Diary of a new volunteer room guide May 3 2016

Charlotte Burford, Conservation and Engagement Assistant Charlotte Burford Conservation and Engagement Assistant
A view, looking west, across to Ranmore Common

Our volunteers are central to everything that we do at Polesden lacey. When you arrive at Polesden you may be greeted by a volunteer car parker, you will come across volunteers in the shop, the café, in visitor reception, in the garden, the estate and, of course, in the house. We even have volunteers working hard behind the scenes helping with everything from conservation to admin. We couldn't do what we do without them. Every year we recruit new volunteers and this year the house team have welcomed over 30 new room guides. This week new volunteer Carol gives us an insight into what life is like for a new volunteer at Polesden Lacey.

Having successfully come through the selection process for new volunteer room guides, I am very excited at the prospect of actually getting started and having my first training session at Polesden Lacey. It's foggy outside as I leave my house - not the best weather for a drive through beautiful countryside towards the estate.

A misty morning at Polesden Lacey
A black and white view of Polesden Lacey through the trees
A misty morning at Polesden Lacey

Meeting other new volunteers

A dozen of us have come together in a room called the 'King's' meeting room for our first induction talk. I smile at both of the people with whom I was interviewed two weeks ago; it’s good to recognise a couple of faces already. As a group of ‘new starters’, we seem to have come from all walks of life and have plans to work across a variety of different areas.

I find myself sitting between two ladies who are both volunteering as gardeners. One of them tells me that she's chosen this role so she can get plenty of exercise and fresh air while working in the beautiful gardens. Now why didn’t I think of that?

The moment all volunteers are waiting for

Following a very informative induction session, the moment we've all been waiting for finally arrives! We are all given our bright pink Polesden Lacey lanyards and our National Trust volunteer name badges - hurrah! Not only are we now officially part of the team, but we can also get a discount in the shop and cafe. I'm looking forward to adding to Polesden's revenue stream already.

Access to unseen spaces

A quick orientation tour takes us outside again and into areas not normally seen by the general public. There are some beautiful cottages with picket fences and, most importantly, car parking spaces for us to use when we are working.

We're also shown Mrs Greville’s grave and those of her pets. One lady who lived nearby said she had been searching for these for years! Finally, in a smaller group, we say goodbye to our new friends and are taken into the dedicated house volunteer break room to sign up for our first sessions as bona fide room guides.

A spot of lunch

I sign myself out of the staff register and make my way towards lunch, choosing the recommended dish 'Chicken Bukkenade', which is apparently a recipe from Tudor times. It is good and also warmimg- which is very welcome as an antidote to my somewhat chilly hands and feet.

The Polesden Lacey social scene

I take the opportunity to begin reading some of the very well written material we have been given. There seems to be so much going on here at Polesden Lacey and so many opportunities to acquire new skills or experiences.

I make a mental note to diary the date for the first staff and volunteer sociaI. I had no idea just how important volunteers were to the successful running of the estate and therefore how hard the organisation works on internal communication, which is very impressive.

Brushing up on the facts

Then it’s off to the shop to buy a copy of Mrs Greville’s biography. With the little I know about our benefactor already, she sounds an extraordinary woman, so I am looking forward to a fascinating read.

Then, thank goodness, the sun breaks through the clouds and its lovely to see all the walkers and their assorted dogs enjoying their tea and cake outside. It looks like spring may finally have sprung. Time for the walk I have been promising myself all week.

Mrs Greville in all her finery
A painted portrait of Margaret Greville wearing a black hat and a fur
Mrs Greville in all her finery

While I'm walking I will be able to review in my head all the interesting and helpful information I've learned today and think about the wonderfully warm welcome I've received from everyone I've met at Polesden Lacey. I am so pleased that I decided to become a volunteer. I feel very fortunate to be in such a privileged position.

Blog written by new volunteer Carol Fisher.

Mrs Greville speaks with some guests with a Facebook logo in the corner of the picture

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