Lawnmowers – a very British obsession?
Did you know the lawnmower was invented in Gloucester by Edwin Beard Budding in 1830? He was deemed a madman for making such a contraption and had to test his machine at night so no one would see him.
But Budding was not mad at all and his machine revolutionised gardening.
Britain began making the best lawnmowers in the world. Sadly it seems this great piece of British engineering is less cutting edge and more heritage now on the world stage.
Talking of heritage, Britain does have the world’s only lawnmower Museum.
Where would you expect to find such a place? Gloucester, as it was home to Edwin Beard Budding? Kent, maybe, as its the Garden of England? No, it’s actually based in Southport on Merseyside.
106-114 Shakespeare Street, a short distance from Southport town centre, is where you will find this museum of garden machinery, not just lawnmowers.
Brian Radam, an ex-racing champion, started the museum, which sees more than 5,000 people visit every year. It was Brian’s dream to showcase vintage lawnmowers. His museum specialises in antique garden machinery and supplys parts, archive conservation of manuscript materials and values machines from all over the world.
It houses housing over 200 restored exhibits. These include machines and equipment owned by the rich and famous. You may have seen Lee Mack talking about his contribution to the collection on TV.
Lawnmowers owned by Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Brian May and Paul O’Grady are in there too. This museum is a unique tribute to the garden machine industry over the last 200 years.
Brian May’s mower – photo by Juliamaud
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It’s often said that you never visit what’s on your doorstep. Sometimes because the attractions become so familiar that you just expect them to always be there. And sometimes it’s because you don’t know they exist. Or maybe you do know they exist, as you’ve heard their name, but you have no idea what’s there and why you should visit.
If one of those places you’ve heard of but never visited is Strawberry Hill House you should definitely make the effort to go. It’s only a short walk from Strawberry Hill station after catching a train from London Waterloo.
Strawberry Hill House
This is an impressive Gothic revival house in Twickenham, that was created by Horace Walpole in the 18th century. It is Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic revival architecture and inspired the first gothic novel – The Castle of Otranto.
The house was bought in 1747 by Horace Walpole, son of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister. He transformed it into a “little Gothic castle” between 1749 and 1790, providing a purpose built home for his growing collection of paintings, ceramics, coins and artefacts.
Inside the building the rooms lead you from mysterious dark space to light, open spaces. You’ll even find yourself venturing through passages into hidden rooms.
Why visit now?
Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill is an exhibition running until 24th February. It showcases many of the artefacts that used to fill the house, many of them to be placed into original locations for this time period.
Horace Walpole’s collection was one of the most important of the 18th century. He designed the interiors of his home to showcase his collection. Unfortunately the collection was sold in 1842. Spread over 24 days, the sale was an important society event, with special steamers laid on to take prospective buyers and tourists down the Thames from the centre of London.
The Lost Treasure exhibition brings back the treasures that have been dispersed for over 170 years and allows visitors to see the house as Walpole conceived it. Many of the pieces will be shown in their original positions.
Strawberry Hill Treasure Hunt
No, this isn’t a hunt you can go on yourself. Instead this is a series of blogs describing how the treasures that were sold were traced so they could be included in the exhibition.
“Ever wondered what it takes to unearth long lost artworks? What kind of detective work is required to retrace treasured antiques and objets d’art scattered two hundred years ago? This is the fate that befell the celebrated collection of antiquarian and man of letters, Horace Walpole, once displayed in his home, Strawberry Hill House. Centuries on, this series first will follow art historian and provenance researcher, Silvia Davoli, in her hunt for the lost treasures of Strawberry Hill and her bid to restore Walpole’s collections to his legendary gothic rooms.”
Strawberry Hill House & Garden, 268 Waldegrave Road, Twickenham TW1 4ST
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Managing safety in Escape Rooms
TIC Insurance recently wrote an article on “How To Manage Escape Room Risks Without Spoiling The Fun”. While it notes that every business must comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the legislation requires businesses to take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent accidents or injuries.
