On a first date I was taken not to any fancy, or romantic candle lit restaurant but instead to Chartwell. As it transpired it was an inspirational choice.
Having guided me round the historic house, walked me round the beautiful gardens, pointed out the splendid views over the weald of Kent, then finally was introduced to the delights of an English tea of scones, clotted cream and jam. At this point I should point out I'm originally from Kenya so in every aspect the experience was an eye opener.
Over the ensuing years and after further regular visits it has become a place of enormous sentimental and emotional memories.
So why did I become a volunteer?
I think, or rather, I believe over the course of time it was a natural progression in wanting to learn more of Winston Churchill as well as the house, its contents and particularly to the period it played during the darkest hours of the second world war. The complete story of the man, of Chartwell, is one that is still being written and it is now when I'm entering my second season as a volunteer I would never claim to have no more than but a limited Knowledge.
To be in the environs of Chartwell is a very fulfilling experience and here I'm grateful to the other volunteers; ever friendly and always willing to fill in the gaps as well as providing further valuable nuggets of information. It is striking just how many visitors I meet, who are as I was, regular returners to Chartwell.
One aspect I particularly enjoy is the number of foreign visitors from all parts of the globe Chartwell receives and the pleasure it gives me to pass on information and stories which I hope adds to their enjoyment of the day.
As I am in full time employment I am only able to spend a few hours every month which is far less than I would wish for because I can be assured when leaving Chartwell I always leave with a smile on my face.
Although I was reluctant to step forward, I would now say to anyone interested in volunteering there is so much to be gained by becoming part of the team, here there is a true sense of friendship with smiles on visitors and staff. What is there not to like!
If I had to sum up Chartwell I would say for me it is a unique place, a place of immense historic importance, a jewel in the National Trust and in so many aspects a place in our natural heritage which just keeps on giving.
One final note, the man who took me on that first date is and for some years been my husband.