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News from The Rural Life Centre - 2013

December 2013

Festive fun, future news and Christmas wishes


This year, over four days, an incredible 948 children and 1215 adults enjoyed a Steam train ride to visit Santa, aided by 197 days of volunteering!! Sadly the calves couldn't be here this year as they were suffering from ringworm. We wish them a speedy recovery and hope to see them at events here next year.

We have just added another date to the event diary as on 17th & 18th May our old friends the Double LL Club return for a vintage transport and bygones rally after an absence of many years. We are also awaiting confirmation about hosting a fire engine rally

2013 has been a good year with increased attendance, especially on the well-received Activity Thursdays which ran through the school holiday periods.

Would like to thank all those that visited us and look forward to you again in 2014. Meanwhile we wish everyone a happy and peaceful Christmas.

November 2013

Wealden Iron Furnace gets 15 minutes of fame

The Rural Life Centre's new website was swamped with hits last week, thanks to the museum's reconstructed Wealden iron furnace featuring on BBC 2's Tudor Monastery Farm last Wednesday evening (20 November).

Wealdon Iron Furnace

Anyone who missed this fascinating peek into our industrial past can of course watch the programme on BBC iplayer, but the furnace will feature again in another BBC programme, Restoring England's Heritage, on Tuesday 5 December on BBC1.

"This programme is about the Fernhurst forge which was an actual Wealden iron site and ours is the only reconstruction ever made in this country which approaches anything like the full size - it is about half scale," explained museum director Chris Shepheard.

"There was a time when the Weald around the Surrey and Sussex border area was the heart of the country's iron production industry. Then the air would have been thick with the smoke of furnaces turning local, low grade iron ore into the metal needed to produce a variety of items including cannon for the armed forces.

"The reason the industry developed here was the abundant source of timber which could be turned into charcoal, the only form of fuel that produced sufficient heat until Abraham Darby perfected the use of coke for iron smelting and steel making, and the industry moved north to the coalfields. The last furnace in the south closed down in 1813."

The moving force behind the iron furnace project, which so far has taken about five years to complete, is Gerald Baker, a volunteer at the museum for the past eight years.

Gerald has always been fascinated by the industry and was determined to find out more about the workings involved. His idea was to build a half-scale furnace complete with bellows and hammer on the 10-acre site of the Rural Life Centre. Now, aided by financial support from the Surrey Hills Sustainable Development Fund, the project has come to the attention of history buffs and film-makers.

"We've had several burns in the furnace," says Gerald, "and the bellows work well with a good draught, but we need to burn charcoal to be able to make iron.

Last week's programme about the Tudors demanded that the volunteers, including Gerald, played the part. "They told us to get rid of everything that looked new," he said. "So I was wearing red bloomers and the production company supplied us with sandals. Can you imagine being near a furnace wearing sandals?"

Although there isn't a big enough supply of charcoal yet to enable iron to be made - despite being only half-size, this furnace will still need four tons of charcoal when in action - Gerald is pleased with the furnace's performance so far, and with its giant bellows in action and flames licking out of the furnace hatch, it certainly looks impressive on the small screen.

Actual smelting of ore is still being considered (due to potential dangers involved) but a charcoal burning programme has already been initiated at the museum and this will become another regular feature for visitors.

Christmas Craft Fair - Saturday 16th November

Great line-up of Christmas crafts and gifts at the Rural Life Centre

Receiving an original, handcrafted gift at Christmas is always appreciated, so don't miss the Rural Life Centre's Christmas Fair where you;ll find over 45 craft stalls selling everything from jewellery and clothes to chutney and bird boxes!

Christmas Crafts

Although the museum is officially closed, the stalls are spread out, under cover, in several of the restored rural buildings where some of the exhibitors will be demonstrating their crafts - so don't let rain put you off!

Whoever you need to buy for, you are sure to find something to please them on Christmas morning. The number and variety of crafts represented is impressive and most are from Surrey and Hampshire - so by buying from them you will be helping the local economy.

Stalls include jewellery of all kinds, greetings cards, Christmas gift wrap and ornaments, turned wood items, handmade textile gifts from patchwork and knitting to quilting, bird boxes, children's clothing, cushions, aprons and Christmas table linen. The blacksmith will be on hand to sell items from the forge.

