Thursday, 3 September 2015

My journey to the National Trust

Some of you have asked in the past about the work of the National Trust and how I came to be working for them and what I do.  So today I thought that I would share a bit more about that with you.

The National Trust is a conservation charity which works in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  There is a separate National Trust for Scotland.

The National Trust (NT as I will call it in the rest of this post) was founded in 1895 and to begin with focussed on saving large country houses and then moved to protecting other things such as the landscape of the Lake District and many areas of coastline around the country.

The NT is now one of the largest landowners in the country.  You can join by becoming a member, or by paying to visit an individual place, and many places, such as coastline and the Lake District are free for anyone to visit.  Once you are a member for the most part you do not have to pay to enter any of the places owned by the NT.

There were three original founders, Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley.  You may also be aware of some of the other people that were instrumental in other ways within the trust, such as Beatrix Heelis - better known as Beatrix Potter - who have gifted land, property, money and other things to the NT over the years.  Indeed, Beatrix Heelis was so important to the NT that their head office is named after her and is called Heelis.

The formal purpose of the trust is

"The preservation for the benefit of the Nation of lands and tenements (including buildings) of beauty or historic interest and, as regards lands, for the preservation of their natural aspect, features and animal and plant life.  Also the preservation of furniture, pictures and chattels of any description having national and historic or artistic interest."

The NT is funded mainly through membership subscriptions, property income and legacies, along with things like sales in the shops and delicious items from the restaurants and cafes.  It isn't owned in any way by the government.

There are over 4 million members!!  That is a very large proportion of the population of the country.  No wonder properties get so many visitors each year.  There are also over 60,000 volunteers working with the NT to ensure that visitors can see and do as much as possible.  Thousands of hours are given for free every year.

So, how did I come to the NT.  I don't really remember visiting NT places as a child, but some 20 years ago I started to visit NT places on a holiday to England when I was living in the USA.  When I came back to England to live I carried on visiting such places.  Then when Hubby and I married we were given a joint membership for Christmas one year.  After that we remained members for many years and visited lots of different places.  We definitely got the most out of our memberships!

Then a few years ago I left work and didn't return because we were in our trying to have a baby journey.  I didn't get another full time job because I needed time off for appointments and other things so I started doing voluntary work that was part time and also that allowed me to say "I'm not coming in" if I needed to.  Ever since then that is how my life has continued, even after we decided to end our trying to have a baby journey.

I have held various voluntary positions and continue to do some, some have come and gone, others have remained and no doubt others will come along in the future.  I view what I do as "work" because I treat it in the same professional way as I would treat work.  Also, the things that I do tend to be in offices or work in the same way as a job would do.  Regular hours, need to work to a certain standard etc etc.  It is the same as job, I just don't get paid - bummer!!!  I don't mind and it suits our life very well.  We have come to a great place and are very happy.

But, how did I come to the NT.  Well I was working very hard at a job - that really was like a job, taking work home, endless paperwork etc - and needed to add something a bit lighter into my life.  I saw an advert for the NT asking for volunteers.  It was something that I had looked into previously so I knew a bit about it, and I decided to go to one of the volunteer open days.

I met some of the staff, chatted about the different roles available and filled in an application form.  I also had the fun of watching the person who was to become my "big" boss waving his arms around and getting himself tangled up in an arrangement of flowers and twigs!  I realised that it was going to be fun!

Then you have to have an interview and references are taken up.  My interview was with my lovely manager Neil and we hit it off straight away.  I was accepted, references accepted too - thank goodness! - and then I started as a room guide.  To begin with you are paired up with another guide and they show you the ropes.  I was with a lovely lady and we spent ages talking and she told me all about the house and what to do.  It was a great grounding.

Then the next time I came Neil asked me to guide in a room on my own and then I was off doing my thing.  The opportunity came just a very short period of time later to train as a tour guide.  I took up the offer and went on the training course which was really interesting and great fun too.  Then I started giving guided tours.  At first it was nerve wracking and I still get butterflies and nerves before I start a tour - and this is quite a few years later! - but I think that is a good thing.  I love giving the tours and engaging people and explaining things to them.

We do two sorts of tours at the moment, House Tours which are about the house and the last owners Lord and Lady Iliffe, and we also do Film Tours which are all about the filming that has happened at the house.  We are hoping to expand the tours on offer very soon and I am working on learning about the art in the house so that I can do art tours.

I have a post in the works about the house and I will share that with you soon!  In the meantime, for those who don't know, this is Basildon Park!


