Thursday 26 September 2013

National Coal Mining Museum

I've been looking through some of the photo's on my phone recently and I came across a few from family days out we went on during the summer holidays.

One of these days out was spent at the National Coal Mining Museum in Overton, Wakefield.

The day was brilliant and in my opinion the Underground Tour of the mine itself was the absolute best part.
Well, it kept two hyper seven year old boys interested and enthralled all the way through, so it must have been fab!

We chose a perfect sunny day to head on over to Wakefield and spent the first part of our afternoon at NCM looking around the museum itself.

It was really informative and interesting, but to be honest, it went over the kiddies heads a little bit.  I think to fully appreciate all that this section of the museum has to offer - the history of the coal mines; the coal strikes; the problems faced by the miners, it is more suited to children older than seven years.

We did have a look around non the less, and even though we seemed to rush around faster than everyone else, we did pick up some really interesting facts.  We then seemed to spend an age browsing around the gift shop, with the boys trying to buy as much as they possibly could - typical.

I think its important to point out at this point, that whilst the museum itself is free to walk around, you do have to pay a refundable fee of £2.50 per person if you are planning on taking the Underground Tour.
This is a necessity as buying a "check" allows the museum to calculate just how many people are underground at any one time.  At the same time as buying your check, you are given a specific time slot for the tour - only a certain number of people are allowed "down t'pit" at any one time.

We didn't know any of this when we arrived, and I'm so glad we asked someone - we almost missed out on the last tour of the day...I can just imagine how that conversation would have gone with the kiddies if we hadn't realised in time....

As we had little a bit of a wait before our tour, we bought a ticket, for only a few pounds, for the short return ride on the steam train on site.
The children really enjoyed this, and although there is an option to get off and have a little walk around whilst the train comes back again, we decided to stay on, and get back to the museum in time for the much awaited tour.

Which was brilliant.

From start to finish the tour guides were so friendly, so welcoming, so loud and so very very Yorkshire.
They are all former miners, so they certainly know their stuff.

I just loved them and their down to earth, friendly nature.

We were first led into the lamp room and had to hand over our belongings - which is why this post is very lacking in pictures...cameras and phones are a no-no in the mine.

We were then each given a hard hat and battery lamp to wear for the duration of the tour - safety first!

After a safety briefing, we were then led into the tiniest lift, or "cage" and slooowly began our decent 140m under ground.

Whilst the cage was pritty small and a very tight squeeze, it didn't bother me too much, and I'm not all that good with enclosed spaces to be honest.
I think the experience of the tour guide helped with this - he talked throughout the descent, putting everyone at ease and making us all laugh throughout.  And it was over in no time at all - a few minutes maximum, so wasn't that unbearable at all.

Once out of the cage, the tour began.

We were led through the coal mines, and explored all of the different aspects of mining.  From mine conditions in Victorian Times and improvements through the decades, to examples of advancements in mining equipment - no stone was left unturned.

We really experienced just how bad early miners had it!

At one point we were even told to switch off our battery lights - the only source of light in the mine, and the utter darkness was truly shocking.  It really brought home the reality of what having to work in such conditions all day everyday was like - it's unthinkable that people had to do it really.

The guide we had during our tour was very child friendly.  He made sure all of the children were engaged and having fun - even encouraging them to lead the adults and walk up front, which naturally they all loved.

My son Charlie particularly found the guide amazing - especially when he threw a stick of "dynamite" at him.
For days afterwards, Charlie commented at just how lucky he had been to not have blown up - so cute.

The little ones also had the option of exploring parts of the mine through specially designed areas which were really low to the ground and very tight squeezes, allowing them to get a real feel of the cramped conditions.
My very own Big Kid aka "Husband" also found this bit too hard to resist - he loved scrambling around!

The tour lasted about an hour or so and then it was time to head back up in the cage to ground level.

The NCM has lots to offer.
Whether it be a family day out, a school trip or a corporate event, the information found on the NCM website is brilliant:

We had a fab day, and I'd definitely recommend a day out at NCM to anyone, come rain or shine.

(I would suggest to take a picnic though, I found the cafe slightly pricey and I personally didn't rate the food that I ate too highly, but then again, this may just have been because we arrived quite late in the day.)

Lots of informative fun and activities for kiddies - young AND old.


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