join the rest of the world in protecting this important element of our shared culture.”

About the Heritage Crafts Association

Founded in 2009 by a small group of makers and those interested in craft, the Heritage Crafts Association (HCA) is the advocacy body for traditional heritage crafts. Working in partnership with Government and key agencies, it provides a focus for craftspeople, groups, societies and guilds, as well as individuals who care about the loss of traditional crafts skills, and works towards a healthy and sustainable framework for the future. Our aims it to support and promote heritage crafts as a fundamental part of our living heritage. In the UK traditional crafts are not recognised as either arts or heritage so fall outside the remit of all current support and promotion bodies. At the HCA we are doing what we can to address that situation and safeguard craft skills and knowledge for the future.

www.heritagecrafts.org.uk


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Things to do in the summer holidays

The 2019 summer holidays are almost upon us and we’ve got lots planned to keep the family entertained over the summer months.

Outdoor Games Trail

The team have been busy creating a variety of self-led trails for our 2019 season. The trails are designed to engage children in the history and nature found around the Museum. Every day during the summer holidays the whole family can take part in our interactive outdoor games trail. Play some traditional and giant games such as skittles, chess, hopscotch, giant dominoes and more!

Things to do in the summer holidays - meet our costumed inhabitants

Costumed Inhabitants

From 18 July until 2 August there will be a costumed inhabitant portraying 18th century life in our Leagrave cottage. Find out what food they ate, how they cooked, what activities they used to do to keep themselves occupied and see her amazing drop spinning skills!

Things to do in the summer holidays - living history ragged Victorians

Re-enactments and Living history

Every weekend throughout the summer holidays we’ll have a special re-enactment or living history event. Including Ragged Victorians, Medieval Warbow, Tudor Courtroom and Wellington’s Army.
Find out more

Terrific Tuesdays

Every Tuesday from 30th July until 27th August is a Terrific Tuesday. During the summer months our Terrific Tuesdays will each be themed with a different element earth, air, fire, water and the final Terrific Tuesday of the summer will be about all the elements. Our Terrific Tuesdays our planned by our Learning Team, who arrange a variety of themed activities including crafts, games and hands-on activities such as cooking as clay modelling. All activities on our Terrific Tuesdays are included in the standard admission price or free to our Annual pass holders.

Candle Making

Our candle making hut is open every day through out the summer holidays. Visitors can make and decorate their own beeswax candle to take home. There is an additional charge for candle making.

Orienteering

The Museum has three different orienteering courses all of varying difficulty. You can download our orienteering maps for free from here or purchase a map pack in the ticket office. You can take part in orienteering at the Museum on any day.

Sensory Trail

We have a sensory trail around the site to encourage our visitors to explore our site with all their senses. You can pick up a free map from our ticket office or just look out for the prompts around the site.

Archery

We’re excited to be introducing have-a-go-archery to the Museum’s collection of activities. It’s still in its early days but we hope to have some sessions up and running for the summer holidays. Keep an eye on our website and social media pages for details of when you can take part.

Other Family Activities

There are 37 reconstructed historic buildings at the Museum, a working historic farm with livestock, woodland and adventure playground. You can find out more about what’s available for families daily at the museum here.

 


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Arts on Prescription

Throughout June, the Museum’s Elliott and Son’s cafe is showcasing a collection of work from the Arts on Prescription groups of Rickmansworth, which is in the Three Rivers district of Hertfordshire.

Arts on Prescription

 

Since 2017, Three Rivers District Council’s leisure team have been delivering creative projects for adults living with poor mental health as part of their Arts Development Programme. The aims of the weekly sessions are to boost confidence, enable skill learning, encourage social interaction and help people to feel like they are valued and included. Increasing evidence and studies have shown that the arts have an important contribution to make to health and wellbeing; to combat stress, anxiety and other conditions.

Over 12 weeks, the group worked with artist, Anna Schofield, to explore creative collage, art journaling and abstract art techniques, the result being a unique and beautiful collection of artwork reflecting the emotional journey, personal interests and different personalities within the group.

The artwork will be on display in the Museum’s cafe until the end of June.


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