The Curator introduced a report detailing activities and events at the Windmill since the last meeting.
The winter period at Bursledon Windmill was always a much quieter time than in the previous months, with storms, cold and heavy rain greatly affecting the number of visitors and potential for activity due to the outdoor and rural nature of the Windmill site. However, this had given staff a chance to focus on maintenance, training, programming and planning. The automaton donations box had been repaired by its designer, and the older interactive windmill model had been painted, fixed and moved to a more prominent place in the Barn, making a better use of the raised platform.
A volunteer milling training day took place in December. Despite expectations, the wind did blow but two volunteers were unable to attend at short notice, so the training went ahead with two staff members and one volunteer. A formal training programme and record book had been developed by site staff which reflected the Operating Manual, and gave a valuable record for both trainee and managers on how much the new volunteers have learned. Over the next year, this training system would be rolled out to volunteers, with another two recruited over this winter period. The Curator attended food hygiene training in order to better manage the cleaning schedules and food safety requirements of the site.
Progress had been made with plans for the toilet block, safety improvements to the inside of the windmill cap and external lightning protection. Building work for the toilet block began 1 February with no interference to usual site operations. Neighbours had been kept fully informed by both venue staff and the contractors.
Funding had recently been secured via the TESCO Bags of Help scheme in order to improve and maintain the outdoor areas of the site which it was hoped to include the pond, boundary hedges and car park.
Visitor figures throughout the year had shown a trend upwards but the period November to February was very low. A very wet winter with high winds had meant few visitors, particularly in December. Special events, out of hours visits and school visits in August and October led to higher visitor figures than in previous years. Comparison to the previous year was unhelpful, as the reopening at the end of November 2014 created an artificially high baseline and, prior to that, admission was free so it was difficult to compare like for like. Attention to maintenance, staff training and cleaning have benefited from the lower visitor numbers and more volunteer/staff time.
The business case for opening less in the winter and more in the summer was currently under review with a decision anticipated in time for the next summer period. A number of events had been programmed in order to attract larger numbers throughout the forthcoming year, including a wood-themed arts and crafts festival, a ‘Hogs, Cogs and Kegs’ food and drink event, an Easter animal petting farm, specially themed activities for National Mills Weekend and National Science Week and the ever-popular summer pizza day.
The Hampshire Cultural Trust Collections Development Policy 2015-2020, was launched in October and was now available on the Trust website. The policy guided decisions relating to the acquisition and disposal of objects relating to Eastleigh Borough, as a well as other parts of the County. It was written soon after the Trust was formed and had now been formally approved by the Board of Trustees and both Hampshire County Council and Winchester City Council as owners or trustees of the collections. The policy was one of a suite of documents that all museums were required to have to retain their Museum Accreditation. Bursledon Windmill was last awarded Full Accreditation in 2013.The Trust would be invited to provide evidence that the Windmill continues to comply with the Accreditation Standard in October 2016 with a submission deadline of 30 April 2017.
In October the Community Engagement and Learning Officer (CELO) worked with 118 school pupils in 5 school groups. Schools tended not to visit between October Half Term and February Half Term due to the cold and wet, but the CELO had enquiries for March visits. Feedback had been received from teachers and was very positive. Several enquiries had resulted in no bookings when the teachers realised that the children would be experiencing a static windmill. It was hoped that work towards a position where the windmill could operate on several weekdays in September and October could be progressed as this would be when schools were doing their harvest topic.
The Front of House team had added to the Community Engagement and Learning offer with Special Sunday activities for families – all about Cogs and Gears in October, Hibernation in November, the Twelve Days of Christmas in December, and Winter Wildlife in January. They had also planned and delivered the Half Term Hoot of Owls workshop science activities, with a volunteer doing the art activities. The CELO planned the Mill by Torchlight event and ran it along with the Curator, Front of House team and volunteers. Although numbers attending the Mill by Torchlight evening were disappointing, it was a wonderful atmospheric event and an innovative way of telling a heritage story. It was hoped that the event could be run again with a marketing campaign targeting schools earlier in the run-up to the event.
The Hoot of Owls event had the opposite problem – it was at times too crowded for comfort, because there was so much to do that the first arrivals were still there as more and more families poured in. A new on-line booking system should help to limit numbers and to ensure attendance before committing to going ahead with an event, and would allow for more booked events and fewer drop-ins.
It was AGREED that the report be noted.