Kellie Channing - house steward at Dudmaston

With 90 volunteers and two staff members to take care of, Dudmaston's house steward Kellie Channing has certainly got her hands full. Somehow she still manages to find time to be a ‘Green Champion’ to her colleagues and has helped make some big energy savings.

We caught up with Kellie over her three daily cups of coffee to find out more.

    10.30am, black coffee and a packet of Wotsits

    What’s the best bit about mornings at Dudmaston?

    I actually live at Dudmaston with my husband, who's a forest ranger, so the best thing about mornings for me is walking my dogs around the lake. Every morning I see herons and now there are coots and swans making their nests too. It’s called the Big Pool, but you wouldn’t want to dive in – it’s clean, but we’ve got a lot of Canada geese and pike, and also our reed bed sewerage system feeds into it.

    What does your role involve?

    Now that Dudmaston has opened after the winter break, I’m making sure the hall is ready for visitors. I’ve got two colleagues in my team and while they do the cleaning, I’m in the office making sure the admin is up to date. I also have more than 90 volunteers to organise, which takes up most of my time. I ordered 130 cakes last week for them to keep them all going! They’re vital to Dudmaston and the Trust so it’s important to make sure they’re happy and supported.

    And you’re a Green Champion too?

    I’ve been a Green Champion at Dudmaston since the project started in 2011. We’ve been making some really simple changes like swapping fixed electric wall heaters for wood burners in the tea room, gardeners office and reception area. The wood comes from the estate so there’s no mileage on it at all. When they all get fired up in the morning they smell wonderful. We’ve also got two wood chip boilers on the estate which provide heating and hot water to the office and volunteer accommodation. Making small changes like this has made a massive difference. In my first year as a Green Champion we made a 50 per cent saving on our energy bill.

    12.30pm, black coffee and beans on toast

    What have you been up to since we last met?

    This morning, conservators came over from Cliveden to fix a damaged sundial and an urn that’s been broken. So I’ve been organising those works and also my volunteers and team to make sure we’re ready for visitors and our collection is well presented.

    How did you get into being a house steward?

    I’ve been doing this job now for nine years. Before I had my children I was a graphic designer, but then when they were small I took a part-time role as a visitor services assistant at Alfriston Clergy House. From there I went on to Nymans as a conservation assistant and then came here as a house steward. I really enjoy my job, but I’ve recently been thinking about becoming an environmental practices advisor for the Trust and will be shadowing one of our fantastic advisors, Ed Wood.

    What do you love about your role?

    It sounds sad, but I really like graphs and statistics. I love it when the environmental advisors send out reports that show how much energy all of the Trust places have been using and saving. I like to see how we compare with others; I love the competition.

    Now we’ve done all the quick wins – for example swapping normal lightbulbs for LEDs and electric heaters for wood burners – we’ve got to think bigger to keep on making progress. The next project on the horizon is a heat pump in our Big Pool.

    Why do you care about energy-saving so much?

    I’ve always been a champion for recycling and energy saving throughout my whole life. When I was a child in the 70s my parents used to recycle papers and while I was living in East Sussex we often used to have water and hose pipe bans, so it made me appreciate our natural resources and not waste them. When I moved up to the midlands, people used to think I was mad because I’d wash my car in the rain.

    I firmly believe in climate change and I do think it’s exacerbated by us, but there’s much we can do to reduce, reuse and recycle to protect the places we love.

    2.30pm, black coffee and a cereal bar

    What are you working on this afternoon?

    There’s always something new going on here. At the moment we’re preparing for a First World War exhibition at Dudmaston called Geoffrey’s War. We’re sifting through letters that were written during the war by Captain Geoffrey Wolryche Whitmore, who used to own Dudmaston. He was based in Egypt but he was also deaf, so his experience of the war was unique and sad, because he felt he wasn’t contributing. We’re transcribing the letters so visitors can read through them easily. It’s fascinating work – he requested at one point that horses wouldn’t be bred from his 3,000 acre estate at Dudmaston because of the way they suffered in the war.

    Lots to pack into your day. Thanks for sharing, Kellie. Final question, who would you like to have ‘tea time’ with?

    I’d love to have a cuppa with Ed Ikin. He’s the general manager at Morden Hall Park and Rainham Hall, and was also the head gardener at Nymans – Ed’s a green living enthusiast like me.