The strong roots of Ickworth

Ickworth's plant database

Our Volunteers are vital in helping to record and conserve every part of the Ickworth estate, from our portraiture to our plants. Dorothy explains how she keeps up to date with the thousands of plants we house.

Visiting Dorothy we come to the Gardeners Yard at Ickworth where she is beavering away inputting the morning’s data she has already collected, this time from the Lodge.

How did you start volunteering at Ickworth?

‘I got in to this role after retiring from my role as an Occupational therapist, I’d always enjoyed being outside and had taken on a new course at Otley College. I started volunteering at [RHS] Hyde Hall when they advertised for someone to help map their plants, then drew up some plans for Melford Hall, before coming to Ickworth in 2005’

Before we start quizzing Dorothy on precisely the part she plays at Ickworth, usually with clipboard in hand making notes around the grounds, Dorothy explains ‘I don’t really have a set volunteer name role - Garden Volunteer is what my badge says’ between us we try and bat some ideas around ‘Garden Data Volunteer’ and  ‘Plant Identification Volunteer’ are mentioned.

What do you do at Ickworth?

‘I am registered on the National Trust plant data base, and I take note of all flora at Ickworth and input it in to the data base. Information such as where it was acquired, when it was planted, and where it is now.'

What do you most love about volunteering?

‘My favourite thing is being in the outdoors; the fresh air, the observing and checking, less so the inputting information. On a raining day I’ll input all day, but that then means, the next time I’ll allow myself a whole day outside.’

Two years on from the Ickworth outdoor team finding blight spreading through our National collection of Box, the Box Blight project is now part of Ickworth’s history. From Catering’s scone board measuring how many scones would need to be sold to fund it, to the Visitor Experience team selling thousands of raffle tickets raising money and awareness of the vast amount of work and effort that Outdoor team have had and have yet to come.

In this story that is tinged with sadness at having to remove the Box , Dorothy shines a whole new light on a happier part of this story ‘The Plant Conservation Centre was set up to help conserve the diversity of our plant collection, from endangered to unusual. With Ickworth hosting a National Collection of Box, the PCC took a wide selection of cuttings from our plants, before the outbreak of blight, have nursed them, shared them and grown larger plants from them. Ickworth has now claimed back a selection of different Box which has been planted along the new West Wing walkway and will grow to create a new box hedging with a splattering of the variety that originated from here.’

What a way to continue Ickworth’s historical roots!