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Alan Machin's Blog - April 2010

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1970 The Pembrokeshire Countryside Unit under John Barrett, ex-field studies centre director at Dale Fort, offers the first modern guided walks programme. By the following year there are 80 walks in its list.
1969 Brockholes National Park Visitor Centre opens in the Lake District.

1968 UK Development of Tourism Act (effective 1 January 1969).

1967 Founding of the Weald and Downland Museum and the Ironbridge Gorge Museum. The Avoncroft Museum of Buildings is opened: all in the UK.

Image: 1959AD Coalbrookdale

1959 The Coalbrookdale Museum in Shropshire is opened after research by Dr G F Williams and Arthur Raistrick. As part of a much larger Ironbridge Gorge Museum it will create much interest in museums and their work in the 1970s.

1958 Work begins on the Ulster Folk Museum near Belfast.

1957 The BBC Natural History Unit starts work in Bristol, producing first of all “Faraway Look”.

1956 Desmond Morris introduces ‘Zoo Time’ for Granada television.

1955 Alf Wainwright produces the first of what will become a seven-part ‘Guide to the Lakeland Fells’. The hand-drawn and written guides will become a classic of their kind and constantly in demand.

Image: Peter Scott - Look

1954 Peter Scott presents his first natural history programme, from Bristol. From 1955 it will be called “Look” and become in due course influential in creating interest in the natural outdoors.

- (Also in 1954) The first BBC ‘Zoo Quest’ series is filmed in Sierra Leone with David Attenborough.

1953 Disney’s first feature-length ‘Real Life Adventure’ film – “The Living Desert” is released.

1952 The first German Outward Bound School is opened by Kurt Hahn in the Schloss Weissenhaus on the Baltic.

- (Also in 1952) Disney releases an Academy Award-winning short – “Water Birds”. Disney’s films will include the Real Life Adventures series (see 1953) which, while distorting animal life by anthropomorphism, will open up much interest in natural history.

Image: National Parks

1951 the first National Parks for England and Wales are founded: Peak district, Lake District and Snowdonia.

1950 Derbyshire County Council opens White Hall as an outdoor pursuits centre near Buxton. Jack Longland is the driving force behind it. He has links with the Outward bound Trust and Abbotsholme School.

1949 The Welsh Folk Museum is founded at St Fagans, Cardiff

1945 A National Park is set up in Kenya

Image: 1941AD Outward Bound & Field Studies Centres

Image: Outdoor classroom

1941 Gordonstoun School has been evacuated from the north east of Scotland to Plas Dinan in Merionethshire. Its founder and headmaster, Kurt Hahn, who was involved in educational innovations in Germany before having to leave when Hitler came to power, begins a new initiative. Using finance supplied by Lawrence Holt of the Blue Funnel shipping line he sets up an Outward Bound school in Aberdovey. This is aimed at improving the physical health and teamworking qualities of young merchant navy recruits. In due course this adventure training movement will spread widely in industry and education at all levels and both males and females as an effective set of activities. Many organisations will be formed to carry it through, besides other established movements like Scouts and Guides and education authorities.

- (Also around this time) His Majesty’s Schools Inspector Francis Butler notices how different are children evacuated from cities at the start of the war from those country children they find themselves amongst. Realising the cultural and educational gaps that exist he works with Professor of Geography Sidney Wooldridge on ideas for environmental education. After World War II they will set up the Field Studies Council in Britain and in 1946 open the first of many study centres at Flatford Mill in Suffolk.

Image: 1939AD Futurama

Image: Futurama composite

1939 The New York World’s Fair displays ‘Futurama’, an exhibit about General Motors which shows an amazingly complex animated model of what cities and countryside would be like in 1960. A conveyor carrying 552 swivelling chairs with an audio commentary for each one moves 2,150 visitors per day around the show. This pioneering system will be adopted in simpler form by many exhibitions and theme parks after the Second World War.

1938 The British Holidays With Pay Act guarantees two weeks’ annual holiday to all workers.

1937 The Palais de la Decouverte opens in Paris, the first museum to be a science demonstrations centre.
- (Also in 1937) An information centre for tourists opens in Great Cockspur St, London, operated by a travel association.

Image: Wings Across Continents

1936 KLM presents passengers on its Amsterdam-Batavia Service with a hardback, 100-page book: E Rusman’s ‘Wings Across Continents’. The book describes in down-to-earth terms each of the places called at in the course of the flight.

- (Also in 1936) The ‘Tin Can Tourists of the World’ hold a convention in Florida attended by 1,094 caravan units.

Image: Tin Can Tourists in Florida

1932 LNER introduces Camping Coaches at selected holiday locations. They are specially fitted to take six people for 2..10s a week each (2.50, equivalent to 83.55 in 2010). There are some larger units for 3.00 per week. Linen, crockery and utensils are provided. The GWR follows suite the next year and the LMS brings out Caravan Coaches.
- (Also in 1932) The first visitors make formal tours of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. It has been planned since 1924 and is a mix of conservation project and open air museum.
- (Also in 1932) Britain’s first open air museum is the Abbey Folk Park and Museum in New Barnet, Hertfordshire – 28 June. It contains buildings and artefacts. However it will last for only a few years and is now a private property.

Image: Polytechnic Touring Association

1932 Britain’s first air charter holiday is organised by the Polytechnic Touring Association from Croydon Airport (south London) to Basle. The group stay at the PTA chalets in Lucerne. The cost is 12 or 14 per person for seven days (equivalent to 401 and 468 in 2010). 95% of the money therefore stays in the UK. The operation is made easier by an air transport slump at the time and 900 people take advantage of it, but the following year the slump will be over and Imperial Airways refuse to charter their aircraft any further. It will be after World War II that air charters return.

- (Also in 1932) UK Rights of Way Act begins to open up more public footpaths through the countryside.

Image: YHA

1930 the British Youth Hostel Association is founded. The first hostel is opened in Pennant Hall in North Wales but it has to be closed hurriedly due to an unsafe water supply.

- (Also in 1930) Alf Wainwright takes is first trip to the Lake District and walks to the top of Orrest. It will inspire his lifetime leisure activity of writing his famous guidebooks – handwritten and illustrated by himself (his day job was as a local government officer).

- (Also in the 1930s) Orienteering is developed in Sweden during the decade.


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