Heritage Open Days in Ryde Cemetery – Report
Heritage Open Days is a national annual event to encourage people to explore their local historical buildings and parks free of charge. This was our second year of participating in the scheme by holding two Open Days in Ryde Cemetery on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 September. We were fortunate that the weather was good for the whole weekend.
We held our Heritage Open Days in Ryde Cemetery in support of the Isle of Wight Council’s Ryde Cemetery Restoration Project. Bereavement Services kindly allowed us to use the North Chapel to put on our exhibition of historical research and we had a gazebo in the garden of the Lodge where we sold books and craft materials to raise money towards the running costs of our group. Throughout the course of the weekend we gave free guided walks and talks to any visitors who requested a tour.
A lot of planning, time and effort went into the preparation for the two Open Days by the committee, research and publications teams. The routes of the guided tours were worked out, leaflets prepared and printed and volunteers recruited to lead the walks, man the exhibition and meet and greet visitors.
On Friday evening we set up the exhibition display boards and set out all our themed folders of historical research on the tables in the North Chapel, so that on the Saturday morning we could just open the doors.
On Saturday we made an early start and set up the gazebo in the garden of the Lodge with tables for the book and craft sales, bunting and posters advertising the event and the group. David arrived early and set off to mark all the graves on the two guided walks with coloured flag markers – this was to aid the tour guides and to ensure our visitors knew exactly which graves were being talked about during the tours.
By 10am we were ready and people started to arrive, visitor numbers were low but steady throughout the day and the sun shone all day. David led most of the Guided Walks throughout the weekend but Shelagh and I also led one walk each on Saturday.
In a quiet period on Saturday Maisie, Kate and Diana were able to go off for a short time to conduct the monthly nature walk so that the September Nature Diary could be completed.
To add to the historic feel of the Heritage Open Days I dressed as a Victorian lady on Saturday and Kate and Carol participated in dressing in the Victorian theme too on Sunday.
As well as the exhibition we also had information about the Cemetery Restoration project on display in the north chapel and were able to answer questions about the project throughout the weekend. It is clear that many people are interested in Ryde Cemetery, in the restoration project and how the buildings will be used once they have been restored.
On Sunday the weather wasn’t quite as sunny but it remained mild and dry all day and we had double the amount of visitors from the previous day including family groups with children.
At 4pm on Sunday we started taking down the displays and packing everything away again and reflecting on another successful event in the cemetery.
Some people left comments in our visitors book and these included
“Very interesting tour”
“Very interesting, a lot of work has been done to make it so”
20 September 2008