Members considered the report of the Community Museum Manager Cerian Trevan. She advised that the winter period at Bursledon was much quieter than other months due to the outdoor nature of the site and generally poorer weather at this time of year meaning visitor numbers were lower. However, a number of smaller events had been very well received and the time was used to concentrate on maintenance tasks.
The events put on this period were Pond Dipping Special Sunday in October which was led by the Curator of Natural Sciences. For half-term there was a drop-in event on for families called Woodland Shadows that allowed children to learn about the woodland creatures that might be found on site. In November the volunteers led a Craft with Corn Special Sunday showing visitors how to make their own corn creations. Unfortunately this was a very quiet weekend but one young couple went away with a number of corn designs, and the volunteers got busy and made lots of beautiful Christmas tree decorations which sold well in the shop. At the end of November the final event of the season was Spooky Mill. The site was decorated for the event with the Curator of Natural Sciences providing lots of animal specimens and bones, a number of the volunteers got into costumes and the Miller and Visitor Assistant decorated the outside of the site in lights. While numbers to the actual event were disappointing those that did come stayed for longer than expected really enjoying the spooky tour, ghost stories and activities in the barn including a bone trail! Feedback was excellent and a number of people had seen posts online about the event. It was decided that running the event closer to Halloween next year would improve numbers.
Contractors were on site completing the works taking place as a result of the Tesco Bags of Help Grant Scheme. The pond had the boardwalk around it extended across the entire exposed section to improve safety and access to the pond for people with mobility issues. Sections of this fence are removable to allow people to access the pond for pond dipping activities, making this a much more usable area. These works also mended all the broken fencing on site, vastly improving the look of the site on entrance. Another raised bed was also added on site which would be planted up in the spring to provide some colour to the front of the barn.
For the time when the site was closed a Winter Maintenance Plan and Windmill Training Plan had been developed. The priority when Mill Assistant volunteers were on site would be to continue their training at other times maintenance of the site would continue. She had also agreed to meet with Eastleigh Men’s Shed and would be discussing with them how they might be able to undertake some larger tasks on site including painting the inside of the mill and creating rodent proof storage.
In line with the rest of the year visitor numbers in October and November were down on last year. This is the first year the Windmill had been closed over the winter months so for December, January and February the site would be closed to the public with staff coming in on alternate Sundays to complete maintenance. A pre-season team briefing is planned for February and the site would re-open with a Cogs and Gears themed Special Sunday. Improved local marketing would aim to increase visitor numbers this year, with the Windmill already featuring in Scene magazine with a feature on the first page and events in their listings.
147 pupils took part in museum led workshop programmes in October, which was the priority period for schools before Bursledon Windmill underwent building work. A home educators group were also welcomed to the site who brought a group of 16 young people, taking an overall total of visits to 163.
The Better Life Chances team ran the Woodland Shadows event in half term for local families. There were lots of fun activities for children to get involved with including mask making, and lots of animal specimens to meet plus woodland to explore! The Windmill had become part of the local Dementia Action Alliance in Bursledon representing the heritage sector within the group which included local businesses and volunteer organisations. An ongoing ambition of the Better Life Chances team was to develop a network of dementia friendly museums across the Trust by offering staff and volunteers Dementia Friends training.
A new edition of What’s On covering the period October – December and featuring Bursledon Windmill (Autumn Pond Dipping, Woodland Shadows, Craft with Corn and Spooky Mill) was delivered at the beginning of October. 12,500 copies were printed and it was now in circulation via new distributors, Culture Calling, to TICs, libraries, museums, accommodation providers, educational establishments, attractions, arts centres and theatres. “What’s On for Families” was also created for the half term period which featured Half Term and Halloween activities. 10,000 of these were professionally distributed across the region, and this featured Spooky Mill at Bursledon and had a focus on hands on activities to be done at our venues.
The e-newsletter Museums Monthly, featuring exhibitions and events from Bursledon, had been sent to sign ups on a new database. There were now over 3500 subscribers. With promoted features such as the Craft with Corn and the Spooky Mill activity in the newsletter and on the website. HCT Facebook now had over 2900 “likes” and twitter nearly 4,500 followers. Events at Bursledon Windmill were promoted on both social media sites on an ongoing basis.
The Royal Blood website and project is now coming to a close.
Work was now being carried out on the 2017 big theme Jane Austen, which would see supporting activities at those venues which would receive the exhibition.