It must be an age thing. Glimpses of places, buildings, tools and toys from my childhood raise sighs of nostalgia. Yes, the internet displays images of things and places from the past, but there’s nothing like seeing and experiencing them for real. So the Rural Life Centre in Surrey provides an fascinating and memorable day out.
Spread over a ten acre site of woodland and lawns, the Centre illustrates many aspects of village and rural life from the 1800s to the 1950s. It has a huge collection of items including tools, machines and toys. Many are displayed in realistic settings.
The collections are housed in a variety of barns and reconstructed buildings, including a 1947 prefab bungalow, a village hall, a chapel, a cricket pavilion, a small Victorian laundry building and a corrugated iron schoolroom.
One building houses a “street” of shop windows, including the butcher, the baker and … well, no candlestick maker, but several others retailers and artisans from yesteryear.
Among many working demonstrations is a reconstruction of a village blacksmith’s workshop, used by three blacksmiths who provide demonstrations and undertake work commissions.
The Old Kiln Light Railway operates every Sunday during the main open season. For details see the railway’s web site at www.oldkilnlightrailway.com.
The Rural Life Centre is operated by the Old Kiln Museum Trust, a registered charity.
The Rural Life Centre has wheelchair access throughout the site and into most buildings, using ramps as necessary. The exceptions are the chapel and shepherd’s hut which have steps. (The latter is on wheels which allowed it to be towed several miles from the farm to the sheep.)
A wheelchair user may need assistance to use the ramps into some buildings and to cross the grassed areas at the front of the site, such as between the prefab bungalow and the forge: the site slopes gently and is uneven in these places. I had no difficulty self-propelling my wheelchair across the lawns at the rear of the Centre, within the buildings and along the lane running up the centre of the site.
The Centre holds many special events during the year, such as ‘A village at war”, “Rustic Sunday” (featuring country crafts and musicians), classic car rallies, “Land Rover day” and “Romany day”. It also hosts the “Weyfest” music festival featuring many top name acts. For details and a diary see the museum’s web site at www.rurallife.plus.com.
The museum has a café and a souvenir shop. Disabled toilets are available in a block near the café and within the school building.
The Centre is open from 10am to 5pm from Wednesdays to Sundays, plus Bank Holiday Mondays each year, from March to November: see the Centre’s web site at www.rurallife.plus.com for precise dates. In winter months it opens on Wednesdays and Sundays only between 11am and 4pm. The last admission is always one hour before closing time.
The Rural Life Centre is on The Reeds Road, halfway between Frensham and Tilford. From Farnham and the A31, take the A287 and turn left in Millbridge onto The Reeds Road. From Tilford, follow signs to Frensham; this leads you onto The Reeds Road which passes the Centre.
Click HERE for the Centre’s location on Google Maps.
Postcode for satnavs: GU10 2DL
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