Today was my first official shift as a volunteer ‘receptionist/guide’ at Dereham Windmill. I was to meet an experienced colleague there at 10.30, to be shown the opening-up procedure. By 10.15, the first visitors had arrived, a lady with three children. She was a little put out that we were not open, insisting that the website stated a 10.00 AM opening time. I knew that she was wrong, but didn’t think it worth an argument, so I agreed to check the website. She left saying that she might come back later.
Another couple arrived, waiting patiently for the key-holder to turn up, which he did, with more than five minutes to spare before the official time. They entered with us, and after paying the entrance fee, set off up the stairs to explore the building. I was shown how to enter the totals and fees, what to do in the event of a fire, and how to turn on the model of a working windmill that is on the ground floor. I speculated that we might get quite a few visitors, as it is the Easter holidays for schools. The first lady returned with the three children, and they all rushed excitedly to the upper floors.
The couple had completed their tour, and had chosen to watch the DVD of the restoration, which we can show on a wall-mounted TV.
When the lady and children were ready to leave, she asked if we sold badges, as the children collected them. My colleague is a Trustee, and he agreed to raise the possibility of badges at the next meeting. The couple enquired about volunteering, with the young man saying that he could help with anything IT related. This pricked up my ears, as you may remember I had been asked to take on the newsletter. After a frustrating weekend, I had told the Trustees that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Not only did I not have the relevant experience, I didn’t really have suitable software either. The man’s offer could not have been better-timed, and I took his e-mail address, telling him that he could be very helpful. He also offered to manage the website, and anything else relating to printing and copying. You couldn’t make it up; he was such an ideal volunteer, and he just happened to visit the windmill on the right day.
During the time when we had nobody in, I went up to the top floor. There is an exhibition of Easter collages, including windmills, staged by a local junior school, and I wanted to see it. There are examples of their work on every floor, and it was all very well done, and nice to see the connection with the community.The strong winds could be heard whistling around inside the windmill’s cap, and the uninsulated building felt very cold. I also read through the volunteer’s handbook, picking up a few tips about evacuation procedure, and emergency contact numbers.
Later on, another lady arrived with two small children. She donated her change from the entrance fees, and they enjoyed a rather rapid tour of the place. Before they left, I showed the children how grain was milled into flour, on the small exhibit with two tiny millstones, operated by hand. They were the last to arrive for the morning session, and after meeting one of the other volunteers who had arrived for the afternoon shift, it was time for me to leave.
Not too bad for my first day, a nice easy introduction to windmill volunteering.