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An adult stood in front of a metal handrail. Behind the handrail there is a historic running water wheel

© Sheffield Museums

© Sheffield Museums

I have found my niche in the Sheffield Museums family

"I have always regarded changes in my life circumstances as an opportunity to try something new and challenge myself. As a single woman I worked in marketing and advertising, a job I loved for its variability but not one particularly suitable when married with two young children needing more of my attention.

Having gone on to teach my degree speciality (Business and Marketing) in further education, for 10 years, my career morphed again into twenty-year contract as a General Manager.

In 2017, I eventually decided to take early retirement. I like to be active and engaged in something, I enjoy teaching and explaining, so decided to find something in the voluntary sector where I could use my skills.

I was already a Treasurer and Director of a charity and didn’t want another office-based position, I was looking for a way to connect with my local community, meet new people, learn new things, find a positive outlet for my energy.

A friend who was volunteering at a heritage site inspired me to look at similar organisations. A museum? Art Gallery? Historical sites? I googled ‘volunteer museum’ and the rest you could say ‘is history’.

At first, I volunteered for anything that took my fancy, craft evenings, fundraising, transcription, admin, just looking for my niche. Everything I did was enjoyable in its own way but I hadn’t quite found my ‘thing’.

During lockdown, I was walking through Bingham Park and came across the Shepherd Wheel Workshop site. It was closed for the pandemic but it occurred to me that this was within walking distance of my house and I had never been to have a look around. Something I would rectify when it reopened. Shortly after I received a newsletter saying that Shepherd Wheel (never Shepherds Wheel!) was looking for new volunteers to talk to visitors about the history of the place, so I joined an existing volunteer for a taster session and have been volunteering there ever since.

I was quickly brought up to speed with the basic history through useful volunteer factsheets and the engineers, one of which is always on site, are a mine of information. I always come away having learnt something new.

We have a constant stream of people walking through the park and I coax them in with a cheery “the waterwheel is running, have you seen it?” Children love to see the wheel turning and bombard the engineer with questions on how it works, I focus on the social history, although I’m gradually getting to know the technicalities and surprise myself sometimes by knowing the answer to an engineering question.

I love volunteering at the wheel and getting to know the industrial story of Sheffield. Talking to visitors local and afar, asking children if they want to be our new apprentice, listening to the constant whir and swish of the water wheel, enjoying the site in all its seasons and weather. I am now a regular volunteer on the rota and feel I have found my niche in the Sheffield Museums family."