Thursday, 30 June 2011

Black Country Living Museum

We spent the day on Thursday exploring Victorian life at the Black Country Living Museum, which is an open-air museum filled with transplanted buildings from the era.  All stops were staffed with very knowledgeable guides who provided insight into the living conditions of the day.  

Heading into the museum
Our costumed guide, Jo, took us around the village to visit a number of the preserved historical sites.  Most pertinent for our group were the areas detailing the activity of a coal mine - we started on the surface with coal extraction and later in the day were able to explore an underground portion of the mine.  During our underground tour, we learned about working conditions and the process of mining prior to the modern extraction equipment of today.  As we experienced throughout the mine it was tedious, dark and dangerous work done by only the light of a candle.

Learning about how coal was brought up from underground to the surface

Prepping to head underground
Somehow the boys ended up with all of the (very dim) flashlights...
Along with coal we learned of the importance of limestone in the process of producing iron and the resulting canals that were dug to extract limestone and transport goods.

All suited up for our trip into Dudley Canal
Hard hats seem to be the theme of our day...

Navigating the canal with our guide
A view from the inside the canal system
 While in the canal, students had the opportunity to learn how the boats were powered in the past by "walking" the boat through the tunnel system.  A few students volunteered to move our two ton boat with their power alone - we were all surprised by how much momentum two people were able to gain.

Justin and Eric F pushing us out of the canal
Adam and Leif  giving it a go...
 Following our canal tour, we had time for a traditional British lunch and the opportunity to explore a few of the Victorian era shops.  A highlight was our discovery of the hoop games which provided a little competition and lots of laughing.

Fish and chips

The two Adams face off...

Leif takes on Aaron

Justin is rearing to go!

Among the shops the girls discovered some old baths.  We had just learned of the weekly bath schedule, with the dirtiest child getting the final bath each Sunday.  Fay, Lesley and Alice weren't so keen on adopting that plan for the rest of the program, but decided to try a bath out for size.

Rub-a-dub-dub, three ladies in a tub
Our final structured activity at the BCLM was a school lesson with a strict Victorian era schoolmarm.   Liz wowed everyone with her ABC skills, we all practiced our lettering on old slate tablets, and learned what happens when you don't behave...
Liz expertly reciting her ABC's BACKWARDS for the class

Alice waiting for permission to write on her slate board

The girls ready to recite their multiplication tables

While the girls fared well under the strict hand of our instructor, a few of the boys found our session more challenging, one even facing some unpleasant consequences for neglecting to sit properly.
Vishal waiting for the switch

Jeff signaled the end of class and closed out our day at the living museum with the ringing of the school bell. 
Jeff at the ready

 From there we headed back to the coach and returned to Shrewsbury for our final few days in the Midlands.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Iron Gorge

Our first full day in Shrewsbury was chock full of Industrial Revolution related site visits.  We began our tour at the Iron Bridge, which was expertly described by our encyclopedia of a guide, Ron.  He gave us an excellent sense of the area during the dramatic changes of the Industrial Revolution (not to mention a good workout - he was 82 and we could barely keep up!) and offered much personal insight into the era.

A wet beginning to our day...

The starting point for our Industrial Revolution adventure

The first cast iron bridge

Up close inspection...
A break in the rain for our group shot!

From the Iron Bridge, we made our way to the Museum of Iron where we explored some early blast furnaces, learned more about the process of making iron and the important impact of coal as a source of fuel.

Ron pointing out important aspects of the blast furnace

Ron and the crew

The Museum of Iron
Erik F excited to learn about the history of iron!

Ron then took us to the tar tunnels, which ooze bitumen from their walls (and required students to wear hard hats which we're finding makes for excellent photo-ops!).  Walking through the tunnel, we could still see the black, sticky substance running like sap from a tree.

Heading into the tunnel

An underground group shot

Our final stop of the day was the Coalport China Museum, which used to house some of the most expansive ceramic facilities in the UK.  Our time here was a bit rushed, but we were able to get a sense of how the use of coal impacted the important local industry.  From there it was back to Shrewsbury for an evening of class discussion relating the outings to our readings about the economics of technological innovation throughout the era. 

View of the countryside from the coach

Friday, 24 June 2011

From The City To The Country

Our time in London ended with an early morning coach waiting to carry us and all of our belongings north to the small town of Shrewsbury.  There we'll spend a week exploring sites of the Industrial Revolution.
Bright and early for our 6:45am departure (notice the yawns!)
Along the way to our new Midlands home, we planned a few stops to break up the 3.5 hour journey.   First up, a tour of the ultra-modern Mini Cooper factory in Oxford, where we saw nearly the entire process of bringing one of these iconic cars into being.  While we were unable to take photographs within the factory, there were plenty of opportunities in the adjacent museum.

All suited up in our safety gear and ready for our tour!

Erik F posing with the psychedelic Mini Cooper

Lesley trying out one of the cushy Mini seats
One of the incredible robotic arms we would see precisely assembling and welding cars on the factory floor
The stunt car used in the Italian Job driven by Charlize Theron - notice the two steering wheels!
Listening to our tour guide outline the plant history and process
 Despite the early wake-up call, everyone seemed impressed by the scale and technology employed by the plant, which would serve as an excellent counterpoint to our next stop of the day: Hook Norton Brewing Company.
Group shot outside the brewing company
After a quick 45 minutes through the beautiful Midlands, we arrived at Hook Norton, a brewery that still largely relies on steam power to process it's ales.   Again we were able to experience the process from start to finish, with a few samples along the way, and marveled at how little the process has changed since the brewery started in the 1840's.  It was a stark contrast to our morning tour as well as an excellent connection to the Industrial Revolution sites we will be visiting over the following week.

Learning about the brewing equipment

A large tank for processing the ales

A storage room too small for some of our students!
Exhausted after a full day of touring and travel, the bus went silent for our final leg to Shrewsbury...
Zonked out on the coach

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Heading to London!

The Carleton Cambridge program kicked off Wednesday, June 15th as 23 young Carls converged on the city of London. A few had brief stop overs in Iceland as they made their way "across the pond" to settle for five days exploring the largest city in the UK. 
View of Iceland from plane window

Regardless of from where we originated, we all began our adventure abroad in this same location: border crossing and customs.
Crossing into the UK
The first few days of the program found students exploring the city by foot, tube, bus and ferry.
Economics is everywhere - even in the tube stations!
 From an early overview of the city on a double-decker bus (albeit on a less-than-perfect rainy morning), to a cruise along the river Thames, there seemed an endless supply of things to do and see in London.  Sites on the city tour ranged from the Museum of London and the British Museum, to the Houses of Parliament, the Maritime Museum and St. Paul's Cathedral.

Exterior of St. Paul's
 While no photos were permitted inside the magnificent St. Paul's, our spunky tour guide did allow us to sneak a photo from the recesses of this incredible stone staircase:
View from the bottom of the spiral staircase within St. Paul's
Many of the students were tickled to hear this very staircase was used in the third Harry Potter film  - a fun modern day fact intertwined with the rich history described by our guide.

Another highlight of our five days in the city was a night out to the theater for a showing of the musical Billy Elliot. 
All smiles before the show

A post-show group photo-op
We held a group dinner at a very tasty Indian restaurant, Memories of India, to ring in the start of our time together and to cap off our stay in London.
Memories of India group dinner
 From London our travels continue to the town of Shrewsbury, where we'll visit several sites that play pivotal roles in shaping the history of the Industrial Revolution, as well as give context to our studies on the economics of current environmental policy.