I still do some room guiding, visitor greeting and other things as and when I am asked to or have the opportunity to.  In the past I have had the opportunity to help with some conservation work - which is incredibly nerve wracking!!

I love what I do, it is incredibly fulfilling, great fun, I work with a wonderful group of people - staff and volunteers - there is always more to learn about the house, history, art, people and myself too.  Working with the NT has taught me a lot, and not just the obvious things.

Volunteering with the NT is very flexible.  You are asked for a commitment of one session every two weeks as a minimum, although that can be flexible.  You choose what sessions to sign up for yourself and can change days if you want to, or cancel if you need to.  There really is no pressure as I have with other voluntary roles that I have or have had in the past.  I do more than once every two weeks because I love it so much, and sometimes I seem to be at Basildon Park - the NT place where I work - every day!

So, that is how I came to be working for the National Trust!  I hope that you understand a bit more about my role and the work of the NT too.

Would I recommend it.  Well I think that the answer to that is obvious.  Yes, I most certainly would.  For young or old and especially those new to voluntary positions because it is a lot less stressful than some of the other things that I am involved in and so it would make a great place to start.

If you have any other questions, let me know in the comments and I will do my best to reply!

Otherwise visit the NT website and there is all kinds of information there!

Amy

83 comments:

  1. A really interesting post Amy. I'm a big fan of the National Trust and all of the beautiful places and buildings they care for. I spent some time with volunteers at a local arboretum yesterday, and it's clear that people who give their time for free make a huge difference to many things in this country. You're an absolute star for contributing so much, and I'm so glad you enjoy your work and that you're happy. CJ xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you CJ. I am glad that you enjoy the NT and doing your own volunteering. I bet that you are great at it too!! xx

      Delete
  2. A very interesting post, Amy. Thanks for sharing this. It's wonderful to learn such background information and your enthusiasm shines through.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Janet. so kind of you to say. Glad you found it interesting. xx

      Delete
  3. Oh Amy, I loved this post. We are avid fans of the National Trust and the work they do and have been members for many years. We've always found our membership to be great value for money. We've always had a family membership but our girls are too old for that now; however, they have been able to take advantage of the young persons membership, which they can do up until they're 25 I think. Our most recent visits when in Cumbria last week have been to Hill Top, the Beatrix Potter museum in Hawkshead and Acorn Bank (a new acquisition I think and it will be fabulous when it's restored) and just this week we went to Bateman's. I'm always impressed by how knowledgeable the NT staff are and what great stories they have to tell. CJ is right, you are an absolute star. Enjoy the rest of the week. Jane xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so glad to hear that your children are carrying on their own memberships and perhaps someday they will have families to take as well! I love Hill Top and one of my old colleagues works there now and I know she loves it too! I haven't been to Acorn Bank, but that will be a must visit someday too! So glad you enjoy the NT! xx

      Delete
  4. I loved hearing about your volunteering and the NT. If you belong to the one in UK or the one here in Oz, you can visit in either country so I've been told. I'm looking for some sort of volunteer work at the moment as I've not gone back to Vision, as it has changed such a lot. I'll be giving some quilts to the Childrens' Hospital soon too. Thanks for sharing and take care.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I cannot speak for the Australian one accepting UK memberships, but we certainly accept Australia, Scottish, New Zealand and American memberships! I believe that they are all reciprocated in the relevant countries.

      Delete
  5. Such an interesting post Amy, thank you for sharing. I would love to be given a room tour by yourself :) We are lucky to have the NT, they have saved a huge amount of beautiful places over the years, but also land that may well have been built on and ruined. I have a cousin who farms a NT property right on the cliffs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would love to take you round, perhaps someday! The views from your cousins farm must be wonderful, what an amazing property to farm, but very hard conditions I imagine! xx

      Delete
  6. Thank you for such a interesting post, they say you learn something new everyday and today I did. I had a lump in my throat when you mentioned your "baby journey" and here was me moaning yesterday.....I had a great work colleague who had that journey too....... Your words really touched me. Maria xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Maria, your words are so kind and thoughtful, and touched me too. I hope that all will work out for your colleague as they wish it to. Send them my good wishes. xx

