School’s out!! Summer activities in Cambridge for children and families

School’s out, the sun is shining and there’s plenty going on in the city to keep youngsters amused through the summer break, much of it low cost or free.  Here are a few ideas!

Summer at the Museums    140 drop in and bookable activities at museums in and around Cambridge as well as the Botanic Garden.  A mix of events, trails and hands-on activities.  Download the full programme from http://www.museums.cam.ac.uk/events/summer

Cambridge Museum of Technology
Cambridge Museum of Technology

Cambridge Museum of Technology has recently re-opened after a major refurbishment – read more here.  They are running Family Engineering Mornings, where you work together to design, build and test rockets and boats and build a tower crane, as well as Family Papercraft Mornings.  The Museum is in a beautiful spot down by the river.  Food and drink are available but you’re welcome to bring a picnic and there’s lots of room for children to run around.  Click on http://www.museumoftechnology.com/whats-on for more.

ChYpPS is running Playdaze, a free daily programme of activities for kids plus Big Wednesdays, mini festival fun afternoons of art, sport and culture for the whole family.  Details on http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/chypps-activities

Great St Mary’s, the University Church on Senate House Hill, is running Family Activity Mondays on 5, 12 and 19 August from 11am – 3pm, offering family craft events with a different theme each week.  More on Facebook @GreatStMarys.

Waterstones Cambridge events
Waterstones Cambridge summer events

Waterstones in Sidney Street is offering a series of free events with storytimes, crafts and more, with a different theme each week.  See the photograph for details.

Hidden Tales Riddle of the White Sphinx
Image credit: Hidden Tales

Heffers on Trinity Street has organised several free children’s activities with local authors as well as a series of Museum Adventures with the Hidden Tales, tying in with Cambridge treasure hunt Riddle of the White Sphinx – read more here –  and featuring special guest appearances from four Cambridge museums and their collections.  Details on http://www.heffersbookshop.business.site

Have a wonderful summer!!

 

Cambridge Museum of Technology

Cambridge Museum of Technology is set to reopen to the public on 7 June, following a major redevelopment funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England.  I went to meet Morgan Bell, Assistant Curator, for a peek behind the scenes ahead of opening day.

Cambridge Museum of Technology

It’s not hard to find the Museum … just look for the 53 metre tall chimney that dominates the skyline at Riverside.  This chimney and the Victorian buildings that cluster round it formed a sewage pumping station where the city’s household rubbish was burned to create steam to fuel engines that pumped the city’s sewage out to a treatment plant in Milton.  Prior to this, sewage had discharged into the River Cam, causing cholera outbreaks, so this wonderful Victorian engineering transformed public health in Cambridge.  The pumping station was decommissioned in 1968, at which point a group of local campaigners saved it from demolition and turned the buildings into a museum.

Hathorn Davey pumping engine Cambridge Museum of Technology
A Hathorn Davey pumping engine

Post this renovation, you’ll find improved visitor facilities and disabled access and a wealth of new displays, including an interactive model of the pumping station (complete with smell effect!).  The historic boiler has been restored so that the Hathorn Davey pumping engines can run again later this year, once all testing of the steam lines is complete.

Cambridge Museum of Technology
The boiler

A new building houses an exhibition about Pye and Cambridge Instrument Company, with artefacts and touch screens telling the stories of how they grew to make so many innovative products and gained an international reputation for excellence and innovation.  This space is also for school groups and events plus it will be available to hire to community groups.

Cambridge Museum of Technology

The Engineer’s House, just next door to the Museum, is being transformed by partner organisation Othersyde into an indoor cafe space, a bar and escape rooms.  There’ll be a summer bar and food kiosk outside in the garden or you can bring a picnic to eat on the lawn at this beautiful riverside spot.  Lawn games like skittles and outdoor board games will be available and there’s plenty of space for kids to run around.

Phase 1 of the development will be about 90% complete for this pilot reopening on 7 June so if you go to the Museum before 30 September, you’ll get a ticket for a free return visit in the next twelve months.  All the finishing touches will be in place for the grand reopening on 1 October.

