National Trust Volunteer supporter groups: Andy Whitley
Volunteer, London and West Middlesex National Trust Volunteer supporter group
Andy Whitley has been volunteering for the London and West Middlesex National Trust Volunteers supporter group since 1996 and here he tells us his story of how he became involved with volunteering.
How it all began
My first introduction to the National Trust was visiting Polesden Lacey on an extremely wet day with other family members who were already members.
We had a great day despite the weather and called into the tearoom. With access to so many wonderful places to visit it was not long before I too became a member and visited a host of places, including surveying the tearooms for the best scones.
On one such visit I came across a leaflet at the property advertising the London and West Middlesex National Trust Volunteers (LWMNTV) supporter group and how they get involved with the National Trust.
I returned from working in Scotland for a year at the end of 1995 and contacted LWMNTV. As a large number of LWM members worked in London at the time, the group would meet in a pub on the first Tuesday of the month. So I attended the next meeting in January 1996.
They were a very welcoming group and managed to sign me up for the next weekend away, where we stayed at Henman Basecamp and worked on the Polesden Lacey Estate. We had a very enjoyable weekend and since that first occasion, I've volunteered approximately once a month for the past 20 years, and loved every minute of it.
" As a volunteer group, we've visited and stayed at many National Trust sites all over England and Wales. "
So what do we do?
We tend to work with the rangers, but when the foot & mouth crisis started in early 2001 we started working with some of the head gardeners on major projects at Belton House & Ham House.
As well as working on the land, LWM have been involved in car parking for major events including concerts and clearing up the site afterwards. Plus stripping out old National Trust owned cottages and their surrounding land and more recently we helped prepare Leith Hill Place before it opened its doors to the public.
" I feel honoured to be a member of LWMTV group and to have the opportunity to volunteer and stay at so many different places around the country."
It's definitely the life for me
When I started volunteering for the National Trust I was in a sales job in the building industry based in London and the South East, which was extremely busy at that time.
Having the opportunity of going away and staying at National Trust places for the weekend volunteering was such a great way to relax in the countryside and I've made many great friends, including staff, over the years.
Being National Trust Volunteers, we have had the advantange of being able to access 'behind the scenes' areas at so many properties over the years, which most of the members don't get the chance to visit.