      Delete
  7. Great post, Amy; informative and interesting. I've been a member of the NT, off and on, since I was a student. The work they (together with English Heritage, Historic Scotland and Cadw) do in preserving our heritage is invaluable - and they generally do it really well. I've found some of the permanent staff a little up themselves, and perhaps missing the point sometimes, but the volunteers are usually amazing - helpful, often amusing and invariably incredibly knowledgeable. Mrs Britain and I were sitting in a National Trust tea room in Somerset the other day (as you do) and worked out that the place we had just visited would probably not be economically viable without its volunteers. Looking after old buildings and the environment ain't cheap. We are very lucky to have these places, the organisations that protect them and people like you who generously give their time so that other people can still enjoy them. So thank you. Basildon Park is on the list, by the way!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps I will see you one day Mike! I can imagine that you would make a great NT volunteer someday if you had the chance, as you love history and are a great story teller on your blog and that is all that is needed! Let me know if you are stopping by BP sometime!

      Delete
  8. This was fascinating reading. I had no idea that you volunteer as this occupation requires such a large skill set. You are a teacher and more. I am sure that your goal is to give each person an understanding of the home and the owners and the historical facts surrounding the same. I certainly have many blogging buddies who have taken advantage of what the National Trust has to offer...a dozen or more. In fact, I am currently reading a series of posts on this very thing.

    And in the midst you tuck in some personal information thereby sharing your heart with us. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Vee. I don't know that I am anything special, but the house is and I think that it brings it out the volunteers skills and enthusiasm! I look forward to reading your posts. Thank you for the kind words about the personal information. xx

      Delete
  9. Funny I thought the NT started out with a big plot of land being left to them along the coast and blossomed from that but I could well be wrong. Been to BP a couple of times & I think I saw you there once in one of the rooms I went through. No doubt I'll be back again after all it is only a few miles from my house

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know about that Bill, so I cannot say, but you may well be right! You should have introduced yourself if you saw me! Perhaps you will feel braver another time!! Would be great to say hellow and put a face to the face behind the camera lenses that we both have on our photos!!!

      Delete
  10. Most interesting, Amy!
    Could a foreigner, living in Britain temporarily (for study), join? :)
    Take care! xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most certainly Sara, you could have a membership even if you were just visiting on holiday - they do short ones for just a few weeks - so you could visit, or if you were studying and wanted to volunteer you could certainly do that. Just get in touch with the property that you would nearest - which you can find on the website - and they will tell you all about it! xx

      Delete
  11. Hi Amy, thanks for sharing this with us all. I always liked the NT whilst still living in England and enjoyed seeing some of the lovely places they look after. I think it's great that you can play a role and contribute in such a way!
    Well done!!
    Ingrid xx
    Myfunkycrochet.blogspot.be

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad that you are a NT fan Ingrid! I hope that you still get to visit great places even though you are no longer living in England. xx

      Delete
  12. Mike & I are members of the NT & we enjoy visiting the different properties. A colleague once said that even if he couldn't get out to visit he would keep paying his membership as he appreciates the work behind the scenes to keep these old buildings etc going x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a great comment from your colleague Jo! That really is wonderful isn't it. Hope you enjoy your NT visits! xx

      Delete
  13. I just by accident caught the last half of the movie Miss Potter last night -- would like to see the whole thing. Very interesting to learn about someone's life and to know that she left all that gorgeous property to the NT. I think your work would be very interesting. Good for you finding your niche.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that film! I am a very big Beatrix Potter fan!! She did really great work didn't she in so many different ways. xx

      Delete
  14. I loved this post- had been wondering how you'd got into working for them. Volunteering can be a full time job can't it? In terms of the level of work that goes in to it. I'll bet it's a fascinating job to have and I'll bet you're a very good guide too. You must feel like you know the house inside out :o) xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It can indeed be a full time job as you know yourself from the things you do with all your wildlife commitments! It is so good to be doing something you are interested in though isn't it, makes all the difference. I do know quite a bit of and about the house, but have been to scared to ask to go in the roof I have to confess!! xx

      Delete
  15. Very informative, Amy, and thanks for sharing with us. Glad you enjoy your work with them.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Such an interesting and so informative post, nice to get to know a little more about you and your work. Your enthusiasm in the role really does shine through. What would our country do without its army of volunteers?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Volunteers really are some of the nicest people that I have ever worked with at the NT and elsewhere. I think it is because they really want to be there and not because they have to be there! That makes a big difference doesn't it. xx

