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Meet the volunteers

A woman with long black hair is tending to some plants in a walled garden on a sunny day. She is wearing a raincoat and has a smile on her face.
Farida Shirley, a volunteer at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk | © Farida Shirley/Oxburgh Hall

Across the National Trust, there are thousands of volunteers at houses, gardens and unique landscapes across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They give almost 4.8 million hours of their time a year in more than 500 different roles to support the work we do. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to volunteer for the National Trust, here are a selection of stories that may inspire you to get involved.

Farida Shirley, volunteer gardener at Oxburgh Hall

Farida first fell in love with Oxburgh almost 20 years ago and now, with the kids grown up and free time on her hands, she returned to join the team as a garden volunteer. From learning how to trim hedges, perfecting the art of lavender topiary in the parterre and creating willow-weaved baskets, the list of things Farida has undertaken during her time at Oxburgh is ever-growing.

‘I love being with like-minded people and having the opportunity to expand my horticultural knowledge from June, the Head Gardener. I treat it as ‘my day’ to be outside getting fresh air and exercise, which is extremely beneficial to my health and wellbeing. I’ve been involved in such a variety of tasks from helping in a birdbox workshop and then installing them in Our Lady’s Wood, to assisting with Christmas garland workshops, learning the art of lavender topiary and family outdoor events in the woods (learning to whittle a wand and making s’mores was a favourite of mine).

‘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. The staff are especially encouraging if we want to try new things too.’

Richard Porter, ranger supporter at Blakeney National Nature Reserve, Norfolk

Richard Porter started volunteering with the National Trust in 2002 and has contributed thousands of hours to the countryside team at Blakeney National Nature Reserve.

He spent all his working life in conservation and ornithology and continues that passion in his voluntary role helping the rangers on Blakeney Point. His duties include bird, butterfly and plant surveys as well as acting as eyes and ears for the National Trust.

Blakeney Point is my spiritual home, it’s near where I live and to quote from Richard Loev, in his discussions on travel to far-flung lands, whilst forgetting the wonderful places on our doorstep, ‘Near is the new Far’.

A quote by Richard PorterNational Trust Volunteer
Volunteer talking with visitors at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire
Peter, a House Experience volunteer at Anglesey Abbey | © National Trust Images/Trevor Ray Hart

Peter, house experience volunteer at Anglesey Abbey

Peter has been a House Experience volunteer since 1985. His role is incredibly varied and includes giving introductory talks to people waiting to come inside, answering questions about the collection and entertaining children.

‘I enjoy meeting the public and seeing them have a good day out. I like to ask what visitors’ interests are so I can tailor what I talk about. It’s not as difficult as you might first think, as there are a few objects and facts that come up regularly. No one is expected to know everything.

‘I get a kick out of pointing out things they wouldn’t normally notice, making people feel welcome and making their day.

Doing this job keeps me sane and I never know who you’re going to meet. In fact, I’ve met a few well-known faces over the years.’

James Drury, volunteer at Longshaw estate in Derbyshire

James began volunteering at Longshaw Estate, Derbyshire, with his carer Andrew as part of his Duke of Edinburgh awards.

A black and white portrait of volunteer James Drury in front of a project of the house at Longshaw
James Drury, a volunteer at Longshaw estate | © National Trust Images/John Millar

James’s father Peter says that being outside in beautiful surroundings and socialising with his carer, the staff and visitors make James feel good:

'James has profound learning disability and autism. His volunteering forms part of his routine. It gives him a social life, as he’s spending time outdoors meeting other people, whether that’s Trust staff or families out walking on the moors. He’s got an amazing smile and so much charisma. People just warm to him. James is part of the team at Longshaw and he’s a great example of what can be achieved with the right support and the right attitude.'

James is still volunteering with his support worker Andrew on the weekends. In addition to that, we are supporting James’ transition from full time college education to a ‘new normal’ for him. James thrives on routine, so a tricky time for him. Our team are working with one of James’ support teachers, Sam, to have him volunteer at Longshaw during the week, with agreed goals and milestones. It’s a real privilege to help James take these next steps.

A group of people listening to a volunteer as they lead a guided tour around the house of Mompesson House, Salisbury, Wiltshire

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