Marketing Volunteer, Isle of Wight
Mark first volunteered as a school boy for the National Trust in the 1970s and was involved with important clearing work at the Needles Battery. Having enjoyed his experience then, he decided to return to volunteering. But proving you can volunteer in many ways for us, he chose a different role this time round.
Volunteering from school
I first volunteered with the National Trust in the mid-1970s, organised through school at weekends. We started by clearing footpaths on St Helens Duver and Luccombe Chine, both places we occasionally came back to. But we mainly worked at the Needles Old Battery.
This was just after the National Trust took it on and our usual work was removing unwanted First and Second World War single-storey buildings on the original Palmerstone-era parade ground. However, one of our earliest jobs was to clear the rubbish and rubble from the tunnel down to the lookout post. When we’d finished, the views from the post were spectacular and a great place to watch the puffins which were then common at the Needles.
Reinstating the guns
It wasn’t all clearing and shovelling. The Armstrong nine inch guns installed at the battery in 1863 were soon obsolete and rather than drag them, away the army tipped them over the cliff into Scratchell’s Bay. Scratchell’s is only accessible from the sea and it wasn’t until the late 1970s after a storm, that a passing sailor spotted a trunnion from one of the guns protruding from the shingle beach. One late spring Saturday soon after, various people including engineers and photographers piled into an old wooden launch at Yarmouth and chugged round.
We shovelled more of the shingle away to inspect the gun thoroughly. I remember it was a calm, sunny day and the concave shape of the chalk cliffs at one end of the bay meant sunburn for all. The gun must have passed inspection because the Royal Engineers were persuaded to pull it up the cliffs as an exercise, and it is still on display today.
" We were also briefly on national Television. One gusty Saturday we were interviewed and filmed by the BBC dismantling old brick walls. "
Coming back to volunteering with us
Fast forward thirty five years and I found myself with time on my hands. It seemed obvious to go back to the National Trust, and I spend a few hours a week in the estate office helping with admin and marketing. Why volunteer for the National Trust? I meet interesting people, have had experiences I wouldn’t otherwise have had, and most importantly, in a small way, help the Trust to carry on with the great job it does of preserving, maintaining and sharing everything from old forts and small cottages, to palaces and ancient woodland.