Category Archives: Heelis

‘Training time again…’

The time had come for the final two days of training days in the course, and the first of these was at Heelis. NT HQ, in the heart of Swindon. Anticipating rush-hour traffic, I left in good time and got there half an hour early so it was time for a cuppa in the foyer! The first day was basically a back to work workshop and gave us all a days worth of application form and interview techniques. A ‘snap-back’ to the real world. Having negotiated the route out of town we all headed to Moreton-in-Marsh to book in to our hotel, ready for day-two at nearby Chastleton House. After a bowl of pasta, a few beers, and a good nights sleep I was ready for some extreme housekeeping. The specialists for the day included sector expert Nigel Blades and two thirds of the conservation’s answer to Charlie’s Angels, Catherine Harris and Emily Nisbet.

 We were put through our paces and given tasks to school us in the use of various gadgets to monitor light and RH and pests. The idea of a constant monitor of light helps the humble conservator not only tell how much light is likely to affect an object based on what it is and where it is but also to compare the data year by year… ‘Condition reports’ are also a good source of info to refer to. It was quite a shock to use the light meter thingy in various parts of a room to gauge how much UV (measured in ‘Lux’ hours) is getting in through the blinds, then to take it outside in direct sunlight and watch it almost ‘go off the scale’…


‘Where it all began…’

A visit to Heelis was on the schedule this week, and for those non-NT members of the audience, it’s the nerve centre HQ epicentre of the National Trust located in the heart of Swindon. ‘Twas a strange visit, so draw nearer to the fire and I will tell the tale… The last time I had paid a visit to Heelis was about 8 months ago, at the end of my second training day when I had only been working at Dyrham for about 7 days. It was a naturally reflective moment walking through the doors, swipe-card turnstile, fingerprint scanner, retinal scanner and x-ray machine. (I made up the last three) Strange feelings were abundant, to look back and see how much I have achieved, in a relatively short period of time. Feeling a more confident and knowledgeable member of the team, than when I first started. And that goes for personal skills as well as professional ones. If I could time travel and whisper in the ear of the ‘me that was then’, I’d probably say, ‘‘take it easy dude, it’s gonna be an awesome year.’’ Having said that if I were granted time travel, talking to myself wouldn’t be high on the list of ‘things to do’. (In X-factor terms, it would be at this point where a misty-montage of black & white footage, documenting my ‘journey’ would be shown, along with a power ballad soundtrack…)

My visit was at the request of Passport project manager Claire Poulton, whose next wave of trainee’s on the ‘Passport to Your Future’ course were being put through their paces. I had a 40 minute slot, and was advised not to prepare anything, so to ‘keep it casual’ (on reflection if I had been any more ‘casual’ I would have turned up in PJ’s and slippers.) Having a sudden mild attack of butterflies, it was time for my bit and I cursed my casual-ness as I had forgotten the dry-ice and walk-on-intro music. How time flies when you’re having fun, and also when you’re rambling on a bit. It was a good excuse to reflect on my experience so far, as it has, without shadow of a doubt been the best 8 months of my working life. I feel honoured to be part of the staff at Dyrham, and still find it difficult not to hug people when I see them! To my amazement my time was up before I knew it and there were even questions too! (Quick ‘hello!’ to newbie Alison who’s been following the blog.)