It’s national volunteer week 1st – 7th June and we’d like to celebrate our volunteers. Our volunteer army come from all different walks of life and vary in age from 20 to 85. They support the Trust in all sorts of ways, from welcoming visitors, helping with events, gardening, maintaining the grounds, monitoring the book room, research, leading guided tours, helping to make funding bids and so much more! We’ve been chatting to a few of our volunteers about their volunteering experience.
Paula – Gardens & Grounds Volunteer
My name is Paula and I’ve volunteered at Middleton Hall since June 2016. I work outside in the gardens. I help look after the herb garden, the Walled Garden, the areas in and around the Hall, and in and around the orchard. I’ve done everything from picking and bunching lavender for sale, deadheading roses, tying in new growth on clematis, roses and wisteria; to pricking out seedlings in the greenhouse, digging out entire beds, splitting clumps, replanting herbaceous plants, cleaning the pond and all kinds of weeding, pruning fruit trees.
Volunteering was something I was looking forward to doing when I retired, to work outdoors and to be of some benefit. As a keen amateur gardener I had always fancied working in a large “professional or public” garden. I get fresh air, exercise, have met some very interesting people, from entirely different walks of life, learnt a lot from them and we have a laugh. I enjoy the variety and I have been able to use my own knowledge and initiative; we’re not always told what to do or how!
Volunteering is not about individual achievement, it’s teamwork. The herb garden and Walled Garden have been transformed. I know exactly which parts I planted myself, like the poppies and the foxgloves, but that’s just a small part of it. Hearing visitors’ comments is useful and satisfying. Coming across wildlife whilst working is a bonus – hedgehogs, snakes, a variety of birds and insects.
I would encourage others to volunteer here, especially if they want to try something new, meet different people, be part of a team and contribute to Middleton Hall’s survival and success. And we need their skills, knowledge & manpower!
Paula, Gardens & Grounds Volunteer
Linda – Admin Volunteer
My name is Linda and I have been volunteering at Middleton Hall since October 2017. I help out in the office with a variety of tasks including inputting information onto the computer, scanning and printing or any other clerical duties given.
I am a full-time carer for my son and have not worked for 17 years. I decided to volunteer to regain my confidence, gain computer knowledge and have adult conversations. Volunteering has helped me to find me, Linda, again and not just be a mum! I feel capable, useful and needed. I enjoy being at Middleton Hall just learning and being myself.
I have achieved some computer knowledge but know I have more to learn. My biggest achievement is regaining some confidence through volunteering and meeting the lovely people at Middleton Hall who have made me feel welcome.
I would certainly recommend volunteering to others. It can help so many people in so many different ways: building friendships, improving mental health, gaining work experience and getting some exercise. You can do as little or as much as you like, convenient to your everyday life!
Linda, Admin Volunteer
Stella – Visitor Engagement Volunteer
I started volunteering for Middleton Hall late last year to gain experience in the management of heritage properties in order to complement my masters in human osteology and funerary archaeology. I have organized a new exhibition in the gardens, transforming each of the four raised flowerbeds to represent cooking, medicine, home use and fragrance though history and into the present. I have also worked on display notices and booklets to accompany each section. There is a fifth raised flowerbed that will display the herbs that will be sold in the little gift shop, with the rest going into arranging displays in other rooms of the hall. The idea is to link the gardens, house and work done by Sir Francis Willoughby and John Ray together in an interactive and, hopefully, fun way.
Future plans will hopefully involve working on setting up displays in the kitchen on the preservation of herbs with someone there to give interactive demonstrations. There is also the possibility to set up other models such as a perfume distiller, to further engage visitors and talk about herbs and plants many uses.
Writing this down makes it seems like there is no connection between working with herbs in a heritage setting and my degree, but they both allow me to develop a wide skill set that will look good to future employers. I am also able to combine a few of my long standing interests such as archaeology, and using herbs in cooking and beauty (I make my own skin and hair care at home in my spare time). I also enjoy working with different kinds of people and learning new things from them.
I would definitely encourage people to volunteer to learn new skills and develop existing ones. You also get to meet new people that you may not necessarily have met before.
Stella, Museum Volunteer
Mary – Events Volunteer
My name is Mary and I have been volunteering at Middleton Hall for about four years. I like to get involved in events such as Plant Hunters’ Fair, Middleton Motors Monthly and seasonal events in the winter. The variety of tasks I undertake include: selling plants, fruit and jams grown and/or made on site; selling drinks and snacks to visitors and welcoming visitors into the Hall on Front of House.
I work full-time as a teaching assistant but I started volunteering at Middleton Hall on some weekends because it’s fun and I feel like I am making a difference to the charity. It is very satisfying knowing that Middleton-produced plants and produce are making a small amount of money that gets invested back into the Trust. I would most certainly recommend volunteering to others as it is fulfilling, enjoyable and you meet lots of interesting people.
Mary, Events Volunteer
Our volunteers are awesome! Thank you for everything you do!