The season is drawing to a close, we start assessing the year past and planning for the year to come. But we aren’t gone just yet, here is the last of our life in the day of a volunteer blog for this season. Its been fantastic having a great team of volunteers helping to make our visitor’s days even better, thank-you to all our volunteers, and this is just a snippet of what they get up to:
Sunday 6th October
If you’ve ever wondered whether the blogger ever has a holiday, the time has at last come, and today was my last day at Basing House this year (although the site remains open until the end of October). It was a fitting last day. The weather was good, the attendance was good, and it was also good to see Alan Turton, the former curator and almost certainly the greatest expert on the House, here, leading a battlefield tour.
I now vanish on holiday, but with memories of spending a summer volunteering in a magnificent location, alongside some very nice people. And those include the staff, other volunteers, the archaeologists and, of course, the visitors. I’ll be looking forwards to next year.
And in the mean time, thanks to those who have read this.
Those who are carrying on still have the Halloween Ghost Walks – evening of 31/10/2013 to plan and run and the main website shows how to get tickets – http://www3.hants.gov.uk/hampshire-museums/basing-house/bh-eventsdetail?id=206386
Saturday 5th October
One of our bigger weekends at the historic ruin with the English Civil War Society in attendance. They have brought living history displays with them, as well as demonstrating civil war period military drill, and staging a skirmish with pikes, muskets and even artillery in the afternoon.
It keeps the staff and volunteers busy. Not only does the society camp overnight on our overflow car park, but also with more visitors expected we have to supervise the parking and maintain vigilance around the site.
Sunday 29th October
As the year wears on and the hot dry weather becomes a thing of mere memory our parch marks – marks on the grass which show where there used to be walls – are fading away or even have vanished completely. Far and away the most visible one remaining is the mark left by the 1970s museum – a bit of on archaeological let down to those visitors who think they have spotted something new.
Saturday 28th September
I spent the day with the LEGO model of the House explaining to visitors the former glory of the ruins, their history and their demise, while also pointing out what they can still see. Visitors also seem to be fascinated by the Tudor fireplace which was “found” during the construction of our future viewing gallery three months ago
The weather was not at its best, and if visiting on a “doubtful” day it is worth remembering to bring something in case it rains. The visitors centre offers cover, but is some way from the ruins, where both the museum and the kiosk containing the LEGO offer cover.
One of our visitors was Simon, who has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. He writes a blog about his visits, and this is at http://www.wheelabouttown.co.uk/. His entry for visiting the Basing House is below:
Today we visited Basing House, the site of a once magnificent Tudor castle and house, destroyed in its third siege during the civil war by the Parliamentarians against the Royalists defenders. In its heyday it was visited by many kings and queens, both British and foreign, namely Queen Elisabeth 1st, Henry 8th, and Philip of Spain.
The siege was intense, but only lasted 45 minutes. The damage was total, not helped by the besiegers ransacking whilst the castle and house went up in flames. Even at this point of destruction some of the walls were still standing. However the locals were encouraged to take bricks and stone to rebuild their village. That is why so much of the nearby village has fine ancient red bricks from the once grand buildings.
The site was further damaged in the 18th Century when part of the Basingstoke Canal was routed through the ruins with no care given to the archaeological importance of the site for future generations.
What remains is more about using your imagination along with the aid of the on-site museum which narrates a video story of the siege.
Access can be rough at times, but certainly possible. To make it too modern would spoil the whole atmosphere. Very friendly staff throughout the site giving us even more information etc. made it a very worthwhile visit.
Sunday 22nd September
It was one of those days when the weather looks “yucky” and you wonder just how many people will turn up. But in the end quite a few did, among them some more repeat visitors.
Saturday 21st September
It is always interesting to see what families do to make visits for their children happy ones. Today we had a group of four who arrived clutching their sticks/swords. One of the party was then deputed to carry them to the other end of the tunnel while the others went through.
This family showed us that passing through the tunnel is obviously not as scary as some think – they chose to go through without their weaponry. They also reminded us just how much children enjoy and remember the tunnel as this group had already been through earlier in the year and had been to Tudor day.
Tuesday 17th September
Received a nice email from the lady who ran Tudor Day, thanking me for my help. It is nice to see that the “top brass” are pleased with the result and the work that we volunteers put in.
Sunday 15th September
One of the joys of being on car park duty on Saturday afternoon was that I didn’t have to tidy up around the visitors centre or at the historic ruin when the day ended – I was too busy waving goodbye. But it was amazing how tidy it all was the morning after. Given the weather everyone seemed quite happy with the number of people who came. And my impression was that our visitors must have done a brilliant job in not leaving litter round the historic ruin.
