Monthly Archives: January 2014

Day Trip: Black Country Living Museum

Last Saturday, we woke up, lazed around and then realized that we didn’t have an agenda for the day.

You see, most weekends have been busy. We end up having something or the other to do. This last Saturday, we had nothing planned. We didn’t even need to go grocery shopping! How jobless is that!

So after a heavy breakfast, we started discussing what to do, and zeroed in on driving down to Oxford. By the time we got ready and got into the car, we realized that it was too late to go to Oxford. It was past 12. Back to the phone, desperately searching for places to go to. We live a central location, so it turns that we are equidistant from most interesting places and equally far from every place!

Anyway, finally after doing a bit of research, we found the ‘The Black Country Living Museum’, which looked quite interesting and wasn’t too far. It was past 1 by the time we reached. And seeing the cost of the day tickets we almost turned around. The museum would close at 4, so we didn’t have much time, we decided to check at the counter if we could possibly see it all in 3 hours. On checking we realized that there was an option by which the ticket would be valid for a year, and we jumped at it.

In we went, into the museum. It was a living museum, which meant that it had recreated life from a different era. And had people enacting life as it was. This museum depicted life in the Black Country, so called because the whole place was covered with black soot. It was one of the most industrial parts of Britain with coal mining being a very important business. This living museum recreates life from that time. The exhibit we saw had some vintage cars, but that wasn’t something all that exciting as we had seen similar cars before in motor museums. I’ve just realized that we seem to go to a lot of museums but then that is one of the best part of this country – it’s museums.

Stepping out, we found an car/van from the olden times, being driven by a elderly gentlemen who called out to us to board the van. It was the public transport within the museum. The first stop was the coal mines, and we got off there. There were others waiting there for the next trip into the coal mines. We were asked to wear protective helmets and asked to beware of the low roofs in some parts of the mines. Our guide started off the tour. We walked into a dark passage leading us down into the mines and soon it was pitch dark. The only lights came from the torches that some of us had been given. At various strategic points, there were mannequins and recordings that told us what was happening there. We saw miners chipping away at the coal, saw the dangers they faced, the ponies that transported the coal from one place to the other.  It was absolutely fascinating!  No pictures though, as pictures were forbidden inside the mines. Some of the tidbits of information was so interesting. The way the miners would come out of the mines. Apparently 12 people would fit into a bucket, which would then be hauled up the shaft. It is difficult to understand how 12 men could fit into that bucket. And not surprisingly, there have been instances of men falling out of the bucket and getting killed. It it was such a dangerous life. Boys would be aged 10 -12 when they first started working in the mines. They had recordings of the noises of the mines, so it gave it an eerie feeling of ghosts at work, but we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

After the tour of the mines, when we made our way out, we found water rushing into our path and into the mines. We walked out into heavy rains and what seemed to be some snow, which we missed. First snow the of season and we miss it! That we were underground, exploring old coal mines was the only redeeming factor.

The rain was lashing down at us and all we could do was hail the next van to get to the entrance area and wait out the rain in the restaurant. We had some sandwiches and coffee while we waited. Thankfully the sky cleared soon enough, and we set off again to explore the museum.

Daughter had seen directions to the primary school. Now, the museum is like a recreation of one of the villages. So we passed a house, a cute little cottage with beds and everything preserved beautifully. The best part is the recreation of the smells. The smell of the wood fire, the coal oven, everything felt so authentic. One of the bedrooms had a teddy which looked just as old as well. It could have been as if the people have been living there and have just stepped out.

We still hadn’t found the school, so we set off again. Soon we spotted it, and entered it. It had a school master who told us all about education in those days. At the risk of sounding repetitive, it was fascinating. All the buildings in the recreated village have come from various villages and towns in the Black Country. It was painstakingly relocated and rebuilt to preserve a slice of history for future generations to behold.

As we came out of the school building, and started towards the rest of the village, one lady approached us and told us that the museum was closed – it was 4 already! Thank god for that annual ticket! We hadn’t even seen 10% of what the museum had on offer.

But the good thing was we could make several day trips to enjoy every bit of it! Next Saturday promises to be sunny, at least at the moment, we might just make our way back to the museum. Or maybe we could make that trip to Oxford. Or we might just spend the day doing nothing, which sadly seems more likely to happen.

And as I was writing this, I realize that I haven’t uploaded pics. Maybe I will do a picture post some other day. Running out of time now. I need to post, schedule and run, if I have any hope of getting to work.


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