Hello, my name is Chaz Singh and as well as working for Fata He in Plymouth I am also the first Sikh councillor in Plymouth having being elected to represent Drake Ward in May 2011.
It all started as a suggestion to Clare from Mosaic that I should volunteer a couple of days at the Dartmoor National Park Authority Information Centres. I have already blogged on my time at Postbridge Information Centre and the following is about two further fantastic days at the High Moorland Visitor Centre, Princetown.
Day 1 at High Moorland Visitor Centre
The first thing that hits me is the size of the building. Much bigger than the Postbridge Centre, but size isn’t everything! It was previously the Duchy Hotel and the ceiling is impressive in the main room as it has been cleared up quite well.
I have had met some people from Mumbai already and I was greeted by the traditional Sat Sri Akaal (a Sikh greeting in Punjabi where Sat = truth, Sri = great and Akaal = Timeless Being ie God). He spoke of his visit with his friend to the Golden Temple in Amritsar with affection and was glad to hear a Sikh explaining the Moors to him.
There is a steady flow of German and Dutch tourists. It is interesting to see how the Dartmoor Jail fascinates everybody. I now have to get to understand two key walks from the Centre so I can inform visitors and be able to guide people in the right direction.
The centre is very warm and inviting and there is a fascinating film to see. It is a lively interactive centre with an exciting exhibition for all ages to enjoy. I should remind you that it is the 60th anniversary of Dartmoor National Park and there is an exhibition on display at the moment.
Again knowledge is in abundance here with the staff and that counts for the volume of people coming through the doors. I think over time that is knowledge which can be gained and implemented with visitors. It is a shame that I don’t see so many local people using the Centre throughout my day and the next.
I’m informed that Warhorse was filmed here nearby and that the film will be released next year. Even Steven Spielberg has been here and enjoyed the sights and sounds (“I have never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming “War Horse” on Dartmoor.”). This would be a great attraction to promote Dartmoor and even be part of a reason to visit here.
Most recently I was involved in a film shooting with Brad Pitt (name dropping!) in Falmouth and the town had generated alot of income and when the film comes out will continue to attract more. This would be another way of enticing and attracting visitors to Dartmoor.
Lunchtime and now it’s gone quite but we still have people coming in and seeing the exhibitions and the Centre.
The sun has joined us now and the outlook is much clearer for the day. I will be treating myself to a local cafe tomorrow for a spot of lunch.
Talking with Julie, Sandra and Neil and seeing them at work, it clearly shows whether you are visiting for the first time or the hundredth time you are made to feel welcome each and every time.
I picked up a little history along the day and this greatly enhances the experience as I am able to pass this on to visitors, families and friends.
I have even had a comment left by a visitor which is really nice. I feel as if I have accomplished something at least which is always positive.
I have been fed Lemon Drizzle Cake made by Julie which was absolute lush (nice). The day ended with a few more people coming in before closing time and that drew the day to a close and I must say I really enjoyed it thoroughly.
Day 2 at High Moorland Visitor Centre
The day started off bright and airy and I was keen to get in and set visitors off in the right direction for their visit.
First things first a cup of tea, swiftly made by Nick. I met with Sarah and Nick who were on duty today. Barbara and Marilyn were here today as well dealing with a change around of the centre. There were some new additions by a local photographer Adrian Oakes who has taken some lovely photographs and are available to purchase in the Centre. He is also a judge for the Capturing Dartmoor competition and first prize is a workshop with him; I must enter a photo to the competition!
Orlando, Senior Learning and Outreach officer from the National Park Authority, popped by today and we had a conversation about how it was going and how positive the engagement has been and really positive from my perspective.
Just back from a really impressive lunch at the local café and straight back into the Centre and raring to go. I found alot more people from up the line visiting this centre and alot of visitors from Exeter too.
I even did a family portrait outside the Duchy Hotel. Great interaction and another memory of my time here at the Visitor Centre. Then Im asked to sign off and stamp a scheme called Visitor Passport . There are 15 members of the National Parks starting from Cairngorms to Dartmoor. This incentive was introduced in 2009 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. Bet you didn’t know that!
The Communications Officer, Michael Nendick, was here this afternoon and we had a discussion about teaming up when they go out and about with the Outreach Vehicle, which the National park take to shows, events and cityand town centres in and around Dartmoor.
It has been an interesting day today with all the different people who work and are connected at the Visitor Centre and to see how busy and varied the day can be too. The exhibition attracts visitors for varied reasons be it Sherlock Holmes, the archaeology, historical sites, walks, inspiration, cycle trails, directions, accommodation and much more.
With the team that are on call to run the Centre, each and every visitor is welcomed and given the utmost care and attention that makes them all want to visit again.
My two days are short lived but the foundation to an ever lasting relationship. Again I would like to thank all those who have accommodated my visit and made me feel part of the team, and in particular to Clare from the Mosaic Project which has educated and empowered me through this opportunity.
As a mother holds her child up to the Donation Box, I can see that future generations will come and enjoy the Moors.