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!