For those 'difficult' people on your list there's always delicious gift-wrapped handmade fudge, jams, chutneys, marmalades and salad dressings. And of course the Farnham Country Market will be offering their usual delectable cakes and other home-made goodies.

Although the museum itself is closed, admission is free to the 10-acre site where the fair will be held in the Frensham and Tilford buildings and the village hall. The café will be open for refreshments.

The Christmas Craft Fair takes place on Saturday 16 November from 10am to 3pm at the Rural Life Centre, an accredited museum of village life, mid-way between Tilford and Frensham in Reeds Road, off the A287 three miles south of Farnham. For further information telephone 01252 795571.

October 2013

Santa Specials - 7th, 8th, 14th & 15th December

The Rural Life Centre's Christmas wonderland weekends are filling up fast - make sure the children in your life don't miss out.

Santa Special

CHRISTMAS will be all present and correct when the Rural Life Centre unwraps its ever-popular and eagerly anticipated Santa Specials.

And there, showing the boys and girls what a gift of a good time it is will be Father Christmas, the man who makes young dreams come true, and who has the power to work wonders with wish-lists.

Taking place at the Tilford-based museum of country life on the weekends of Saturday and Sunday, December 7- 8, and Saturday and Sunday, December 14-15, the Santa Specials have grown in quality and popularity to the point where advance booking has become essential.

Mums and Dads, and Grannies and Grandads will find the place just as enchanting, with a ride through the woods on the Old Kiln Light Railway, a visit to the elves toy workshop and a chance to see a variety of animals at close hand.

Other attractions will include a model railway display, seasonal music from a pianola and the traditional playground.

And of course, there's the main attraction of the day; stepping inside the grotto to see Father Christmas, to chat with him and then - the most exciting of all - to receive a present. Each child will be welcomed and name-checked by Mother Christmas.

It's a busy time of the year for the man in red, as it is for the Rural Life Centre's big army of volunteer helpers, who work tirelessly under the direction of Norman and Margaret Emblow to ensure that these days are such an unforgettable and happy experience. Their efforts are well rewarded by seeing the enjoyment and excitement on the faces of the young visitors.

If you think Christmas has become far too commercialised, get along to the Rural Life Centre this December and restore your faith in this wonderful time of the year.

It's a magical world where even a cold winter's day is full of warmth, and where believing matters more than anything.

Santa Special tickets, at £11 for children and £7 for adults, are available on 01252 795571, by using a booking form at www.rural-life.org.uk or in person at the museum. Visitors are allocated a time slot to reduce the queuing, but once a booking has been made, it cannot be cancelled or changed. A mince pie and a drink are included in the price, and visitors can also enjoy lunches and snacks at the on-site cafe.

The museum itself will be closed during these festive weekends.

Land Rover Day - 13th October 2013

Calling all Land Rover enthusiasts

Over 120 Land Rovers - the salt of the earth since their inception in 1948 - will be descending on the Rural Life Centre Sunday, October 13.

Land Rover

As comfortable in the countryside as they are in the city, this marque is also a big mover (but not necessarily a shaker) with the armed forces.

Versatility has been the key to its enduring success and that will be very much in evidence when the 10-acre Tilford-based museum hosts the annual Land Rover Day.

Vehicles from pre-production through Series 1 to 111, Discovery, Range Rover, Defender, Freelander, military as well as "specials" are all included, as well as a Land Rover-themed auto-jumble and a machinery sale.

Organised by Steve and Shirley Miles on behalf of the Southern Central Vintage Agricultural Club (SCVAC), the event has become very popular in a short space of time. It shows how Land Rovers have adapted to changing times and how their adaptability has seen the brand evolve from rural reliability to urban chic.

The event gives owners a chance to show off and parade their vehicles, and to discuss their hobby with fellow enthusiasts and those who are simply happy to be bystanders.

The Rural Life Centre is home to the SCVAC - they hold their monthly meetings at the museum, which also hosts many of the club's events.

The very name Land Rover evokes a spirit of canvas-topped adventure, steering a course through work, play and war and winning through with rugged determination. It is the very essence of Britishness, and always will be, although the Jaguar Land Rover Group is now a subsidiary of Tata Motors of India.

It's a world where quality counts - where 4x4 makes more than 16. Make sure it all adds up for you at The Land Rover Day on October 13.

