Decorating Christmas trees at Standen

myvolunteering correspondent, South East

Carol Gibbs - myvolunteering correspondent

Carol Gibbs talks about the numerous volunteers at Standen who have helped to make Christmas trees in the house and garden especially festive this year.

Winter Tree outside Standen after dark

This year at Standen, there was at the last count 13 Christmas trees, within and outside of the house. Jan Chapple has been a volunteer at Standen for 14 years, and has been the chief house and Christmas tree decorator for the past 8 years. More recently this has been with the support of House Manager, Ben Dale.

Each year the displays have become bigger and better, and Jan has earned her reputation as Mrs Christmas. This year there is one tree that many of the other Standen volunteers have decorated, under the tutelage of Zandra Rhodes and Andrew Logan, the designers. The tree in question is pink, very pink, neon pink, with a very contemporary look. The 'Winter Tree' is presented as a modern interpretation of a Christmas tree, with strong links to the traditional craft principles, reflecting the ethos of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Chris Eakins, Visitor and Commercial Operations Manager oversaw three days in mid-November with 10-15 volunteers wrapping each tree branch in pink fabric, hanging recycled materials including many hand-mirrors, and filling large perspex baubles with toys donated by the volunteers, all in line with the designers instructions.

In the meantime, Jan was busy coordinating and arranging with six volunteer friends to decorate all the trees in the house, with each tree representing different decades from Victorian through to the present day, and spending nearly two weeks to decorate the house, to tremendous effect. Jan's husband, Mike, is also a volunteer at Standen and can usually be found working at the visitor reception, but he's been kept busy climbing trees and bushes collecting greenery to be used in the making of the Christmas wreaths displayed on doors around the property.

Jan started as a volunteer at Standen following a move to the area, and has made many friends over the years, with regular get togethers and volunteer events, and describes the volunteers as 'one big happy family'. Nigel Jackson started at Standen as a volunteer earlier this year, and has been working in the kitchen garden, hoping to venture into the shop next season, and enjoying the flexibility of being able to move around the site. The garden work has proved to be particularly useful to pick up knowledge from the others in the 'garden gang', and take to Nigel's allotment.

Both Jan and Nigel say they have benefited from their time as volunteers to meet new people, discover new interests, and all round have a lot of fun. Sadly there was no sign of volunteer Brian, the Standen woodland Santa maybe he’s hiding behind the pink tree!

Carol Gibbs, myvolunteering correspondent

Over the last three years, Carol has been a volunteer at the South Foreland Lighthouse on top of the Dover Cliffs, working in Mrs Knott's Tea-room.