Welcome to Rocks by Rail – the Living Ironstone Museum, which can be found on the edge of the Vale of Catmose in Rutland. The museum lies at the foot of the hillside where once ironstone rock outcropped at the surface and was first excavated to make iron and steel in steelworks outside of the local area.
As with most of the ironstone quarries in the East Midlands, the museum is located in open countryside. The site helps to recount the story of a once important local industry and allows visitors ease of movement to enjoy our industrial heritage, including the railway which was used to take the excavated ironstone rock to the distant steelworks.
Address : Rocks by Rail, Ashwell Road , Cottesmore, Oakham, Rutland LE15 7FF
Telephone : 07974 171068
Website : Rocks-by-Rail.org
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Please feel free to contact us before your visit if you require any information regarding access and we will only be too willing to assist you in whatever way we can.
How to get to the Museum
Vehicular access to the museum is from the minor public road linking Cottesmore and Ashwell; if using SatNav our post code is LE15 7FF. When approaching from Cottesmore village, Rocks by Rail is at the foot of the hill on the right.
White on brown tourist information signs can be found in and near the village directing you towards the museum and its entrance. The Tourist information direction signs also assist visitors coming from the A1, or from Oakham on the B668 road.
Getting directly to the museum using public transport is not feasible as the only local bus service runs between Oakham and Cottesmore. Centrebus operate the Rutland Flyer RF2 service Mondays to Saturdays, but there is no Sunday service. It is possible to walk from Cottesmore to the museum (takes about 20 minutes) but the roadside path only goes as far as the edge of the village housing. The road drops sharply down the hill in a shallow cutting to the museum entrance. If walking to the museum, please exercise due care in respect of occasional passing road traffic.
Some intrepid visitors have been known to first catch the train to Oakham Railway Station and then take a taxi ride to the museum and back.
The museum is easily accessible by bike as the Oakham Loop national cycle route passes the entrance. We are happy for bicycles to be left near the museum entrance whilst you enjoy your visit.
For cars the museum has its own free car park, close to the museum entrance. There are two spaces reserved for visitors with disabilities situated very close to the entrance to the museum. The car park is surfaced with compacted ash ballast, providing a firm and level surface. Visitors with limited mobility are welcome to contact us before visiting; we will then reserve a car parking space close to the concrete pathway which leads from the car park to the museum entrance (the Sundew Café), a short distance away.
The Sundew Café
The single storey Sundew Café provides a welcome to the museum and includes some initial interpretative material to explain what our volunteers do and the heritage behind the museum. The Café also offers limited light refreshments on operational and other days as advertised; there is a small ramp over the threshold to enter the building.
The Woolsthorpe Conservation Workshop
From the patio outside Sundew Café visitors can head off to other parts of the museum. The route to the nearby Woolsthorpe Conservation Workshop is via a short level concrete path which also runs the length of the building internally. There is a small step down into the Woolsthorpe Conservation Workshop, which should be manageable for wheelchair users.
The Simon Layfield Exhibition Centre and Station Platform
To visit the Simon Layfield Exhibition Centre and Station Platform, a short concrete path from the Sundew Café takes you through a simple control gate to a wooden boarded crossing over the railway track. On the other side of the crossing access to the Station Platform is via a short steep ramp but volunteers are always willing to lend a hand to help wheelchair users or parents/carers with buggies.
The Station Platform has a level concrete surface with sensory studs along the edge. Access to the Simon Layfield Exhibition Centre is gained from the opposite end of the platform, where a gently graded ramp guides visitors down to the building access door. Inside the Simon Layfield Exhibition Centre, parallel level concrete walkways provide a route around the various displays and the locomotive exhibits. Access out of the building is via the inward route.
The Nature Trail and lineside walk to the Oakham Canal
There is a fenced walk from the end of the Woolsthorpe Conservation Workshop, through the wagon sidings to connect with a lineside path leading to the remains of the Oakham Canal, which was abandoned in 1840. These paths are firm when dry but are primarily grassed routes suitable for walkers, with a gradient near to the canal.
The Quarry Viewing Area and Sundew Cab
Another fenced walking route starts near the Sundew Café and goes to the Quarry Viewing area and the historic, externally refurbished, Sundew Cab. The first part of the track, past the iron ore tipping dock and quarry office, is relatively easy going. The path then goes up a short, steep, ramp to run along the hedge line at a higher level, where the pathway surface is stone chippings. If you need assistance to access the quarry viewing area please let us know.
Seating is available in the Sundew Café, and outside on the adjacent patio area. There are also seats on the Station Platform and some individual seats in the Simon Layfield Exhibition Centre.
The Museum has toilet facilities for visitors to use, including one separate disabled toilet. These facilities are grouped together a short distance away from the Sundew Café.
For visitors with special needs the nearest Changing Places Toilet facility is situated in Oakham approx. 4 miles from the museum.
Finding your way around and Ironstone Heritage displays
There is a directions board pointing to the principle places to visit at the museum close to the museum entrance and Sundew Café. In addition all points of interest are shown on the site map, which visitors are given on arrival at the admission pay point.
Public displays to aid interpretation and appreciation of our industrial past include wall mounted, large print text, information panels and scale maps. These are supplemented by scale models of quarries, their machines, locomotives and wagons and of course scale model people. The museum does not have any audio displays.
Although only available by prior arrangement, it may be possible to arrange a conducted tour of the site with one of our volunteers. Please ensure that you contact us in advance of your visit to check availability if you would like a conducted tour.
Dogs are welcome
Guide dogs are welcomed, as are companion dogs. However we ask that dogs be kept on a lead throughout your visit to the museum.
We hope that you will enjoy your visit to Rocks by Rail; the Living Ironstone Museum.