A day in the life of a garden guide at Hidcote

Sue Crofts enjoys being a volunteer garden guide at Hidcote  © Sue Crofts

Sue Crofts enjoys being a volunteer garden guide at Hidcote

Sue Crofts
Volunteer garden guide

As I live in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire I have to leave home about an hour before I want to start at Hidcote. Because I like to be there early in the morning this usually means an 8am start. I love to get to Hidcote when the garden is quiet and fresh and I can have a walk around to discover the things I want to tell the visitors about.

I sign in and look at the board to see which other guides are due in. As I am often first in, I decide when to do the first talk, liaise with reception and put the signs up. I usually have an hour or so before the first talk and I spend that time walking around the garden, greeting visitors and answering any questions about the plants or history of the Manor. I also like to have a chat with the gardeners and garden volunteers and see what they’re doing.

My first talk of the day at around 11am is usually well attended and provokes a number of follow-up questions. If there are other guides in they'll have put the signs up for the next talk, if not I’ll do it myself. As there is no permanent site for talks, where they take place is usually decided by the weather! If it’s wet, it’s the Plant House; if it’s very warm, somewhere in the shade.

As a guide I choose not to stay in one place. It’s challenging because you run the risk of being asked a question about anything, anywhere but I like a challenge and it has helped me to increase my knowledge of the garden.

By lunchtime I’m ready for soup or a sandwich and usually go to the Barn Café. I sit down for 20 minutes or so and treat myself to a look at the plants for sale in the plant centre. There are so many lovely things that I rarely go home empty handed!

After lunch it’s back to the talks and the garden. I usually finish around 3pm and drive home feeling tired but satisfied that I’ve enthused a few more people about Hidcote and its beautiful garden.

I’ve been a garden guide for seven years and would recommend it to anyone who has a love of plants and garden history. Visitors love to listen to the ‘story of the garden’ and the little ‘snippets’ of information they would miss otherwise. Being in the garden with visitors, it can be hard to get the balance right between being intrusive and being informative but with a little bit of perception you can usually read the situation and act accordingly.