This week we have a lovely post from one of our volunteers, Val. Here Val gives an insight into her role at Charlecote and what it means to her. If you are interested in joining our volunteer team, just drop us a line. We are looking to recruit a number of people to help with our additional opening in 2013!
After I retired what was I going to do to make sure I had a mix of activities from family to social to keeping fit? Having given some thought to a range of volunteering opportunities I decided to try the National Trust at CharlecotePark, initially as a Room Guide.
On my first day I was welcomed by a long-serving Guide who gave me a good introduction to the House. But how was I going to remember all the facts I was given? It was heartening to be told that I would remember little and with my poor memory how right that was! Luckily each room has a folder containing all the relevant information and there are always Guides on hand who are far more knowledgeable who have the answers. I needn’t have worried though, because as time goes by, it’s surprising how much you do remember when visitors are so interested in the house and lives of the Lucy family. Volunteers are rewarded for their efforts with a piece of cake at each session which is gratefully received even if it’s not low-calorie!
The management team is continually thinking of ways to promote and improve the visitor experience for Charlecote. To this end, the chimney in the Victorian Kitchen was relined and we were able to light the range. This brought the kitchen to life and I now divide my time between acting as a Room Guide and dressed as a cook in the Victorian kitchen. We use a variety of historical recipes cooking Welsh cakes, puddings etc. This has become very popular with visitors and is rewarding for volunteers to see their enthusiasm. One little boy was so excited to see an open fire and asked numerous questions about the flames and charcoal that his mother had difficulty encouraging him to leave to see the rest of the house. The kitchen was obviously the highlight of his day and hopefully this will encourage a repeat visit.
From my experience, the volunteers are much appreciated by National Trust staff and we feel valued and included. At the beginning and end of each season team leaders from the various sections of the property give their reports or suggestions for future development. There is an annual outing to another National Trust property or historical house and a tea party held in the Orangery.
One of the benefits that encouraged me to offer my services was the complete flexibility as to which days, how many hours and how often I volunteer. The staff are grateful for whatever help we are able to give.
I enjoy the time I spend at CharlecotePark meeting many interesting people from all over the world who have come to visit a beautiful house and park.
Val Lees, Charlecote volunteer