It takes place between 10am and 5pm at the Rural Life Centre, an accredited museum of village life, which lies midway between Frensham and Tilford in Reeds Road, off the A287, three miles south of Farnham. For more information, telephone 01252 795571 or visit the museum's website at www.rural-life.org.uk

September 2013

Harvest Home - 29th September 2013

Forty years and going strong

As has become traditional, the Rural Life Centre, Tilford's museum of country life, will celebrate the drawing to a close of another busy summer season with a Harvest Home event on Sunday 29th September.

However this year the event will take on special significance as it marks the museum's 40th anniversary. Madge and Henry Jackson opened their museum, then known as the Old Kiln Museum, in 1973. Now, run by a charitable trust since the Jackson passed on, this unique collection continues to flourish going from strength to strength each year as it attracts more and more visitors to its tranquil site. This year particularly it has seen a large increase in visits from schools and families from near and far.

To mark this auspicious occasion the museum has added a special ceremony to the regular events such as the 'tree walk talk' and display of harvest produce. The short thanksgiving service in the non-conformist wooden chapel rescued from Eashing will include the unveiling and dedication of a new stained glass window created by museum volunteer Jackie Dalley.

The service will be followed by the planting of a commemorative tree marking the anniversary and the foresight shown by Madge and Henry all those years ago in starting to collect country artefacts which were then being disposed of at an alarming rate. Planting the tree will be Madge's sister, Diana Ford of Grayshott.

Their work which has been lovingly carried on by a small army of volunteers will also be marked by a new permanent exhibition of the museum's own history. Items continually arrive to join the collection, despite a pressing lack of space, and the trust try to accommodate them wherever possible.

Among such items that have arrived of late is an invalid carriage believed to have been used by Henry Morton Stanley (of Livingstone fame) while he lived at Pirbright. It was used by him in his final years to enjoy the gardens he and his wife had planted around their Furzehill home. The carriage has just emerged from a lengthy conservation programme and will be on show at the museum for the first time during this event.

Why not go along to the Rural Life Centre's Harvest Home on Sunday September 29th (from 10am to 5pm) and join in the celebrations. All the normal attractions will be available, including the light railway and a superb cafe, at the accredited museum which lies on Reeds Road mid way between Tilford and Frensham just off the A287 three miles south of Farnham. For more information call 01252 795571 or visit the website at www.rural-life.org.uk.

Classic Vehicle Gathering - 15th September 2013

Hundreds of classic vehicles descend on Tilford!

YOU can run the rule over the running boards and say "hats off to the best bonnets" when the annual Classic Vehicle Gathering arrives at the Rural Life Centre on Sunday, September 15th.

Classic Cars

Organised by the Surrey Classic Vehicle Club (SCVC), the event will feature a colourful and charismatic collection of highway heroes, ranging from motorbikes to cars to buses, and everything in between. "Last year's event attracted some 400-500 vehicles, and we are expecting the same number, maybe more, this time," said organiser, Den Wilson.

He added that Ray Le Mesurier-Foster, chairman of the Aldershot and District Omnibus, Rescue and Restoration Society, will be there with at least one of their award-winning vehicles.

Driven by a desire to keep the past on parade, the SCVC know exactly how to fuel nostalgia and how to keep it up to speed. From its inception in 1996, its main aim has been to bring together the owners, families and enthusiasts of all classic vehicles. Members arrange a variety of events throughout the year, but the Classic Vehicle Gathering is described as the "big one", and with some justification.

"A lot of people tell me it's the best show of its kind in Surrey, and that's very humbling," said Den, whose last show as organiser this will be.

The vehicles on show will date back as far as the 1920s and will attract a large crowd, many of them experts, but plenty just happy to wallow in the past. And there's nowhere better to host such an event than Tilford's Rural Life Centre, which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary.

The gathering, which will include plenty of stalls and the ever-popular auto-jumble, will also feature the "best dressed" competition, for the person most suitably attired in the period of their vehicle. The winner receives an inscribed silver platter.

Visitors and competitors should be prepared for further fun when the 3rd Farnham District Scouts give the occasion an extra infusion of energy with their go-kart (soapbox) races. Check out their progress as they career towards the chequered flag.

In addition to all this, the museum is hosting the Surrey Woodturners' Weekend on Saturday, September 14th and Sunday, September 15th.

Learn more about the wonders of wood and how man can shape its future and give it a new dimension. The event is being organised by the Surrey Association of Woodturners, which was founded in 1990 and is based at the Mychett Centre, Camberley. It's a hand-on organisation, with a full programme of activities for its members to enjoy. Club chairman Paul Nesbitt, who is organising the event, said there will be numerous finely crafted items on display, and some will be for sale.

