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The First World War Trenches Experience

Bodelwyddan Castles Historic Sites N34-220-SPBackground

The trenches are a comprehensive, working system within the grounds of Bodelwyddan Castle provided to create a memorable visitor experience and practical educational resource.  The trenches will reflect the original First World War training trenches (now a Scheduled site) and also link to the history of Kinmel Camp, including its current training role.

The trenches will be staffed by volunteers and staff from a variety of backgrounds including former service personnel.  The role of the site and staff will be to inform visitors about life in the trenches and the contribution and sacrifice of service and civilian personnel in the First World War.  The development will also become a focal point for the local community to undertake research into the impact of military conflict on local life as well as the contribution to the community provided by the military presence at Kinmel Camp since 1915.

The trenches will be a working model and used in a variety of ways including, but not restricted to guided tours, formal education visits, theatrical interpretation, and arts installations.  Tours of the trench system will provide a detailed explanation of life in the trenches, an opportunity to speak with staff and volunteers and view equipment, routines and living quarters.  Educational visits will include self-guided tours for formal groups as well as staff/volunteer led tours or those provided through teaching packs containing learning outcomes linked to the National Curriculum.  At other times, various interpretation methods including graphics, lighting and audio, will be used to provide intellectual access for the casual users.

Community engagement

The primary benefit of this development will be to provide a focus for lifelong learning available to all.  BCT has an accepted reputation for developing projects that benefit underrepresented or isolated groups of the local population, such as the Artefact mental health partnership.  BCT also has a good track record in promoting access for disadvantaged groups as well as through its mainstream activities in the field of education.  The trenches project would be an additional facility that can be promoted by BCT and used in a sensitive way to create a link between the community and the armed forces.

Integration and collaboration between service personnel and the local community will be a significant element of the project, which we envisage taking the form of a dedicated volunteer programme.  BCT has a volunteer team managed by a Volunteer Co-ordinator.  The fundamental mechanisms and procedures required for the management of the Trenches Experience volunteer team are largely in place but are likely to need enhancement in terms of tailored support to enable people with long term mental health conditions or additional needs to fully participate in volunteering opportunities.

Exploratory discussions indicate that there is a demand within the region for this exciting volunteer programme and that the demographic we hope to engage with is likely to include people who are already receiving support from other agencies due to their specific needs.  Our programme may also attract isolated individuals who are not currently receiving support but may benefit from accessing local services.  This means that our approach has to be carefully co-ordinated to ensure our programme is fit for purpose, joined up, adequately supported and monitored, and that excellent communication is maintained with referral agencies.

Our short-term goals (3-6 months) are:

Demand – To identify the level and type of need within the local community for a volunteering programme specifically associated with the Trenches Experience.  Our focus will include identifying opportunities for an accessible and intergenerational programme.

Evidence – To provide evidence of need as the basis for a significant funding bid to establish the programme, including commitment of letters of support from potential referral agencies.

Programme – Through consultation with partners, subject specialists, referral agencies, and others, identify the potential for an events and engagement programme, including commercial opportunities to support the community engagement activity.

Resources – To calculate the range of support and resources necessary to establish and deliver the volunteering programme in its first 24 months, following consultation with potential partners and referral agencies.

Funding – To identify appropriate sources of grant and in-kind support with a realistic likelihood of success.

Our longer-term goals over the next 12-24 months:

Through engagement with the community,volunteers, research, and consultation, we will capture stories and experiences as a basis for developing interpretation for the Trenches Experience.  We will identify ways of recording and sharing stories to extend the reach and engagement of the project beyond the physical structure of the Trenches.

We will establish an outstanding Trenches Experience volunteering programme that achieves national recognition for the quality of its innovation and delivery.  The programme will provide a wealth of positive benefits for the volunteers as well as creating an exceptional visitor experience too.

We will deliver a learning programme for schools, the public and community audiences, which seizes the opportunity to make use of the fantastic resource offered by the Trenches.  The programme will identify innovative ways of increasing engagement through arts, drama, storytelling, science and mathematics.

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