They say that "less is more". If anything, the Rural Life Centre demonstrates that the corollary is also true, "more is less".
A recreation of say a blacksmith's workshop with a complete set of tools is fine; one with three full sets of tools is confusing. Add a second or third similar workshop and ...
I may be exaggerating; it all became a bit of a blur.
Don't get me wrong, it's great to see these things preserved and I'm sure that they are useful to academic researchers, but for a casual visitor like me the whole thing just got a bit overwhelming.
Two things really stood out for me:
- The reproduction of a small Wealden Blast Furnace, and
- The small, but perfectly formed, Old Lime Kiln Railway.
Also interesting was the Polish Refuge Camp Hut, with its reminders of the important part the Polish ex-pat community played during the Second World Ward.
For details of opening times, admission prices, etc. please see the Rural Life Centre's official site.
The Wealden Blast Furnace
Most of the preserved blast furnaces around the country, such as the ones at Blaenavon, post-date Abraham Derby's pioneering use of coke to produce iron at Coalbrookdale in 1709. As such, they are large industrial complexes.
I've always found it difficult to imagine the sort of small scale charcoal based industry that preceded those developments, and it was great to see here a reproduction of a Wealden Blast Furnace. It really gave me a feel for what it must have been like when iron making was a cottage industry.
Old Kiln Light Railway
The Old Kiln Light Railway originally founded back in the 1970s. It moved to the Rural Life Centre in 1982 when its original site around a disused pumping station in Farnham was sold.
It now consists of about a third of a mile (540m) of two foot (610mm) gauge track around three sides of the site, together with a short spur serving the heritage timber yard.
Besides Emmet, the engine on duty the day I visited, the museum has two other steam engines, together with a good collection of internal combustion powered locomotives and other rolling stock.
It operates most Sundays and bank holidays in the main season. See the Old Kiln Light Railway Society's website for further information.