Twilight at the Museums- The Volunteer Experience

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This Daylight Explorer adores museums. So imagine my excitement when I saw a tweet from the University of Cambridge Museums asking for volunteers for their annual Twilight at the Museums event. I sent off an email, including a form containing my expression of interest, and got invited to a briefing at the Fitzwilliam along with all the other lovely volunteers. The turnout was great and we were given a brief talk by Susan Miller the Events Administrator for the University of Cambridge Museums. Here Susan gave us a bit of background to the event as well as some information that would be useful for the night. It was also lovely to get the opportunity to talk to other volunteers about how they heard about the event and their backgrounds. At the end of the briefing we were asked to indicate the preferred areas we would like to be placed. As I spend a lot of time at the Fitzwilliam, the MAA and the Botanical Gardens they were my top choices and I was delighted to receive an email a few days later asking me to volunteer at the Botanical Gardens! At all stages of the process the communication was superb and very clear.

In the week preceding the event I got an email from Sally Lee, the Education Officer for the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens, containing all the need to know information for the evening. Armed with a schedule and some handy background notes I counted down the days until the big event! The big day dawned and the evening arrived with…rain! At this point I was really pleased to be inside the glasshouses! Sally and the team at the Botanical Gardens had made the glasshouses look absolutely spectacular and I felt thrilled to be part of the evening. All the staff and volunteers were so friendly and the teacher in me was thrilled to receive a glow in the dark name badge! Yes it is the simple things! Here I have to also pause to say how wonderful the staff (and the volunteers who dressed up) looked as Victorian plant hunters. They made a superb effort and it really added to the atmosphere. I now have a hankering for copying the look myself…

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Visitors had been given a lovely card illustrated with a glasshouse to use to collect stamps as they hunted for different plants around the glasshouses.

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My first station was in the Oceanic Glasshouse to help guide the intrepid plant hunters find the Aeonium plant. I enjoyed sharing the facts I knew about the plant (e.g. it was from the Canary Islands) and lots of people were really interested in the rosette of overlapping leaves that really made it a striking plant to look at. After my shift of a few hours (including a quick break of coffee and biscuits, thanks Sally!) I bid farewell to the Aeonium and went off to my next post in the Arid Lands glasshouse and the Agave Salmiana. I actually ended up with a clipboard, chatting to people and taking email addresses so the Gardens could get feedback from people in the future. It was absolutely wonderful talking to people and I had so many interesting conversations. Everyone had had a wonderful evening and I felt very proud to have played a small part.

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So my experience as a volunteer is over but I have two things to end with.

  1. If you haven’t been to Twilight at the Museums as a visitor please go! All the different museums have so much to offer and it really is wonderful to see them with a different perspective!
  2. If you had been thinking of volunteering and weren’t sure, go for it! The team made the whole process so smooth from beginning to end and it will be something that stays with me for a long time. I will definitely be putting my name forward again next year!

I believe wholeheartedly in museums and what they can offer the young and old alike. Seeing people of all ages and from all backgrounds engaging with the museums as they did on Wednesday was wonderful to see and events like this help inspire the younger generation to visit these wonderful places on our doorstep.

Anglesey Abbey Winter Lights

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The Silver Birch Grove. I love this spot.

A few weeks ago Mr Daylight Explorer and I were lucky enough to go to the Anglesey Abbey Winter Lights. I have been going to Anglesey Abbey for years but had yet to make it to the Winter Lights and so when tickets went on sale I snapped up a pair. The weather was perfect, not too cold, no wind and no rain! We wrapped up warm and set off for our evening adventure! (Is that allowed on the Daylight Explorers, evening stuff?!)

When we arrived I couldn’t believe how busy it was! By the time we arrived it was our allotted slot time and so we bypassed the marquee outside and went straight in. I was worried about having to walk around with a big group but actually the crowds thinned out quite quickly and one of my favourite parts was actually listening to all the exclamations of joy as people rounded a corner and were dazzled by the lights on show. Walking somewhere I go at least once a month in the daylight was certainly a different (and dare I use the word magical?) experience at night.

I felt for poor Mr Daylight Explorer who just wanted to walk and experience the lights because he was with me, an avid memory keeper who wanted to take photos at every point! If it had been light enough I would have whipped my journal out of my bag 😉 But instead I tried to capture the evening on my little phone camera and actually some pictures were not too bad!

One of my favourites shots came as we rounded the corner near the dahlia garden and this performer appeared from the darkness. It was a true ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ moment from the crowd!

