Typically, education visits to the castle can be made up of a variety of activities, which vary greatly depending on the age of visitors and the topic we’re focusing on – but nothing seems to impact our plans more than the weather. Over the winter months, we’ll continue on taking bookings as usual, the major difference being that the plans for these visits will need a Plan B, a Plan C, (and often plans D, E, F, G and H), to ensure that we’re able to work around the weather, and that everyone still has fun. As the last few days the winter weather has been weighing heavily on all of our minds’, I’d like to talk through some of the solutions we’ve used in the past, and the activities that are still available when the weather isn’t so fun.
A typical visit of Primary 2-4’s for Knights and Castles, which is our most popular topic and age range, would now include the apothecary, armour handling, a castle tour, the hunting game, jousting and shield making. To begin with, the children are welcomed into the toasty warm visitors’ centre, and we spend roughly the first hour inside, where we go through any safety concerns, tour the museum, use the toilet, and have a snack. After this is where it can get a bit sticky:
Last week one very unlucky class came to us in the freezing rain. To make sure we didn’t make 27 P3’s standing getting soaked in a wintery downpour, the apothecary activity was moved from inside the castle to inside the visitors centre, keeping the children inside a heated building for as long as possible, and making room for the jousting inside the hall so that no activities had to take place fully outside. The heavy rain meant that the hunting game, which requires a large open area, could not be run, but we had a treasure hunt on hand for use in the great hall – though in this case the children enjoyed the armour display so much it wasn’t needed. Even the tour was still possible, with only brief highlights of the exterior and lingering in the dungeon and the hall to point out the external features to keep the children protected from the elements.
The program, then, had to see very little change. In the morning, as planned, one half of the group went up the hill and did an armour and weapons display, followed by jousting in the great hall, and the second group began with the apothecary in the visitor’s centre and then continued with a tailored tour.
Not all winter weather has to keep us inside, though. Every time there is a hint of inclement weather our general manager goes up the hill to risk asses, and any possible ice is gritted to make the way clear and safe for teachers, students and our staff and volunteers, meaning that mild amounts of snow or ice don’t always have to throw us into our backup plans. Moral of the story, come rain or shine, we make sure our students enjoy their visits, and stay safe!