      Delete
  17. What an excellent post, Amy. No wonder you are good at what you do ... as demonstrated here, you pay attention to detail and that must surely be one of the requirements of a good NT volunteer/house guide/tour guide. I would love to do this, and perhaps one day, when I have just a little more time to spare, I shall opt for this kind of work. My nearest NT property is Compton Castle, just a little further away, Dame Agatha's Greenway (which I was able to see, courtesy of the House Manager, before its NT makeover, when the possessions, the half-empty bottles of Dubonet and the well-thumber cookery books were still lying around) but my favourite is Coleton Fishacre, the holiday home of the D'Oyly Carte family.
    Margaret P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps one day you will be able to do some volunteering, I know that you would enjoy it. You could also see if your local place needs help with one off things or occasionally if they are really busy or short staffed if you don't have the time to commit on a regular basis. I love Coleton too!! xx

      Delete
  18. Just a PS:

    There is an excellent nove: Ashenden by Elizabeth Wilhide and, according to Elizabeth's blog (www.elizabethwilhide.com) her inspiration for her novel is Basildon Park. I have read the book and very much enjoyed it.
    Margaret P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it was indeed inspired by BP, the writer came and spent lots of time at the house and interviewing and meeting people, who, if you know them, you can recognise in the book!! It is a light but fun read! xx

      Delete
  19. It sounds so interesting! You get to work in a beautiful house, meet all kinds of people and learn something new. Sounds perfect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just as you said Janet, great house and great people doing interesting things, what could be better! xx

      Delete
  20. I am sure they love having you working for them and your contribution. I agree that volunteering does lend to flexibility. Great story :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope they like me being there Karen, they haven't thrown me out yet! xx

      Delete
  21. It's great to be involved in a project you love! I think working for NT is a wonderful contribution!

    ReplyDelete
  22. It sounds great Amy. I love the NT and can never resist one of their houses, gardens or cafes, you might have noticed! I am sure it must be lovely to explore all those off limit nooks and crannies and maybe they let you have a go in the buggy too. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had noticed! It is nice that we have this in common. You must love exploring I am sure, and I hope that you can keep enjoying it! I have ridden in the buggy, but you have to be trained to drive it, one day perhaps!! xx

      Delete
  23. I love learning more about what you do Amy! You are precious person to give your time this way - as folks like you make visiting the properties that much more worth while. Keeping the history alive and sharing the information as you give the tours is priceless!! If I lived in your part of the world that is a way I would love to give my time as well.
    Keep up the great work dear Lady!! Blessings xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So kind of you to say all of this! I am sure that if you could do this volunteering you would love it, perhaps one day you will get to visit England and come to some of the different places though! That would be nearly as good!! xx

      Delete
    2. I am bound and determined to get there one day Amy! I'm completely smitten with England and it's on my bucket list in bold print now!! Maybe I would even be able to make it to Basildon Park. ;) xo

      Delete
  24. Great post, I really enjoy the National Trust properties and they are such an important part of our history that people like you help to maintain so thank you xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it and that you enjoy NT places so much too, I agree that they are a very important part of our past! xx

      Delete
  25. Thanks for such a good explanation, Amy !
    I still am amazed how big the NT is, and that it is not government owned. Fantastic initiative ! No wonder you really like your job !!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad you enjoyed it Ingrid, you asked me some questions previously which inspired me to write this post! So thank you otherwise I would not have shared this, this post is down to you! xx

      Delete
    2. I'm happy I have inspired you to write this post !! I think a lot of people are happy you wrote it, seeing all the comments ! Especially for all of us outside the UK, it's so nice to have more information on something that is so very British and so interesting...

      Delete
  26. What an informative post, Amy. I would love to have a membership to something like this if it was available here. It would be interesting to visit the many NT properties in England due to the old history there. Thanks for sharing what you do with your work. Pam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sure that you would love visiting the different properties if you could! You do have lots of great places to visit though and I really enjoy seeing where you get to go, it is good that there are all different things around the world that we can share isn't it! xx

      Delete
  27. Good for you, Amy. It sounds like wonderful work. The house is so grand!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The house isn't nearly as grand as some, but yes, it is very grand isn't it! It is great work too, I do enjoy it! xx

      Delete
  28. Great post Amy, your love and enthusiasm for your work shines through. Both my children used to volunteer for the Estates Team at our local NT property. In fact it was through volunteering during his gap year that my son was taken on as full-time member of staff working for Visitor Services for six months before he went up to university. It used to make me smile that his first visit to Polesden was as a seven-day old baby (it was a gorgeous early October day and he slept in a sling throughout and I remember an old man blessed him with a lucky rabbit foot) and 18 years later he was welcoming 3,000 babies, toddlers, small children and their parents
    and grandparents every day! It was a great job and he was very lucky to get it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How great that things worked out so well for your son, I am sure that it was great for him and for his work history and so on too. What a turn of events for his first visit to be at Polesden and then he ended up working there, what goes around comes around I guess!! xx

