Reflections of a volunteer gardener at Croft Castle

Borders in the Walled Garden at Croft Castle, Herefordshire

In March 2015 volunteer Chris Evans joined the gardening team at Croft Castle.

Many volunteers have been at Croft for several years, some travelling many miles to be here. I can see why. The atmosphere is special. Everyone connected with it seems to love it, and care about its future.
The volunteers were a friendly and varied bunch, of both genders, a range of ages and nationalities. There was lively debate and frequent laughter. Most weeks one or more of us arrived with cake or biscuits, so we had to garden extra hard, to work off the calories.
I have a small suburban garden, and it was a delight to work in beds and borders on a scale such as the ones at Croft. It was particularly special to be involved with the walled garden, and see its progress from March, when we were cutting back last year’s growth, through the changing seasons to its summer glory. 
Visitors’ reactions to the gardens - especially to the more showy plants and trees - is really positive. Some return again and again to see the garden evolve. Part of the pleasure of volunteering is chatting to them, hearing about their gardens, and meeting dogs and children.
One of the highlights of my time at Croft was our gardeners’ creative response to our D-Day celebration weekend. Jonathan and James made a ‘Dig For Victory’ allotment, complete with chickens (real), rabbits (stuffed) and a fully-furnished Anderson Shelter (with sandbags; bunks; a red, white and blue rag rug, made by a volunteer;  a wireless; and period games). 
Children loved it and older visitors who had experienced the war, told us they thought it was very authentic. The weekend was a poignant reminder of the Second World War.
Other memories of my time as a gardener here include the chorus of frogs that serenaded visitors from the pond in spring, and the stunning display put on by the Cornus Kousa tree - a mass of white blossom, turning pink over a few weeks. 
My days here have been incredibly satisfying. I hesitated for a long time before volunteering. Did I know enough? Would I fit in? To my great pleasure, and thanks to the gardeners and other volunteers, it seems to be mainly a matter of joining in, and reaping the rewards.
With many Trust properties all over the country, there’s scope for anyone to spend time helping visitors enjoy a garden or beautiful house.