Little over six years ago, friend Robert Jamieson, head gardener at Howick Hall, mentioned they were about to launch their volunteer scheme.
Several acquaintances became involved and frequently explain how much they enjoy the experience. When I caught up with Robert last week and asked whatdifference the volunteer scheme had made at Howick, he responded: “They do a good job, very worthwhile, and have helped the gardeners in a big way.”
Lord Howick pointed out that the volunteers did not threaten the gardeners’ jobs, they were a ‘glorious extra.’ While Lady Howick thought the way volunteers interact with visitors and make them feel relaxed, brought something they’d not had before.
Ann does a weekly stint in the Visitor Centre which beautifully brings all aspects of the Howick experience together. When asked what she enjoyed most, she responded with ‘meeting people,’ and recalled a lady visitor telling her that the room they were in was part of a hospital during the war.
Anticipating increased visitor numbers in the wake of Robson Green’s recent television programme, which visited Howick Hall, volunteer co-ordinators Sally Black and Dorothea Bell, have written to all friends of this registered charity inviting more to join their respective teams. Sally organises the gardeners, Dorothea, those who opt for the Visitor Centre.
Sally explains that they help the gardening staff in the rock garden, bog garden, borders, silver wood and nursery, which involves all kinds of maintenance. A flexible system encourages one day per week ‘s (Monday to Friday) commitment from 9.30am to 3pm, but any length of time is appreciated. There is a break of four weeks over Christmas.
Dorothea’s team are tasked with welcoming visitors and helping them enjoy their day. The new Visitor Centre inside Howick Hall was opened last summer, and has been enthusiastically received. Most frequently asked questions relate to the estate, family history, arboretum and gardens – also Earl Grey tea, I guess!
But a good range of gardening books, files and tours are laid on to help volunteers develop their knowledge of the place. Their home comforts include tea and coffee-making facilities, and of course it’s a lovely place to spend time and meet people from who knows where.
If you are interested in joining the Howick gardening team, contact Sally on 01665 711262 or leave your details at the admissions kiosk. To inquire about becoming a Visitor Centre volunteer, call Dorothea on 01665 589213 or email firstname.lastname@example.org