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Sunday, 5 June 2016

Volunteering for the National Trust at Wallington

The National Trust was set up in 1895, by three Victorian philanthropists: Miss Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley. Their main aim was to protect threatened buildings, countryside and coastline from industrialisation and over development.

From its humble beginnings, the National Trust now protects some 709 miles of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In total, it looks after 627,000 acres of countryside, moorland, coastline and beaches.

Amongst the historic properties in the Trust's care are: 215 houses and gardens, 40 castles, 76 nature reserves, 12 lighthouses, 6 World Heritage Sites, and 43 pubs and inns.

Last year, some 62,000 volunteers gave their time to help Europe's most successful conservation movement and were involved in a wide variety of activities in National Trust properties and sites around the country.

Wallington Hall, Cambo, Northumberland.

It is nearly eight years since I began as a Volunteer at Wallington. Over the years as a member of the National Trust, I have been a regular visitor to Wallington. I chose to work at the property because of the House, grounds and gardens, it is also close to home and easily accessible.

My first thought of volunteering began with a visit to the National Trust website to find out what was available and who to contact for further information.

The Yorkshire and the North East Region deals with all of the volunteering opportunities in this area, and in no time they had supplied me with all of the details and an application form.

Looking at what was available around the area, I decided to apply for the Research and Design Assistant role at Wallington. After an informal interview I was asked to undertake visitor surveys in relation to property literature and information provided.

This enabled me to meet visitors around the grounds and gardens and ask them my prepared questions. At this time, I spent all day carrying out the surveys. The information and comments provided by the visitors were used to prepare new property literature and information sheets for distribution.

Walled Garden.

From this I was asked to carry out another set of surveys: asking visitors about their experience when visiting the House and what visitors thought about the House guide book. Again it allowed me to talk to visitors from all around the country and some even from around the World. I spent the afternoons in the House for the whole of one season i.e. April to October.

House Entrance on East Lawn.

Central Hall of House.

As I try to go to Wallington for a full day and the surveys in the House could only be carried out in the afternoons. I asked if it would be possible to help out in the Walled Garden and grounds.

It was arranged for me to help the gardeners and I now spend all day in the fresh air and working in the magnificent gardens and grounds.

Walled Garden.

I thoroughly enjoy my days at Wallington, I was made welcome from day one and you get to meet other volunteers and members of the National Trust staff. Your time and effort is much appreciated by all of the staff at Wallington.

I would recommend volunteering at a National Trust property or location, it is very rewarding and allows you to learn new skills, meet people and help to conserve important buildings, grounds and countryside near to where you live.

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