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Farmland Museum and Denny Abbey reopens with free entry, thanks to National Lottery grant

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The Farmland Museum and Denny Abbey is partially reopen from today (Thursday, August 27), thanks to a grant from the National Lottery’s Heritage Emergency Fund.

The family-friendly museum in Waterbeach, which chronicles the 850-year story of farming, communities and life in the Cambridgeshire Fens, also received a donation from the Cambridgeshire & Huntingdonshire Family History Society - as well as further financial aid from supporters and well-wishers. It is offering free admission for the rest of 2020.

At The Farmland Museum and Denny Abbey are commercial officer Sarah Michael, with some of her family. Picture: Keith Heppell
At The Farmland Museum and Denny Abbey are commercial officer Sarah Michael, with some of her family. Picture: Keith Heppell

The museum closes over the winter but this year did not reopen in April as usual due to the lockdown.

Staff there were uncertain whether they would be able to welcome people in at all this year.

Sarah Michael, commercial officer at the site, which is a former Benedictine monastery, says: “As a seasonal site, we’re supposed to open on April 1 but obviously that didn’t happen, so we lost the visitor income that we would normally have got from April through to July.

“We applied for a grant from the National Lottery’s Heritage Emergency Fund, and we were absolutely delighted to be successful. It’s meant that we can bring in the staff, the new cleaning regime, the PPE measures - all the things that were additional costs, because of the restrictions we have to adhere to.

“It’s wonderful to be reopening. We are there to provide an experience for visitors at our heritage site.“

Part of the site is outdoors, making it easier to maintain social distancing.

“We’ve got a huge open space,” says Sarah. “We’ve got a medieval cottage garden, we’ve got an allotment, there’s lots to see outside... We’ve also got our collection of farming machinery, which is predominantly outside.”

Some of the indoor areas will be open to the public too.

“We are opening part of Denny Abbey,” notes Sarah. “The ground floor is accessible, and we’re opening some of our displays but just roping off the doors because they’re in very small spaces - but people can still see them.”

For this reason, the usual admission fee is being wavied.

“We didn’t want to charge full entry,” explains Sarah, “because we’re not offering the full experience. We felt that was a fair thing to do because we’re limiting numbers and we can’t open everything.”

Thanking supporters, Sarah adds: “We were quite overwhelmed by the number of people locally who didn’t want the museum to collapse because we were closed and had no income.

“There’s an organisation called the Cambridgeshire & Huntingdonshire Family History Society and they very kindly gave us a grant of £1,000, which was a wonderful surprise. It’s amazing how many people are so supportive of local heritage when it comes to it - the thought that this might not reopen was not something that our supporters wanted to happen. Very nice to see.”

The National Lottery’s £50million Heritage Emergency Fund was established to support the heritage sector as an immediate response to Covid-19. Its purpose is to ensure that community heritage assets, like the Farmland Museum, are protected through this unprecedented period.

Entry to the Farmland Museum and Denny Abbey is free this season, but visitors must book in advance to limit numbers and comply with the government’s Covid-19 guidelines and NHS Test and Trace rules.

The museum is now open from Thursday to Sunday - and this Bank Holiday Monday (August 31) - from 11am until 5pm, with last admission at 3.30pm.

For more information and to book a visit, go to dennyfarmlandmuseum.org.uk/content/about/book-your-visit


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