So what are ‘reasonable steps’ as far as an escape room goes? And when does an escape room switch from being a play of amusement to a place of incarceration? Do escape rooms really lock you in?
For a start, a lot of escape room website state that players are not actually locked in the room. Either the entrance door remains unlocked, so players can escape the way they entered or there are panic buttons that release the doors should players want/need to leave. So no panic there.
Escape rooms offer an immersive adventure. That immersion can be lost if escape rooms add “mind the step” and “mind your head” signs around the place. You don’t want to spoil the illusion and reveal the existence of a hidden room by signage. Games Masters can include general safety instruction during their briefing, including notes to mind your heads and mind where you step instead.
Fire alarm sensors and electrical wiring can be camouflaged to fit into the theme of the room. And things that must not be touched for safety reasons can be marked.
Most Games Masters stress that their games involve logic and problem-solving skills not physical strength and that players are not to destroy the props.
Amusement or incarceration?
Verisk insurance published an article about escaping ‘escape room’ risk in 2017. It explored how escape rooms should be classified.
One school of thought is that escape rooms can be rooms used for assembly and may be considered as special amusement buildings. However, another school of thought is that escape rooms more closely fit the definition of a true lockup.
The NFPA defines a lockup as “an incidental use area in other than a detention and correctional occupancy where occupants are restrained and such occupants are mostly incapable of self-preservation because of security measures not under the occupants’ control.”
So while all escape rooms are meant to be fun, some also restrain the players. Does this also restrict the players ability for self-preservation?
The safety implications are obvious. If someone is locked in a room without an easy means of escape, what happens in the event of a fire or other disaster? What if someone becomes ill or is injured?
Well, as noted above most escape room websites state that players are not actually locked in the room. Either the entrance door remains unlocked or there are panic button door releases.
Great, so this covers rooms without restraints, but what if the room includes players being chained up or locked in cells? In this case Verisk insurance recommend that:
- Within two minutes, staff must be able to release doors and other physical restraints that compromise participants’ free egress.
- Staff should be in sufficient proximity to the lockup to enable the two-minute release.
- The facility must have staff authorized, trained, and practiced to facilitate the release.
- Participants cannot be restrained from evacuating without the assistance of others.
I’ve raised the point before that most games tell you not to destroy the props. This is so ingrained that we’ve sometimes played games where we’ve been unclear if we can write on things or not.
On the other hand, we have also come across a game that require you to actively destroy a prop. While we were warned in advance that there were potential dangerous props in the room, we were surprised that the game required physical strength and the ability to use such tools safely.
At another game a wall socket needed to be dismantled. Again, this was a surprise as normally fiddling with the electrics is forbidden.
However, my major concern with escape rooms is the use of restraints.
We have played a room where team members were handcuffed on separate sides of the room. The first puzzle was to release one of the players, who released the rest. It took less than 5 minutes for all players to be free. No panic was involved.
However, we played another game where where team members were handcuffed in a line and attached to a wall. The first series of puzzles released one player, who had to “break into” a cell and solve other puzzles before they could release the rest of us. This took over 15 minutes. We considered this a health hazard, especially as we were in a basement and the Games Master was located on another floor. What if there was a fire and they couldn’t come down and release us?
At another game we were chained up and locked in a cell and had to call the Games Master to release us after 15 minutes. It was an agonising wait to see if they were coming to release us and a feeling of panic over what if they didn’t.
Escape rooms should consider the implications of incarcerating their players. Do they want their players to have fun or to be terrified for their own safety?
Let me know what your thoughts are.
Averting A Christmas Eve Disaster!
Our friend, Savio, told us that Santa had just loaded all the presents on his sleigh ready to deliver to all the boys and girls around the world, when he discovered a problem. Santa’s sleigh was stuck! If he didn’t release it soon Christmas will be a disaster and no gifts would be delivered.
