Volunteer profile: Meet Farida Shirley

Volunteer Gardener, Oxburgh Hall

Farida Shirley - Volunteer Gardener

Farida first fell in love with Oxburgh almost 20 years ago, now with the kids grown up and free time on her hands, she came back to join the team as a garden volunteer.

Volunteer in the garden at Oxburgh Hall

Why did you become a volunteer at Oxburgh Hall?

A change of circumstances allowed me the free time to volunteer as a gardener at Oxburgh Hall, something I had always wanted to do ever since my first visit to the property almost 20 years ago with young children in tow. And I wanted to learn more about gardening, as my knowledge was somewhat limited to growing veg!

What do you love about volunteering at Oxburgh?

Being with like minded people and having the opportunity to expand my horticultural knowledge from the fantastic Head Gardener June and the other volunteers is what I love most about this role. I also treat it as ‘my day’ to be outside in the fresh air, both that and the exercise is extremely beneficial to my health and wellbeing.

I’ve been involved in such a variety of tasks since joining the team in 2014. From helping in a birdbox workshop and then installing them in Our Lady’s Wood, to assisting with Christmas garland workshops and family outdoor events in the woods (learning to whittle a wand and making s’mores was a favourite of mine). 

I’ve learnt how to trim hedges, perfected the art of lavender topiary in the parterre, constructed hurdles, willow-weaved baskets and worked on the herbaceous border through the seasons - the list goes on.

I’ve met some great people along the way, everybody is extremely friendly and we swap tips and ideas on everything from gardening, baking, TV programmes and local events.

Where’s your favourite spot at Oxburgh?

I can’t really pick a favourite, there are so many! As the garden changes seasonally, I suppose my favourites depend on the time of year. The herbaceous border is a favourite when it comes into its own in summer, the vegetable garden is perfect around autumn, Our Lady’s Wood is especially magical in the winter and in the spring the Wilderness is full of the promise of nesting birds and undergrowth beasties.

See the garden in full bloom at Oxburgh Hall
Visitors in the garden at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk
See the garden in full bloom at Oxburgh Hall

What’s surprised you most about volunteering?

It’s very flexible and can fit in around other commitments, and there are a lot of opportunities to try different aspects of the role, there’s also the opportunity to be trained on various equipment. The staff are especially encouraging if we want to try new things too. 
There’s also a great camaraderie about the place and lots of social events planned for volunteers to attend.

What have you learnt since joining the team?

I’ve learnt about the different aspects of the grounds at Oxburgh, from maintenance of woodland and parkland to the evolving planting schemes. In fact, before volunteering I wasn’t aware of how many ‘hidden’ teams of volunteers existed that are responsible for such a vast area of the gardens, and the sheer hard work and time that is needed to retain the gloriousness of places like this.

What would you say to someone thinking about volunteering?

If anyone has some spare time on their hands and would like to pursue an interest, learn something new and/or meet new people then the National Trust is perfect, as it is all-welcoming and has something for everyone.