Museum of Cannock Chase awarded highly prestigious VisitEngland Accolade

The Museum of Cannock Chase has become one of only two West Midlands tourist attractions to be awarded a highly prestigious national accolade for its very warm welcome and outstanding customer service.

Located on the site of the former Valley Colliery, the museum was this month awarded the sought-after VisitEngland ‘Welcome’ Accolade after an annual ‘mystery visitor’ inspection and follow-up interview - known as the Visitor Attraction Quality Scheme assessment - by the national tourism agency in the summer.

The museum is a multi-generational focal point for Cannock Chase’s fascinating heritage and history. It is the only West Midlands attraction to be given the Welcome Accolade alongside Ford Green Hall in Stoke-on-Trent.

The venue is run by the not-for-profit charitable leisure trust, Inspiring healthy lifestyles, which also operates Chase and Rugeley leisure centres, the Prince of Wales Theatre and a number of sports facilities in the area.

Eleven other regional attractions, including Cadbury World, the National Memorial Arboretum and Trentham Monkey Forest, received VisitEngland’s other Visitor Attraction Accolades including the categories of ‘Best Story Told’, ‘Hidden Gem’ and ‘Quality Food & Drink’.

The Accolades are designed to celebrate excellence within the visitor attraction sector and showcase the businesses in the VisitEngland Visitor Attraction Quality Scheme that go the extra mile to provide a high quality day out.

A total of 76 England attractions were given Accolades, the first to be bestowed since the pandemic began and based on assessments during 2020 and 2021.

Attractions are scored on pre-arrival information, arrival, all the elements of offering, cleanliness, catering, retail and the staff - there’s even standalone scoring for toilets.

Depending on the results, attractions are then given a VisitEngland Red Rosette accreditation which the museum - much smaller than some of its nationally renowned Red Rosette attraction counterparts - has achieved for 15 years running and this year scored 86%.

From the Red Rosette recipients, they select outstanding regional attractions to receive the cream of the crop Visitor Attraction Accolades.

The ‘Welcome Accolade’ nomination came on the back of 100% scoring for the museum’s staff with the assessor offering high praise for the reception she received.

She commented: “The reception lady was… very welcoming, asked if this was a first visit and the distance travelled, handed over a Gallery Guide, pointed out the toilets and coffee shop and the suggested start point – perfect.

“The lady in the Miner’s Cottage was dressed appropriately and was busy creating a rug. She gave an immediate welcome, explained what she was doing and went on to elaborate on the various items in the room along with relevant anecdotes, which really brought the whole industry to life.

“She then suggested moving over to the 1940s Room, where her knowledge and enthusiasm were again first class, including answers to several relevant questions. A real bonus to the Museum and a credit to the Tourism industry. Well done!’

The entire Museum of Cannock Chase team is delighted by the honour and feedback, particularly Cannock Chase born and bred Museum Manager Lee Bellingham who has worked at the cultural venue for 25 years.

Lee says the Museum of Cannock Chase means so much to her and the team and she hopes the Accolade will really help to put it on the map and encourage those slightly anxious following the lockdowns to return.

“We were delighted to get the Red Rosette,” said Lee.

“The inspection is quite intensive then they spend two to three hours going through everything in a follow-up debrief.

“We’ve never won an Accolade before, so we’re really pleased about that, particularly as the assessor came about five weeks after we’d reopened after the second lockdown, and obviously we had to make sure that the welcome, the attraction and the visitor experience was really good within covid rules, which potentially could be difficult.

“The assessor said she felt we’d got the balance right and that as she walked round, she felt safe but didn’t feel it overshadowed or spoilt the experience in any way.

“At the end of the debrief when she said she was going put us forward for the Welcome Accolade, I was thrilled, and we’ve all had our fingers crossed ever since!

“Being museum manager is so much more than a job for me, it’s my second home.

“Right from the start when I came here in 1996 it got under my skin and I want us to provide a great experience for our visitors.

“Because it’s a small enough place you can see a difference through what you’re doing, what you deliver and what you develop on site. I find that really satisfying.

“It’s nice to be able to showcase the history of the area and we are very much a community venue.

“We do get visitors from outside the area because they want to know about Cannock Chase but we also get a lot of local people who come and get a drink in the coffee shop or come to our family events.

“Older people like to visit as there are interesting projects like Hidden Gems, our conversation club, where we talk about the collections and we run activities for VE Day and war-related events.

“We’re really looking forward to getting back to all that now.

“We hope this Accolade will encourage people to come back, particularly if they’re feeling a bit nervous about going back to places.

“The fact we’ve had an accolade for our welcome, and within the new world order if you like, I’m hoping they’ll see us a good place to visit and that we’re safe place to visit.

“Visitors are still quite cautious, particularly for booking on to things, so it would be really nice for people to know it is a safe environment.

“The Accolade recognises that visitors can expect a really warm welcome and enjoy a really good experience, which we think is important for a small attraction like ours because, being smaller, we can make every visitor feel very, very welcome.  And for the staff it’s great recognition for what they do.”

The museum is currently featuring a ‘Hednesford in Postcards: A Selection from a Collection’ exhibition and has a fascinating line-up for the new year.

Autumn and winter events have also returned with Festive Fiction on 26th November, a Christmas Corn Dolly Workshop on 27th November and Mission: Christmas, a magical family event, on 11th December.

For more information about activities and events go to the Museum of Cannock Chase Facebook page: https://en-gb.facebook.com/MuseumofCannockChase/ or the website: http://www.museumofcannockchase.org/

Last updated: 23 December 2021