So this Christmas Eve we leapt into action and headed to Hornchurch. (Yes, I know that’s not the north pole, but that’s where the portal to the barn was located.) Braving the traffic and the last minute Christmas shoppers we arrived at ROOM LOCKDOWN where we were met by Games Master Ben.
He explained our team’s mission. We were to enter the barn and find a way to release Santa’s sleigh. And we only had an hour to complete the mission.
First we were shown into a Christmas themed room. A large decorated tree stood in the corner of the room. Tinsel and decorations were all around.
So where was the barn?
Well, to stop anyone realising that this was a portal to Santa, we had to prove ourselves worthy by solving puzzles and revealing the secret door. then we still had to solve puzzles to free the sleigh and send Santa on his way.
As you probably know by now ( as you open your presents) we succeeded.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
Room Lockdown run a number of escape rooms. They change the themes on a regular basis, so there is always something new to discover. Games Master Ben tells me they also run seasonal games. This Christmas themed one runs until 6th January 2019 and they run an annual Halloween themed room.
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One minute you are hunting for a restaurant to round off your Christmas shopping and the next you are saving mankind again!
Mission HQ found in a shopping mall
As our hotel was near the Tiergarten it was only a short walk to the Europa Center near Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. Located right next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the basement of the shopping mall holds the escape room complex called Mission Accepted. This venue houses a number of escape room challenges.
We had been hunting for a restaurant one evening when we spotted the Escape Room. We called in and booked our slot for the next day. As there were only two of us playing we had a choice from three room set ups. (There are five escapes currently available but the other two require more players.) We chose Illusional Mind as we were told it was more hands on (old school?) than the space adventure.
The plot of Illusional Mind
Eight months ago an ingenious scientist become completely mad before falling into a coma. He remains in hospital where all attempts to wake him have failed. Within his mind lurks the answers to some of humanities greatest problems. It is important to retrieve these and wake him up.
There is a new experimental method that the hospital would like you and your team to try. It will require you plugging into his synapses and “searching” his confused mind. But will you accept the mission?
The game can be played in German or English.
It does not require you to escape the room as such. Instead you are on a mission to wake the scientist. On the wall is an outline of the brain with areas that light up when you have solved a particular set of puzzles.
There is a screen to receive hints from the Games Master. The room was imaginatively designed and reminded me of Lucardo, but without the padlocks and not as colourful.
There were some imaginative puzzles throughout the room. This was definitely a room that relied on logic and reasoning, not opening locks. Some things were obvious but some had us scratching our heads trying to work them out.
Yes, we succeeded in waking the scientist. Saving mankind once again, with only 7 seconds to spare!
Mission Accepted Berlin
Mission Accepted Berlin – Recommended
This year, we got invited to a Christmas Party at the newly refurbished Coach and Horses in Leyton. As well as a chance to listen to Christmas Blues over the meal we also got the chance to travel through a time portal back to New York in 1935 to solve a murder and hunt for Gangsters Treasure.
Well who could resist such an offer?
Gangsters Treasure Escape Room
As you can see, some of us were more into the Christmas Party theme than others as we were shown upstairs for our time machine trip.
Stepping through the door into The Chop Palace Bar in 1935 New York we immediately noticed the blood stained floor where the notorious gangster Dutch Schultz had been killed. The bar tender informed us that the police are due to arrive in one hour. That gave us just enough time to find out who killed Dutch, find his will and locate his hidden treasure.
We split up and started to search the room. When we needed a clue the barman, in return for a small bribe, would point us in the right direction.
The puzzles are intriguing and we spent a lot of time showing each other what we’d solved. So much so that although we solved the murder and found the stash, we did it with only 14 seconds to spare.
14 seconds to evade the cops and head back to 2018 and a delicious Christmas meal.
Gangsters Treasure – A murder mystery and an escape room in one – recommended.
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