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A day in the life of English Heritage volunteers

Posted:
6 June 2016
Posted By:
Jenni Black
Categories:
Behind the Scenes
Flo and Sue, two of the volunteers in the Neolithic huts at Stonehenge.

Around 2000 people volunteer at our sites across the country. From gardening to giving guided tours to school parties, the volunteers keep our properties looking beautiful and are always on hand to answer questions. But what exactly does a day at English Heritage look like for our volunteers?

9am: Morning briefing at Wrest Park

With over 90 acres of gardens to enjoy, including over 40 statues to spot, it’s no surprise that visitors to Wrest Park in Bedfordshire might need a bit of help finding their way around.

Annie Lawton, who volunteers as a Meet and Greet Volunteer at Wrest Park says: ‘From day one I was hooked – I love meeting new people and no two days are ever the same. The morning briefing tells you what’s ahead but it’s the people who turn up and the stories you go home with that make it interesting.

‘I soon realised that you don’t have to remember everything – just get to grips with the radio and you can always ask for help!’

The gardens at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire

Visitors can explore over 90 acres of gardens at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire

10am: Preparing for an under 5s morning at Kenwood

Standing on the edge of Hampstead Heath, Kenwood House is an oasis of calm, with a world-class art collection and tranquil gardens. Kenwood is free to all members of the public, so we rely on a dedicated team of volunteers to keep look after the gardens, house and visitors.

Catherine Raggett, one of the volunteers at Kenwood says: “I volunteer on Fridays. In the morning I help run an under 5s activity group. We have a theme, we then do a craft activity, we sing together, we read them a story, and then we take them around the house looking for paintings which have the chosen theme in them.

“My favourite memory doing under 5s is just watching the children grow up. Many of them come each week so it is so special seeing them turn into little people.”

Catherine Raggett volunteering at Kenwood.

Volunteer, Catherine Raggett, running an under 5s craft workshop at Kenwood

2pm: A school trip arrives at Stonehenge

Schools across England bring history lessons to life with trips to our properties, and our volunteers help spark childrens’ imaginations by showing them exactly how people would have lived in the past.

Rebecca Vickers, who helps with educational visits at Stonehenge, says: “The children may learn about prehistory and Stonehenge in their classrooms; however it is a unique opportunity to be able to walk around the stones and reconstruct a Bronze Age burial on the barrows, as we do in the visit.

“I love being able to provide an engaging and exciting day for the schools to really get involved with the archaeology.”

4pm: Tending to the gardens at Osborne

The gardens at Osborne, Queen Victoria’s seaside home on the Isle of Wight, are varied; including a Victorian walled garden with fruit trees, the terrace garden with ornate bedding displays and wider parkland with trees planted by Prince Albert himself. This means the gardens require a lot of maintenance to keep them tidy and beautiful.

Hilary Pulsford, Andrew Cole and Jill Scutt – who used to work at Osborne and has come back to volunteer after she retired – are part of the team who look after the walled garden.

As well as weeding, planting and trimming plants, some more unusual jobs can crop up. As Andrew is a retired hairdresser he was recently given the very apt task of trimming the topiary pigs!

Volunteers Hilary Pulsford, Andrew Cole and Jill-Scutt in the walled garden at Osborne.

Volunteers Hilary Pulsford, Andrew Cole and Jill Scutt in the walled garden at Osborne

6pm: Closing Time at Scarborough Castle

One of the benefits of being a volunteer is the chance to enjoy the places and views at peaceful times of day. At Scarborough Castle, the 12th-century great tower rises above the North Sea to give panoramic views of the Yorkshire Coast.

While good weather can’t be guaranteed, Linda Wilson says: “It is lovely to be surrounded by so much history with the added bonus of the wonderful views over Scarborough and the coastline.”

The view from Scarborough Castle

The view from Scarborough Castle – the only place in the town where you can can enjoy fantastic views of both the north and south bays

Are you interested in volunteering?

If you are interested in volunteering for English Heritage, see the opportunities currently available and find out more about volunteering with us.

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  • About the Author

    Jenni Black
    Jenni is a Digital Content Editor for English Heritage

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