Hi, my name is Vic Constable and I am a volunteer I/C Bayleaf at the Weald & Downland Museum. In fact I’ve volunteered at the Museum for over 20 years. Here’s an insight into what my I/C role involves on a daily basis.
What is an I/C?
Nominally he or she is a volunteer who is “in charge” at the end of the Museum’s site that includes the Bayleaf Wealden Farmhouse. This role is answerable to the daily Warden, who has overall responsibility for the daily running of the Museum’s 40-acre site.
A typical day
I arrive as near to 9.30am as I can, ready to open the part of the Museum that I am responsible for. As I sign in at the Museum shop – which confirms that I’ve arrived – I take a look at the day’s rota to see who is stewarding in the houses at the far end of the site.
I also check to see what school or group bookings there are, which may affect the organisation of the day. Sometimes I find there is an inductee (new volunteer) who has been allocated to the Bayleaf Farmstead, and I know this will mean that there they will require a site tour at some time during the day. I collect a radio and head out into the Museum site.
My opening regime begins at the shepherd’s hut by the sheepfold and, unless something untoward crops up, I stick to a logical route so that nothing is omitted. When Tindalls Cottage was added to the group of buildings in my area, I revised my travel so that I only had to climb the hill once (to save my poor old legs!).
My route is now from Poplar Cottage, Granary from Littlehampton, Bayleaf Wealden Farmhouse (where I dump my kit and open up the house completely (unless I am running late), Winkhurst kitchen, Redvins shepherd’s room, living van, Barn from Cowfold, Pendean Farmhouse, Medieval building from Hangleton, Boarhunt Hall House and finally Tindalls Cottage.
Throughout my tour I am using my beady eyes to make sure all is in order, and I always go right through the rooms of the buildings to check everything. Various faults will result in a call to the Warden – for instance if lightbulbs are blown, or if there are out-of-date signs on display.
Once, I discovered a limb from a beech tree had fallen on a path, so I dragged it to one side and reported it to Jon Roberts, the Museum’s Site Interpreter; another discovery was a closed jam jar on the path behind Pendean Farmhouse containing an acorn ‘man’, his ‘birth notice’ and a desiccant sachet! I took this back to Bayleaf Farmhouse and it is still in the ventilated cupboard in the hall.
Being I/C Bayleaf
Once back at base in the Bayleaf Farmhouse, the table has to be laid, the fire lit (if necessary) and the rooms double checked. I also open the gate to the historic garden.
This is the time that I can sit down with a cup of coffee and, hopefully, wait for the arrival of (a) other volunteers and (b) visitors. If I am changing into Tudor clothing I like to wait until a colleague arrives before I leave to change.
The management of visitors is very important at Bayleaf Farmhouse as it is such an iconic building and attracts lots of visitors and schools parties. It is very easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer numbers at any one time.
Apart from school groups, visitor numbers build from about 11.30 until noon, and so one has to be patient, as this can affect the organisation of lunch breaks. I generally have my lunch after 2pm (when schools groups usually leave) unless I have an afternoon tour, allowing my colleagues to go earlier. Sometimes I find it is closer to 3.30pm if we are very busy – but I don’t mind as I can’t eat until later in the evening!
Gradually during the afternoon, other volunteers start to head home and, by 4.30pm/5.00pm I can be on my own. On a quiet day it can seem very still at this end of the Museum site, but I have to be on my toes because visitors appear as late as 5.30pm, so I always have an eye on the path leading to the house.
The closing regime is very similar to opening up, in that I go through the houses to check all is satisfactory, but I always go to the very end of the Museum site first. This way I can ‘sweep’ the site and its buildings to ensure remaining visitors are ahead of me as I lock up.
When I get to Longport Farmhouse (the Museum shop and ticket office) to sign off and deposit my radio, I often find it locked because the shop closes at 6.00pm. If this is the case, I radio the Warden and leave the radio in a pre-arranged place.
Having arrived back at my car, I phone my wife – the rest of the day is ours!
If you’d like to find out more about volunteering at the Museum, visit our Volunteering pages, where you can also find our contact details.
The Museum is totally dependent on the time gifted to us by our 600-strong volunteer community; without whom we would be unable to exist.