Feature: Volunteering at the Mersey Gateway visitor centre
Halton residents Harry Hayes, Peter Millward and Malcolm Findlow have been volunteering with Merseylink for almost a year.
Harry Hayes, Peter Millward and Malcolm Findlow (L-R) enrolled as volunteers with Merseylink in May 2014.
Each has his own reason for volunteering: ‘something to tell the grandchildren about’, ‘watching history in the making’, and ‘giving something back to the community’.
They all took part in the Mersey Gateway volunteer training programme, a special four-week scheme aimed at equipping local people with the skills and knowledge required to tell the story of Halton’s new bridge and road project.
Malcolm Findlow thought the volunteer training programme was excellent, he said: “We learnt about the history and heritage of the area, the wildlife, ecology, environment, and the construction process for the bridge and roads. It was fascinating to find out how the bridge will be built and its great to now see the construction happening before our eyes.”
The three volunteers have become a key part of the Merseylink team, using the learning from the training course to educate and inform the public about the project. They work on a rota basis to staff the Mersey Gateway visitor centre, which is based at the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre in Widnes.
Peter Millward said: “We are here to help by answering questions about the project and addressing any concerns. Some people don’t know much about the project and are impressed when we tell them how it will enhance the local area and the benefits that it will bring.”
Visitors can use a number of interactive display screens to access a wide range of project information, including videos, photographs, a live site webcam, and a special children’s zone. E-learning packages and training materials are also available providing detailed information about general methods of construction.
“People don’t always realise that building the new bridge is just one part of the project,” said Harry Hayes, “there’s a huge amount of work involved in upgrading the roads. We are able to show people the maps of the new road network on the display screens and can talk them through the new routes and any diversions that are underway.”
The volunteers also host trips to the centre’s rooftop observatory, where visitors can get a bird’s eye view of the construction work that is taking place in the estuary.
Malcolm Findlow said: “It’s brilliant to see people’s reactions when we take them up to the rooftop observatory. They can look out over the water and see the construction for themselves while we explain what’s happening in the estuary. Being able to see it happening really brings the project alive.”
More than 1,000 people have passed through the doors of the Mersey Gateway visitor centre since it first opened in February this year, and the volunteers say they are getting lots of positive feedback.
“Children really enjoy using the digital display screens, especially the Kidzone and the quiz questions,” said Peter.
He added: “We are seeing a big cross section of people coming in and are starting to get regular visitors now that word is getting around that we’re open. I’d encourage people who haven’t already been to come along and find out more!”
The Mersey Gateway visitor centre is free to the general public and is open from 10am-4pm, Tuesday through to Sunday (the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre is closed on Mondays).
To find out more about the Mersey Gateway volunteer programme, you can: