The little things

With all the huge projects we have had happening at Hardwick this summer it is easy for the little things to get glossed over, however the little things are so important as well. Our weekly clean on a Monday, daily cleans on Wednesdays to Sundays, checking for pests, monitoring environmental conditions, managing volunteers, talking to visitors and millions more tasks still have to happen even when we are preoccupied by opening exhibitions or installing art work!

We have achieved an amazing amount this season aside from all the bigger things I have been blogging about. So hear are some of the smaller tasks I have been doing recently.

We finished the Annual Deep Clean!

A big deal that unfortunately we were too busy to really celebrate. In contrast, we didn’t get our Deep Clean finished last year before we closed at the end of the season so this is an¬†amazing achievement for the team. Thanks to good planning and our wonderful team of staff and volunteers we got a huge amount of the Deep Clean finished over the closed season, and we have kept up the momentum until we had checked everything on our list off!

Cleaning the Over-mantle in Miss Webb's Room

Cleaning the Over-mantle in Miss Webb’s Room

We’re half way through our summer works program!

The ‘summer works’ are the conservation cleaning tasks that happen several times a year, not just once in the Deep Clean. Things like cleaning bed flats and chairs that get too much dust landing on them for us to leave them. We split all our summer works into the things that need to happen at the start of summer, and those which we won’t do until the summer ends and our visitors numbers drop. Thanks to the fact that we had already finished our Deep Clean it meant we could focus our effort on these task, and last week we finished the first half of our list.

Cleaning the velvet cushions in the Long Gallery

Cleaning the velvet cushions in the Long Gallery

Bits Boxes.

One of my personal projects has been to revitalise the Hardwick Bits Box. I did a similar project at Powis, however this was a much bigger undertaking! Where Powis’ Bits were already in organised boxes, the Hardwick’s Bits Boxes were two huge crates full of years of bits! So my job involved going through the bits, cataloging every one, writing labels for each and putting them in a bag, putting these bags into location specific boxes. Believe me when I say, there are only so many ways you can describe a broken piece of wood!

Before . . .

Before . . .

The new and improved bits box system allows the bits to be easily identified if ever there comes a time when we have a conservator in who could re-attach some for us. As a result of my work several bits have already been returned when we had our furniture conservator here for one of our big projects. Now I have overhauled the system hopefully it shouldn’t get in that state again, so I have helped out the future Conservation Assistants of Hardwick Hall (you’re welcome! ūüėõ )The final part of this task is for me to just finish typing up all the bits records, all 340-odd of them!

. . . and After!

. . . and After!

Felting the Still Room.

A small task that has needed doing for a while was to put pieces of felt underneath the objects that have been added to the still room. If you have even noticed when you go around Trust properties, often objects that sit on pieces of furniture have a layer of something between the two. This protects not only the surface an objects sits on, but also the base of the object.

A felt pad for a pot

A felt pad for a pot

The protective layer can be several things, felt or cork pieces, and type of foam called plasterzote or a thin type of clear plastic like laminate. I chose to use beige felt for the Still Room as it blends nicely with the paint colour of the surfaces. For most of the objects it was just a case of cutting circles that fit the base closely so the visual effect is not spoiled. The only tricky part was when it came to cutting the felt for the fish shaped mould!

The Fish

The Fish

More 50 things!

Last summer we decided to adapt the ’50 things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4′ so that we could bring some of the activities into the Hall. This year we decided to do the same, but not to make things easy for ourselves we wanted to chose different activities so any children visiting us again would get a new experience. I love this idea, and anything that gets us to look at how people interact with the Hall differently! We have barefoot walks on our lovely new matting in the High Great Chamber (something I love to do), caves to explore, dens to be built, birds to be spotted, and my personal favourite ‘catch a falling leaf’. Each leaf has an interesting Hardwick fact written on to be discovered, which I really enjoyed writing as I learnt something new as well! This particular ‘thing’ was a real team effort with the original idea coming from Sadie, me researching the facts, Jen practicallising the idea and writing the facts onto the leaves and Claire going over the words in black pen. The finished product almost looks like a work of art!

Our leafy installation

Our leafy installation

So there we go, just some of the other wonderful things that have been keeping me occupied. But don’t think that just because these are all now finished I shall be sitting on my bottom eating cake (that only happens at tea break, honest!) we have so many other projects in various staged of fruition at Hardwick, getting these done just frees up my time for me to get stuck into the next task! Nothing beats the satisfaction of getting thing done!

50 things and thousands of stairs!


This month saw the re-launch of the National Trust’s ’50 thing’s to do before you’re 11 3/4′ with a new¬†ultimate¬†list compiled with the help of a ‘Kid’s Council’. The list is full of brilliant activities to do in all seasons, such as:

4) Build a den

16) Make a daisy chain

24) Go on a walk barefoot

29) Explore a cave

43) Build a raft

They are all fun activities that make me glad its camping season again. I did nearly everything on the list myself as my childhood involved being a scout and a re-enactor and countless camping holidays. For me these activities were not hard to come by, and were in the most part encouraged (mum did use to get frustrated sometimes that in summer it seemed my feet were always shoe-less and grass stained, or a little annoyed when I went paddling in one of my pretty medieval dresses! :s ). The only thing on the list I have never done is 49) Find a Geocache, but given that I had never heard of a Geocache until a few years ago they probably were not about when I was a kid (that makes me feel old!).