Cambridge Museum of Technology

Restoration work has been supported by corporate volunteers over recent months.  The day I visited, a team from Worldpay was hard at work cleaning the Boiler House and a team from Anglian Water has been busy painting.  And there are plenty of regular volunteer roles available.  At the moment, the Museum is looking particularly for Welcome Volunteers and Education Volunteers.  You’ll find details of these opportunities plus opening times and ticket prices on the website.

http://www.museumoftechnology.com

The Old Pumping Station, Cheddars Lane, CB5 8LD

David Parr House Cambridge

186 Gwydir Street looks like a typical Cambridge terraced house from the outside.  But when you walk in through the front door, you leave the 21st century behind and enter the world of Victorian decorative artist David Parr.

David Parr House Cambridge

David bought the house at auction in 1886 and lived there with his wife, Mary, and their three children.  He’d been apprenticed at the age of 17 to the Cambridge firm of artworkmen F. R. Leach & Sons and he worked for them all his life, painting grand houses and churches with designs created by luminaries of the Arts and Crafts movement, including William Morris.  After long days at work, David came home to decorate his house in the same style, painting by oil and candlelight during the evenings and creating intricate interiors in this relatively humble abode.

David Parr House Cambridge

The exquisite decoration incorporates the use of cut out stencils, through which he stippled paint, and pin prick stencil work, all with individualised repeats which bring the designs alive.  Pine doors and matchboarding are painted and grained to resemble more expensive woods.  The main bedroom boasts an early version of hot air heating.  David was bringing back ideas and sometimes left over materials from jobs he worked on to create a beautiful, unique home for his family.

David Parr House Cambridge

After David’s death in 1927, his widow continued to live in the house with grand daughter Elsie who, in turn, married and brought up her two daughters there.  The decor of the house remained unchanged through the generations but the family was very private and almost nobody knew about these wonderful interiors.  Tamsin Wimhurst first saw the house in 2009 after she put out a call for interesting spaces in Cambridge while researching for an exhibition she was organising at the Museum of Cambridge.  Elsie told Tamsin the story of her grandfather and the house, proud now to show off David Parr’s work.  After Elsie died in 2013, aged 98, Tamsin and her husband decided to buy the house to conserve and restore it.

David Parr House Cambridge

The programme of conservation and restoration has been painstaking.  Happily, David Parr had logged everything he did to the house room by room and all the changes he made, both inside and outside.  Family furniture, artefacts and textiles fill the house.  It really does have the feeling of a home where the family has just stepped out for a while.  On the day I visited, volunteers were busy landscaping and replanting the back garden as it is remembered by David Parr’s great grand daughters, both of whom still live locally.

David Parr House Cambridge

David Parr House reopens on 16 May.  For conservation reasons, tour places are limited at present as the team carefully monitors and assesses the multiple effects of visitor traffic on the painting and general fabric of the house.  The scheduled house tours for this year are now sold out but it is still possible to book a private tour.  Over the next two years, income from tours will be matched by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the proceeds will go into an endowment, the interest from which will fund a Curator post.

David Parr House Cambridge

I was absolutely captivated by David Parr House.  The care and skill that has gone in to this beautiful place, both from its creator and the team that has ensured its future, is awe-inspiring.  For more on the story of the house and the family, volunteering opportunities and tour reservations, take a look at the website.

http://www.davidparrhouse.org

Cam Lates Cambridge

March brings us a couple of Cam Late events.  Pacific Late celebrates all things Pacific on 7 March at the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology.  Quaff a tropical cocktail as you watch Polynesian dancing, handle Pacific objects, meet researchers and upcycle crafts inspired by the new Pacific Currents display which highlights Oceanic collections dating from the late 18th Century to the present day.

Kettle's Yard Late Cambridge
Image credit: Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge 2018  Photo: Daniela Florez

LATE at Kettle’s Yard is happening on 8 March and invites you to come dressed as your favourite artist to enjoy music, making and a café/bar plus an out of hours viewing of the exhibitions “ARTIST ROOMS Louise Bourgeois” and “Julie Mehreta Drawings and Monotypes”.

Booking for both events is on www.museums.cam.ac.uk/whats-on/cam-lates

Half term break in Cambridge … some ideas!