The Classic Vehicle Gathering (Sunday only) and the Surrey Woodturners' Weekend (Saturday and Sunday) take place between 10am and 5pm at the Rural Life Centre, an accredited museum of village life, which lies midway between Frensham and Tilford in Reeds Road, off the A287, three miles south of Farnham. For more information, telephone 01252 795571 or visit the museum's brand new website at www.rural-life.org.uk

Donkey Day Out - 8th September 2013

Meet the donkeys They are noisy, lovable and still delighting children at a diminishing number of Britain's seaside resorts. Equus africanus asinus - to give donkeys their official name - will be once again be giving pleasure to families, but this time a little closer to home, at the Rural Life Centre, Tilford, 8 September.


If you want to learn more about these delightful, noisy creatures, or simply want to introduce your children to an animal that was once a common sight in farm fields, then be sure to save that date.

Each year the Donkey Breed Society holds a number of events around the country where young and old alike can meet and get to know the animals at close quarters. One of those events is Donkey Day Out held each September at the Rural Life Centre. Now long established, it is extremely popular with visitors of all ages as well as donkey owners from across the south of England.

The event is organised, on behalf of the Donkey Breed Society, by John and Rosemary Porter of Follyoak Donkeys in Farnham. Their own animals will befamiliar through appearances at many local events.

This year's event will be better than ever. Visitors will see the amazing versatility of these highly intelligent, willing and lovable creatures. Donkeys and their owners will drive with carts through the Rural Life Centre and RSPB woodland at noon, and there will be a parade with commentary at 3pm which promises to answer any questions you ever had about donkeys!

Questions such as: why do donkeys have long ears and such a distinctive, raucous bray? Answer: because unlike their cousins the horses, they lived a more solitary existence in the wild and needed to be able to communicate with each other across long distances.

There will be stalls selling Christmas cards, bric a brac stall and chocolate to raise funds for the DBS and the RLC.

Donkey Day Out is at the Rural Life Centre from 10am to 5pm on 8 September.

The museum lies midway between Tilford and Frensham in Reeds Road off the A287 three miles south of Farnham. For more information telephone 01252 795571 or check out the new website www.rural-life.org.uk

August 2013

Weyfest - 30th August to 1st September


Weyfest Stage

IT'S a big "hear, hear" from music fans as the Rural Life Centre gets ready to make way for Weyfest.

Featuring bands as diverse and entertaining as UB 40, The Wurzels and Echo and the Bunnymen, the highly-acclaimed three-day jamboree returns to the Tilford-based museum from Friday, August 30th to Sunday, September 1st.

Setting the ball rolling on the Friday night will be The Stranglers, originally known as The Guildford Stranglers, an outfit with many local connections and a whole load of hits. Peaches, No More Heroes, Golden Brown, to name but three, have certainly stood the test of time. Support comes from Rodney Branigan, Nine Below Zero and Tiny Dragons.

Echo and the Bunnymen (remember their classic album "Ocean Rain"?) hop into the spotlight on Saturday, when Toploader, Eddie and the Hotrods, True Deceivers, the exquisitely named New Hawleans Jug Band and those rustic raconteurs, the Wurzels, will also be strutting their stuff.

And you can get the benefits of UB40 when they work their reggae-influenced magic at this year's event. They hit the high spots with Food For Love, Can't Help Falling in Love, Red, Red Wine and a highly acceptable reworking of Sonny and Cher's I Got You Babe - you got them on the Sunday, when The Strawbs, Snakecharmer, Hawklords and Three Bonzos and a Piano will be among several other bands pitching in to make this family-friendly festival's final day one to remember.

"All the artistes are hand-picked for quality, be they world superstars or up and coming unsigned bands," say the organisers, who are all very much in tune with the ethos of the Rural Life Centre.

In addition to the four stages of music, there will be plenty of attractions, rides on the steam railway, craft stalls, outdoor laser combat games, the ever-popular KidZone, music workshops and a chance to tour the nearby Pierrepont Farm dairy.
The Sci-Fi Zone will be celebrating 50 years of Doctor Who, there will be lots of places to buy food and drink (including the Rural Life Centre's own cafe), and a car boot sale takes place on the Sunday morning.