We did have to thank heaven that Saturday had better weather than Sunday, but we did have some visitors who braved rain and high winds.
Saturday 14th September
Tudor Day was here; the day started bright but soon became overcast. It drizzled as I left home but that was about it for rain for the day. We volunteers arrived early and helped finish the setting up – while I opened the car park and raised the two flags on the site flag poles. I was to spend the morning at the tunnel and the afternoon in the car park, so as soon as we were briefed I headed over to the historic ruin to do the safety inspection on the tunnel. Blissfully it passed.
We fielded eleven volunteers. Some ran the tunnel, including a lady in Tudor costume, others ran the car park. Meanwhile others were spread round the site as information points and one ran the guided tours while another took pictures.
My morning was spent looking after the far end of the tunnel. After a summer spent discussing the tunnel dragon I was made to smile by a small boy in a dragon suit who emerged. And he wasn’t alone as there was also a five week old baby in a slightly smaller version of the same outfit. He didn’t go through the tunnel, though.
The afternoon was spent in the car park – where we had a short period of people coming and going before we settled down to steady outward flow. It was lovely to see so many happy looking people, some of whom even thanked me for an enjoyable day. I hope they all felt the same.
Thursday 12th September
Tudor Day preparations continued. The visitors’ centre had to be moved around so there was room for Sarah Morris to sign copies of her book ‘Le Temps Viendra: a novel of Anne Boleyn’. This meant the LEGO model of the barn had to move. Being only too aware of how vulnerable the representation of the barn’s roof beams is, this took considerable care and tenderness.
The staff, meanwhile, were trying to work out a rota for the volunteers on Saturday. On balance the weather forecast is looking better
Wednesday 11th September
A fairly miserable day from a weather point of view, made more so by the forecast for the weekend which seems to be worsening.
Tuesday 10th September
The weather forecast looked worse, but preparations continued. In spite of having our minds set in the future, we still managed to open the tunnel for visitors. We had a few thoughts on the Halloween Ghost Walk.
Monday 9th September
Tudor Day, this coming Saturday, is now beginning to dominate our minds. Last year we had a great success, with a beautiful September day and more visitors than we ever expected. How well it works this year will depend greatly on her weather, and at the moment the forecast doesn’t look too bad. But this is September in Britain….
Sunday 8th September
One of the volunteers had a shock when he managed to set off a burglar alarm! As the racket shook Old Basing it reminded us all that we do have site security systems and they do work!
Saturday 7th September
We had the tunnel running. Meanwhile some vital members of the Basing House team have asked for a mention, pointing out that they feel rather hard done by. These are the walkie-talkies. All the staff and volunteers have them, but they do suffer considerable hardships, getting left in strange places, thrown on hard floors, or left uncharged. One particularly active member of this community survived a plunge most of the way down the tunnel staircase, and another spent a couple of hours stranded in the tunnel. They also feel rather redundant when carried around all day without being switched on!
So, walkie-talkies, we thank you, and also the procurement man who chose ones that were so hardy. I can assure visitors that they are treated with much more care and consideration. The walkie-talkies also mean that we can do things like call up first aiders when the need arises.
Thursday 5th September
Again a day spent planning for Tudor Day with volunteers hard at work on a variety of tasks as diverse at checking that the flagpoles are actually capable of taking flags and cutting out all the Tudor Roses needed to decorate the visitor centre.
Wednesday 4th September
We walked round the historic ruins today looking for inspiration for the Halloween Ghost Walks that mark the end of the Basing House season (we close 1 November to 28th February), and also to hear the guided tour that will be given on Tudor Day.
Tuesday 3rd September
With the schools back, things are quiet again, but that does mean we can start thinking about Tudor day, one of the “red letter” days at the House, the others being the visits of the Sealed Knot (usually at Easter) and the English Civil War Society (usually in October).
Good weather can increase out attendance tenfold for Tudor Day, so we need more staff from the museums service as well as all the volunteers we can muster. We also need to think about issues like car parking, which normally poses no problem. Basing House does have an overflow car park – accessible through the usual car park – which can cope with these sorts of numbers. Just follow the signs to Basing House.
Monday 2nd September
The last day of the school holidays – this year dominated by good weather and producing a steady flow of visitors. It will be strange for the volunteers to revert to term time visitor numbers, especially as our numbers have grown during the summer. At the same time the diary for the rest of the year is fairly full and getting ready will keep us out of mischief.