As I write this post, Spring is very definitely in the air, the sun is shining in a blue sky and we hope for beautiful weather next week for the half term break.  I’ve put together a few details of events in the city, many of which are free, both indoors and outdoors so you’re covered whatever the weather!

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

One of my favourite green spaces in the city is the Cambridge University Botanic Garden and there’s lots to do here for all ages.  Spring into Yoga on 19 February offers springtime yoga sequences for 8 – 12 year olds to get bodies moving and minds focused and calm.  The Red Alert Twilight Event on 20 February is a free, drop in session where you’ll see some of the world’s most endangered plants and meet the people helping these plants to survive.  Flowers, Friendship and Wild Wonders on 22 February tells the story of a friendship – expect dancing, drama and lots of fun for 5 – 7 year olds.  And if you’re free ranging around the Botanic Garden at any time, children will love the Crazy Cone Caper, a self guided family trail.  You’ll find details of all these events on http://www.botanic.cam.ac.uk

twilight_17_preview
Image Credit: Martin Bond

If you’ve seen the movie “Night at the Museum” and wondered how it feels to wander round a museum after hours, now’s your chance to find out at Cambridge University’s “Twilight at the Museums” event.  Explore fourteen local museums and collections after dark on 20 February from 4.30 – 7.30pm and experience these spaces and collections in a different way.  This is a free, drop in event for families with activities and themed trails across the venues, most of which are just a short walk apart.  So wrap up warm and bring a torch to help you explore those darker corners.  Visit www.museums.cam.ac.uk for full details.

Kettle's Yard Studio Sunday
Image credit: Kettle’s Yard

Kettle’s Yard On Castle Hill has plenty lined up for the break, starting with Studio Sunday, a free, drop in artist-led workshop for families on 17 February.  On 19 February, they are running a Collage Workshop for 8 – 12 year olds and a free Portfolio Afternoon for those aged 13+ who’d like to work with a professional artist to develop their drawing practice and their portfolio.  From 21 – 24 February there’ll be free drop in drawing activities each afternoon, suitable for all ages and abilities, in the Clore Learning Studio.  Or come and explore spirals, webs and weaving at the free, drop in Dream Weaver Community Day on 23 February.  Further details of all these and booking, where booking is necessary, on http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk

Heffers Bookshop Cambridge

Heffers Booksellers are a Cambridge institution – they’ve been selling books in the city for over 140 years.  Children’s at Heffers is offering a number of free events over half term so you can meet authors, join in fun activities and enjoy Story Time.  See the photo for details and book your place via http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/heffersbookshop

Have a great half term break!!

 

 

 

 

Bridge the Gap Cambridge

Bridge the Gap is a circular walk through the beautiful gardens of six Cambridge colleges.  Now in its 17th year and happening on Sunday 9 September, this event is a great day out for families, friends and groups of work colleagues, allowing entry to the grounds of these historic colleges, some of which are not normally open to the public, whilst raising money to support the valuable work of two local charities, Arthur Rank Hospice Charity and Romsey Mill.

Bridge the Gap Cambridge
Image credit: Sir Cam

I met with Georgina Forbes, Fundraiser for Romsey Mill, to find out more.  The action starts and finishes on Parker’s Piece where you can register from 8.30am, have a coffee and some breakfast from one of the food trucks as well as collect a backpack filled with water, fruit and goodies provided by the event’s sponsors.  You’ll also be given a brochure with a route map and information before heading out (there are three different waves of departures through the morning).

Bridge the Gap Cambridge
Image credit: Bridge the Gap

The route is approximately 5 miles long and takes in Emmanuel, Christ’s, Sidney Sussex and Trinity colleges before heading along the Backs to St Catherine’s and Pembroke colleges and then on to the Museum of Zoology which is celebrating its reopening.

There will be marshals to show you the way, Blue Badge guides in the colleges to answer your questions and the route is wheelchair and pushchair enabled.  You’ll find music along the way (think brass, folk and jazz bands) and refreshments at St Catherine’s College.  Back on Parker’s Piece, Cambridge 105 will be broadcasting from a 50 foot stage, there’ll be music courtesy of Cambridge City Brass and you might even want to join in the dancing with Cambridge Lindyhop.  You’ll also find a soft play area for kids and various competitions happening plus that all important tea tent offering home made cake.

