After being closed for major refurbishment work, using money given to them by the National Lottery, the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) in Reading had a grand reopening where members of the public were able to get their first view of the new spacious galleries and enhanced facilities.
I have visited this museum many times before it closed because it is quite interesting to look around and very local. Although it is still housed in the same building the inside has been refurbished to provide extra exhibition space. Now with more space to walk, this was filled with old wagons and tools from the agricultural past, supplemented with a sound track of birds and other countryside noises. On one wall is a large cabinet displaying all of the original Ladybird Books as these form an important document of social history.
The museum also houses an extensive collection of fragile artefacts made from perishable materials such as clothes, wicker baskets, hats, shoes, leather horse tackle, etc. These are on display in an area that is kept dark with a controlled environment to protect them from deterioration.
Outside there was entertainment throughout the day with Morris and Clog dancers and a lively folk band, as well as other country crafts being demonstrated. A mobile blacksmith was working hard hammering some red hot metal on an anvil. There were pens containing smaller farm animals such as sheep, goats, and ducks.
On a long table there were several varieties of apples which were chopped up on plates for you to taste to see which ones you likes the best. There was a full range of flavours and textures. Some were sweet, some were sharp, some were crunchy and some soft. I liked the Egremont Russet the best. Separately there was a man giving an apple pressing demonstration, although you could not try the juice as it needed further processing which he could not do there. But he did have some available to taste and it was very nice so I purchased some to take home.
Admission is usually free but as this was the grand opening there was a £3 admission charge. Access is very good throughout with a lift to the upper floor.
Click the images to see more in the gallery.