Spring has sprung!

Hopefully like me these activities will already be part of a kids summer, but I know not every child has as much access to the outdoors as I had growing up. That is where the National Trust plays a really important role. The trust is protecting not only beautiful historic properties but also amazing open spaces so kids can find do these sorts of creative activities and have these experiences I believe form a really important part of childhood. Movements like this promote how easy it is to get outdoors, and the endless fun you can have when you’re out there!

Hardwick has its own ’50 things’ map available when you come and visit, and it shows where you can do about 34 of the 50 things on the list! There are also links on the Trust web page as to where you can do the activities near you, the main web page for kids here:¬†¬†and lot’s of videos from inspiration in the NT YouTube page. Reading the list I remembered all the fun I had with friends and family completing the items on the list, it brought back some wonderful memories and made me realise how lucky I was to have such an active childhood. Like building a very¬†unsuccessful¬†raft on a school trip and ending up in a lake that was also home to some very large pike! Watching the frogspawn grow in the pond near my house with my little brother, or just sitting out on the school field at break times making daisy chains and grass trumpets. A lot of these memories involved getting mucky, getting soaked and¬†occasionally¬†bruised or into trouble, but that’s what childhood is about! I’m thinking I may have to re-visit a couple of these things to, and find me a Geocache!


Sheep on the Hardwick Estate

In contrast the Metro just reported (May 7th) a list of ‘Top 50 ways to live life to the full‘ a kind of ’50 things’ for adults. ¬†The list, which has some really good things to aspire to achieve, starts by saying ‘Stop worrying about money’, easier said than done however with other items on the list being;

3) Take two holidays a year

7) Pay off your debts

10) Use money for fun rather than a rainy day

26) Blow money Shopping

29) Save money for your grandchildren to enjoy

31) Earn more than your age

39) Pass your driving test

40) Get a degree

Money seems to be one of the main focuses of the list, or at least you need money to be able to do a lot that is on the list. The second biggest focus of the list are relationships, with partners, friends and family. Some of the items are more of a work in progress, challenges to work on your mindset, while others are experiences. So far I have complete about 21 of the 50, with a few others to be checked off not to far into the future (‘No 21. Visit all Britain’s historical landmarks’ I’m looking at you!).


A sunny day at the Hall

People have said, about both lists, that it is sad we have lists like this drawn up for us, that people are straying so far from being ‘happy’ someone has to sit down and write a list to tell us how to enjoy ourselves. I agree, when you look at it like that it is sad, but I know how easy it is get caught up with worrying about money (being a uni graduated at the start of my career in the current climate it is not¬†surprising). Personally however I think lists like this are a good idea. Some people will look at them and think ‘that’s nothing new’ but others will look at the lists as something to work towards, supplying new ideas for entertainment or adding to your Bucket List and a reassuring reminder that other people have the same worries you do. No one is saying that if you don’t complete these lists you have failed at childhood or¬†happiness, but it also reminds people what is important, to lighten up and live your life rather than worrying about it instead! I know I’ve picked up a few new ideas.

Anyway, back to Hardwick. Last week was another busy week but we got a lot done to show for it, so as well as feeling shattered Friday night I felt very accomplished too! Us chaps had finished cleaning all the linen being housed in the Still Room and now we had to decide where to move it to! You would think in such a huge building that there would be plenty of space but at Hardwick, as with all other properties I have visited, every space not open to the public is full of curious items from the collection not on display. The linen could not go back in the cupboard it came from in case it became mouldy again, so we had to find it a new home.

The linen in the Still Room

The linen in the Still Room

After many discussion and different options we decided on a plan, to move some of the ceramics from the attic down to the cupboard and put the linen in their place in the environmentally sound store. While this was a good plan, it did mean moving ceramics from one part of the Hall to the opposite corner of the building! So that was exactly what me and Claire did, luckily having been working here for a few weeks now we were fairly fit to start with, but I can tell you now we are a lot fitter now (or possibly just knackered!). 

From the Attics to the cupboard there are 95 steps. We did this journey at least 14 times, not to mention how many times we went up and down the main stairs and the ladder in the attic to get to ceramics off the shelf. We must have walked up and down at least 3000 steps on thursday alone! By the end of the day our thighs were aching but we were nearly there. Friday we finished the job, we had moved over 120 pieces of linen and towels and around 60 ceramics! Now everything is neatly stored and the Still Room is ready to be prepped and then opened to the public!

Ready, set, heave . . .

Ready, set, heave . . .

However there is no rest for the wicked as next week is the great Gideons re-hang! I’m really looking forward tot this, even though it is quite a daunting prospect I think we’ll manage brilliantly. If you’re in the area on wednesday 15th come and watch as we put these amazing tapestries back in place. There are three Gideons left to be conserved and if you would like to help us raise the money please donate to our newly launched Just Giving page, any help would be greatly appreciated!