Angelesy Abbey Winter Lights Performer

Our only regret is that we didn’t take money because, as we walked around, our senses were enticed by several gorgeous smelling eateries. We did manage to cobble together enough money for some donuts and the long wait for them certainly made us enjoy them even more! As we queued we were entertained by the music provided and it was great to take in the wonderful atmosphere.

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Families and friends were really enjoying the night together. I loved the sight of one little one draped in lights, oh how I wish I could have taken a picture! But I did manage to get a short video of some people truly having great fun! Have a look at this!

Thank you Anglesey Abbey National Trust for such a wonderful evening! I can’t wait for next year!

The Daylight Explorers

 

The Big Draw 2015

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Happy ‘The Big Draw’ Month! October 1st saw the start of a national campaign to celebrate all things drawing related!

“The Big Draw is the world’s biggest drawing festival with thousands of enjoyable, and mainly free, drawing activities which connect people of all ages with museums, outdoor spaces, artists, designers, illustrators – and each other.

The Big Draw is for anyone who loves to draw, as well as those who think they can’t!”

If you want to find out more information have a look at the Big Draw Website. There are also lots of local events taking place around the country. Cambridge was lucky enough to see a range of events taking place at the beginning of the month and I went along to one of them. The activities were organised by Cambridge BID who “represents a collection of 1,100 shops, bars, cafés, attractions, entertainment and services in the City Centre and we strive to ensure that visitors, locals and businesses enjoy a vibrant, safe and clean environment.”

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I went along to the event held in the Grafton Centre and it was lovely to chat to the people leading the session and the families taking part. Aimed at both adults and children it was wonderful seeing people putting pencil (and other materials!) to paper and being creative. A huge thank you to the families below who were happy for me to take pictures as they concentrated on their art!

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A huge thank you to Cambridge BID who were happy to share some of their own images of events I couldn’t make it to!

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Round Church 2

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And the beauty of the Big Draw (and art in general) is you can do it any time and any place. My favourite drawing spot at the moment is curled up on the sofa under a cosy blanket. Do you enjoy drawing? Where are your favourite spots for pulling out the sketchbook? The Daylight Explorers would love to hear about them!

Wandlebury- for schools and families

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Wandlebury- beautiful at any time of the day and year!

It is amazing what can be right on your doorstep. Where I live in Cambridge we are lucky enough to have Wandlebury a 5 minute drive down the road. It is free to get in but if you drive you will need £3 for parking but once you walk around you will see that this is a small price to pay. Seeking out these wonderful local places can be fantastic for families and schools for so many reasons.

  • they are close which means they don’t require as much planning!
  • for schools this means cheaper coach costs.
  • being local means repeat visits can be made and so children can get to experience the changing of the seasons and a landscape.
  • repeat visits mean you can really get to know a place. I think every time I go to Wandlebury (and I go a lot!) I see something new or find a new route to follow.

All of the above can apply to anywhere in the country so check out your local country park!

Sitting down and taking in the view after a walk in the woodlands.

Sitting down and taking in the view after a walk in the woodlands.

So what makes Wandlebury so special? As I mentioned above it is only a short drive from Cambridge and has the most wonderful opportunities for walks and enough open spaces to sit down, relax, read a book and take in such a special space. The woodlands and meadows are teeming with wildlife and things to explore. As a bit of a history geek I also love the myths and legends that surround the site. Intrigued? Have a read (but make sure you come back!) Did that whet your appetite? The myths and legends would be a great way in for schools to work on myths and legends in the curriculum and this is something that I am sure families would enjoy investigating as well!

As if exploring the site itself and immersing yourself in its stories wasn’t enough there are so many other things families and schools can do at Wandlebury. The website is updated regularly and even includes events at other properties that may be of interest. Just recently I have seen a fantastic session on bees for children and I am hopefully booked on a session for adults in the coming weeks (fingers crossed there are spaces!)

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And for schools? What Wandlebury have on offer is just as fantastic.

  • Nature Trails
  • Pond Investigations
  • Orienteering
  • Art Activities
  • Geography to develop those orientation skills
  • Archery
  • Iron Age experience for KS2- great to help with the new national curriculum!


For full details check out this helpful programme here.

Whether you are a family out for a day exploring or a school looking for somewhere to explore nature and wildlife, Wandlebury is certainly a place to visit. And if you don’t live in Cambridge…well we would love to have you come and visit us!

Where are your favourite local places to visit? Please share in the comments below!

Happy exploring!

p.s Don’t forget that today marks the start of #30DaysWild. Not sure what I am talking about? Check out the post here!