This year’s fundraising goal is £50,000.  Thanks to the generosity of the event’s sponsors, all overheads are covered so 100% of your entry fee is shared equally between the two Cambridgeshire charities.  Arthur Rank Hospice supports people who are living with a life-limiting illness and those who need end-of-life care.  Romsey Mill is a Christian charity creating opportunities with young people, children and families, many of whom are facing significant challenges in their lives.

Bridge the Gap Cambridge
Image credit: Bridge the Gap

Around 130 volunteers make this event happen with many different roles available.  If you’d like to join them, contact Tasha.Hills@arhc.org.uk for route volunteering and georgina.forbes@romseymill.org for volunteering on Parker’s Piece.

Bridge the Gap Cambridge
Image credit: Bridge the Gap

To take part in Bridge the Gap, you simply pre-register on the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity website (see the link below) or you can turn up at Parker’s Piece and pay on the morning.  Group tickets are available at discounted rates and children go free when accompanied by a paying adult.

http://www.arhc.org.uk/bridge-the-gap.asp

http://www.romseymill.org

Parker’s Piece, Cambridge CB1 1NA

 

Riverside Tea Garden at Cambridge Museum of Technology

There’s a massive chimney that dominates the skyline down at Riverside.  It’s in amongst a cluster of Victorian buildings that make up the Museum of Technology and I’ve walked past it dozens of times but never really knew what it was all about.  When I heard that there’s going to be a pop up Riverside Tea Garden there this summer, I decided to find out more and met with Assistant Curator, Morgan Bell.

Cambridge Museum of Technology

Built in 1894, the 53 metre tall chimney is part of a Victorian sewage pumping station which is now the Museum.  Here they burned the city’s household rubbish to create steam to fuel engines that pumped the city’s sewage out to a treatment plant in Milton.  Prior to this, sewage had discharged into the River Cam, causing cholera outbreaks so this wonderful Victorian engineering transformed public health in Cambridge.  The pumping station was decommissioned in 1968, at which point a group of local campaigners saved it from demolition and turned the buildings into a museum.

Hathorn Davey pumping machine Cambridge

Owned independently and funded by admission fees and donations, the Museum houses the last Hathorn Davey pumping engines in the world that still work.  It has also built up a collection of telecoms equipment, televisions and radios from Pye and historic scientific instruments from Cambridge Instrument Company.

Hathorn Davey pumping machine Cambridge

The Museum is currently closed as there’s a major redevelopment under way, thanks to money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  Restoration of the old buildings is complicated and painstaking as they are a Scheduled Ancient Monument and permission is needed even to paint in there!  There are plans for a new building to house exhibition and learning space plus a cafe building with views over the river.  The boiler is being repaired so it can once again supply steam to run the pumping engines and they’re hoping to be open by mid 2019.

Boiler at Cambridge Museum of Technology

This redevelopment is about preserving heritage of course but it’s also about inspiring a generation of future engineers and innovators.  Jinx St. Leger, the Education Officer, tells me about the outreach programme with primary and secondary schools, encouraging students to look at STEM subjects in a new light.  “It’s teaching engineering by stealth,” she smiles.  “We make stomp rockets, create origami, make print blocks and masks and use a morse code machine to send and decode messages.”  Jinx will be running four craft based and four engineering based events over the summer at the Museum of Cambridge (check out http://www.museumofcambridge.org.uk/events for more details).

Cambridge Museum of Technology

Now back to the tea and cake … on Sunday afternoons between 15 July and 5 August, you’ll be able to enjoy drinks and cream teas at the Riverside Tea Garden in idyllic surroundings on the Museum’s lawn overlooking the river.  There’ll be stalls selling treasures, crafts, books, clothes, baked goods and produce.  And I’ve booked my ticket for The Floating Museum, a boat trip happening on various dates through the summer, during which you’ll discover more about the city’s industrial heritage along the river.  All profits from these ventures go back to the Museum to help fund the restoration.  Full details, plus a booking facility for The Floating Museum, are on the website.

http://www.museumoftechnology.com

The Old Pumping Station, Cheddars Lane, Cambridge CB5 8LD