On Monday 22 October I was thrilled to be travelling to Westminster Abbey with some of my Charlecote colleagues to represent the property at a very special service. Lauren, Emma, Sarah and I all got our posh frocks on and excitedly boarded trains to London. We weren’t sure what to expect having only seen Westminster on TV for wonderful occasions such as the Royal Wedding – we must also admit to googling the latest Royal Wedding to see who was sat where!
When we got to the Abbey, the entrance at the West door was flanked by National Trust Rangers holding flags. The National Trust flag was also flying proudly from the top of the abbey – unfortunately it was quite foggy so I don’t think it could be seen for miles around as hoped!
There were many tourists in the capital who wanted to go inside the Abbey but the service was an invite only event! We waved our posh invites and were allowed in to the magnificent abbey to take our seats.
Each of us had seats in different parts of the Abbey. My seat was towards the very front by the pulpit in the North Lantern. I was sat with a volunteer from Belton and the chair of the North Norfolk NT Association. It was lovely to meet other supporters and chat about what they enjoy about their roles.
The abbey itself was stunning. I spent much time gawping at the beautiful architecture as well as the beautiful flowers. There were 8 very large, striking flower displays – the flowers and foliage being collected from National Trust gardens across the south west!
The reason we were all gathered – hundreds of us from across the UK! – were to celebrate the achievements of one of our founders, Octavia Hill. This remarkable woman not only appreciated and championed our great outdoors but was a social reformer too. She played a pivotal role in the housing reform movement and had a life long passion for learning and welfare.
Her words from ‘Space for the people’ were read out by our Chairman, Simon Jenkins. I took particular comfort from the picture she painted… ‘hundreds of working people spread over the green open space like a stream that has just escaped from between rocks. They sit on the grass; the baby grabs at the daisies, the tiny children toddle about, the mother’s arms are rested, and there she sits till it is time to return.’
I have a young son and indeed treasure the moments he is exploring our wonderful outdoors whilst I may sit and rest my arms too! It is also a sight I love to see when working here at Charlecote – Families pouring down our drive way with picnics and enthusiasm to get out and explore together.
Wyn Davies, a ranger from Wales, gave a particularly rousing speech about why he is proud to be an NT ranger and gave thanks to Octavia Hill for her vision and passion. My favourite bit of his speech is this…
“A memory that will last with me forever is when I took a group of refugees around Dinefwr Park on a beautiful summers day and a young girl who had witnessed some terrible atrocities in her life asked me – “Is this heaven?”. And to me those few words sums up what we are all about creating that little bit of heaven in a sometimes troubled world.”
During the service a memorial stone to Octavia Hill was unveiled. You can watch a video of the stone being calved and installed in the abbey here…
What a wonderful day we had and all came back batteries fully charged and feeling proud to be part of such a great organisation that is The National Trust.