The museum has hosted Weyfest since 2007 and it's a welcome and popular part of the venue's busy calendar of events. The festival had previously had a peripatetic existence in and around the Farnham area. It originated back in 1988 as part of the short-lived but well intentioned National Music Day, instigated by Mick Jagger and the UK government. This locally-based event survived, however, and has gone on to build an enviable reputation for friendliness and first class music.

A share of any profits will be donated to the Old Kiln Museum Trust, a registered charity, which administers the Rural Life Centre. And the museum also benefits because many festival-goers return to have good and more leisurely look round all the wonderful exhibits that are on display.

"Weyfest is more like a mini holiday than a music festival," the organisers point out, adding that each year more is done to cater for children.

The venue, an accredited museum of village life, offers festival-goers the chance to camp for the weekend and that adds to the wonderfully relaxed feeling of camaraderie and togetherness. Every year, Weyfest presents bands old and new, from near and far, attracting an audience of dedicated and loyal followers, along with a whole load of eager newcomers. Friendships are made there, and they get better all the time.

It's a marvellous mix, and it's a special event in a special place. Sounds good? You bet it does!
The Rural Life Centre can be found midway between Tilford and Frensham in Reeds Road off the A287, three miles south of Farnham.

Call the Weyfest ticket hotline on 0844 884 2920, or check out the website at www.weyfest.co.uk

Sunday Funday - August 18th

By the middle of August many families have exhausted ideas for entertaining the children and the cry goes up "What are we going to do today?"

If you are already beginning to panic, help is at hand with the Rural Life centre's Sunday Funday August 18. This annual event is a special dayApple Bobbing when the children from toddlers upwards can experience the atmosphere of a fete and Sunday School picnic rolled into one.

Organiser Pam Taylor says the event with its traditional games and races is always enjoyed by the children, even in this computer and TV age, while mums, dads and grandparents will be transported back to their own childhoods.

Encouraged by the museum's enthusiastic band of volunteers, youngsters can take part in quizzes, clay modelling, leaf and vegetable painting, flowerpot decorating, peg doll dressing and jewellery making. They can even try their hand at wood turning on the foot-operated pole lathe.

For children who need to run off some energy, there will be plenty of energetic activities on offer, too, everything from the traditional coconut shy and bobbing for apples (always a great hit) to races, skittles and a treasure trail. If the weather's wet, there will be traditional indoor games in the museum's many attractive old buildings. All the day's activities are included in the price of admission to the museum.

Adults can take along a picnic or buy tasty food at the museum's café.

Sunday Funday takes place on August 18 and is open from 10am to 5pm. The Rural Life Centre (www.rural-life.org.uk) is an accredited museum of village life which lies midway between Tilford and Frensham on Reeds Road. For further information telephone 01252 795571.

May 2013

Rural Life Centre listed for Telegraph Family Friendly Museum Award

Kids in Museums

Thanks to enthusiastic visitors nominating and voting for Tilford's museum of country life, the Rural Life Centre is proud to announce that it has been chosen by the award panel from over 140 nominated museums to appear in the list of the top twenty.

"It's the thrill of the real that visitors were looking for in this year's entries for the Telegraph Family Friendly Museum Award," says the Kids in Museums website, "But the very best family friendly museums don't only let us look at their collection, but handle and hold it too. Children are no longer being told off for stroking the stuffed walrus or creaking open the wooden tea chest. Instead they're being positively encouraged to do so."

"It's great to see Rural Life on the longlist for the Telegraph Family Friendly Museum Award. We had more nominations than ever this year, so the competition was very tough. It's a tribute to their commitment to being family friendly which means they've made it this far. Families particularly pointed out the imaginative and exciting activities on offer - from putting out an imaginary roof fire to making plaster casts of fossils. It just goes to show how important museums can be in our communities. Good luck to Rural Life for the next stage,' says Dea Birkett, Director, Kids in Museums."

The 20 listed museums now go forward to be judged by a panel of experts chaired by Jenny Abramsky of the Heritage Lottery Fund to produce a shortlist which will be announced in early July.

Then the shortlisted museums will be "road-tested" anonymously by real families to determine the eventual winner. Families wishing to get involved in the final judging round are invited to contact the panel through the Kids in Museums website.

Last year the award was won by Haslemere Educational Museum so let's hope the unique Rural Life Centre can keep the award in the local area this year.

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