Monday, 22 April 2013

River and Rowing Museum, Henley-on-Thames

We really love going round child friendly museums, and museums are getting so much better at involving the children in different ways now. For a while we had been a bit unsure about visiting the River and Rowing museum though, under the mistaken belief that it was all about rowing and "that" boat race and that Charlotte would be really bored. How wrong we were.

The building on approach is wonderful. Wooden clad almost boathouse like with big glass windows that look out onto the river. Even the car park is interesting with lock gates, boats and a lock keepers shed, also life size models of  Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave.

Once we were inside Charlotte rushed towards the Wind in the Willows gallery at lightning speed. She loved watching the story evolve in each of the scenes as they are brought to life. She loved going into Mr Toads caravan and we had to read that bit of the book before bedtime. She enjoyed it so much we then had to go round a second time (and a third before we left).

We then headed up the stairs to the larger galleries.

The rowing gallery was really interesting with various boats hung from the ceiling, a rowing machine to try out. Trying to row in time on one display was quite amusing. Seeing the size of some of the oars and also what they are made out of was good.

The next gallery we headed for was the history of Henley. Charlotte's favourite bit was obviously dressing up as if she was to attend the Royal Henley Regatta. But she loved to open up the drawers and look at local finds like the iron age coins.

The river gallery was our favourite, we knew about swan upping as Abingdon is the last stop on the river so liked reading about that. Its also about each stop along the Thames  how the river used to be used, various lock gates. The 'About water' display was really popular showing how much water you use flushing the toilet, having a shower or bath and using the dishwasher and how we get water to our house by connecting pipes.

The end of the gallery over looks Ratty's wildlife garden which Charlotte loved to look down on and then the activities at this end of the gallery were all about the wildlife that live on the river. Charlotte really enjoyed matching different things.

There are changing exhibitions on the ground floor and the current one until July 2013 is about paralympic rowing. This was fascinating, not just seeing kit from London 2012 but also what food, drink and utensils ocean rowers would take with them.

We had a lovely lunch in the cafe and then a short walk up to the weir and lock before leaving.

Unlike most museums this one is independent so there is an admission fee, but that will give you a years  entry (parking is free if you show your ticket on exit). But the museum is well worth the cost as there is a lot to see and do for children (and adults) of all ages. Its also a really popular museum and there are lots of what's on things going on so we are sure to return for some of them. We really regret not having visited sooner.

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