      Delete
  29. Very interesting post, Amy. You clearly love volunteering at the NT. What a shame you don't get paid for it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do love it Anne! If we all got paid I don't know what the NT would do though because they couldn't afford to employ nearly that amount of people! I wouldn't complain if they did pay me though! xx

      Delete
  30. As you have probably gathered we really get our moneys worth from our NT membership, but it is great that you and so many others volunteer, I doubt that the NT could keep their standards so high if it wasn't for the enormous amount of help they receive via people like yourself - well done Amy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know you are great fans of the NT and making visits which I really enjoy reading about on your blog! Thank you so much for your lovely comments Rosemary. So very kind of you! xx

      Delete
  31. I love the National Trust and plan to volunteer myself when I finish work full time, we are surrounded by lots of beautiful places, I love the whole ethos around all they do. Thank you for volunteering and helping to preserve the past for future generations xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You will love it Lisa!! I know that you will be great at it to, whatever you do. Good luck for the future!! xx

      Delete
  32. What a wonderful job or volunteer work! I don't think you can really call it work, right? I'm all about preservation of history.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really is great fun, but at times it can be hard work, depending on what is going on! But it is always enjoyable at the end of the day and that is good isn't it! xx

      Delete
  33. I've wondered how you ended up doing this. Very interesting and what a blessing to so many people!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am glad that I could explain a little more then in that case Mari and answer your questions! Thank you as always for your support. xx

      Delete
  34. What an interesting post, Amy, thank you for sharing what you do at Basildon. I've often wondered how one goes about becoming a volunteer. We've been NT members for 12 years and have got such a lot out of it. I know NT relies on its volunteers in order to spend money on restorations, so each day you give your time freely, you are contributing to the preservation of some of this country's valuable heritage. Bravo Amy xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Alison! Yes, by having so much volunteer power I am sure that it allows more money to be spent on conservation and so on. I am glad that you enjoy your own membership! xx

      Delete
  35. Absolutely fascinating post today. I loved learning about how you found this amazing career. I bet every time you do a tour you learn something new. I can't imagine the wonderful people you meet every day.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww, thank you as always Meredith! I do learn new things all the time, you are right, which is one of the good things! xx

      Delete
  36. Amy - what a lovely post, thank you so much for sharing.
    The NT do such great work and the volunteers must be almost priceless ... fantastic.

    All the best Jan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They really do do great work don't they. The volunteers that I have met are all so great, very friendly, interested and hard working too! xx

      Delete
  37. wonderful post! you're so fortunate to have something like the NT in your corner of the world....it's an amazing entity and obviously made all the better by their volunteers. :) xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Mel. It really is made great by the volunteers!!! xx

      Delete
  38. What an informative and interesting post. I've heard so much about the National Trust but had no idea of its organization and founding. It's such an important part of preserving the past. Thank you for sharing bits and pieces of your story with us along the way - heartache comes in many forms. Your heart for people and for your country's history come through so well. Lucky are the visitors who have you as a tour guide.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am glad that you found it so interesting. I hope that the visitors enjoy my tours! I try to give as good a tour as I can! xx

      Delete
  39. Amy-- what a truly fascinating job you have!! Your work must be so rewarding to be able to share the history of this great place with visitors. A well informed tour guide is a valuable asset!! Thank you for sharing the story of how you came to be here-- I might be just a tad bit jealous!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really is a great job Vicki! I love it a lot. Thank you for your lovely comments, and don't worry, I totally get the jealous bit, I am jealous of those who work in other great places that I visit! xx

      Delete
  40. Lovely post Amy. You are so right about the flexibility of volunteering with the NT, no pressure and so rewarding. It must be wonderful to volunteer at a large grand property like Basildon Park, Sunnycroft where I volunteer is tiny in comparison but just as fascinating.

    I have yet to visit Basildon but if I ever do I'm sure to let you know.

    Angela - Garden Tea Cakes and Me

    ReplyDelete

Thank you so very much for stopping by to visit and for leaving a comment, I love hearing what you have to say and I read all of your messages.

All comments are moderated, so it might take a little while for your comment to appear, but it will once I have read it!

Thank you again for visiting!

Amy xx