Volunteer stories – Meet Anne

Anne is one of our Ground Volunteers supporting the team in a range of activities across site. We recently caught up with her to find out more about her experience volunteering with us.

Why did you become a volunteer at Compton Verney?

I had always been interested in the Arts and when I retired I knew I made up my mind to apply to be a volunteer. I had heard of the plan for the professional gardener, Dan Pearson to be involved in the William Morris project for the meadow, and as I had an interest in gardening too, I jumped at the chance to be involved.  Initially I thought I would be in the galleries but after that first experience in the grounds I was well and truly hooked – and still am almost 7 years later.

What sort of things do you get up to in your volunteer role? And what do you enjoy the most about volunteering at Compton Verney?

I volunteer specifically within the Grounds Team.  The role is very varied and duties can range between planting and creating new areas around the grounds, to maintaining and clearing areas e.g. we have recently cleared an area to be used by the Forest School.

We made Christmas wreaths to decorate the chapel and portico.  I am fascinated by what often comes up when we have been digging – I once found a clay pipe.  The bowl was carved with rugby players and it was thought it was from the late 19th Century.

The first year I was here we held the 1950s exhibition and we created a 1950s allotment.  It had quite an effect on the visitors and I enjoyed long nostalgic conversations with them about how they remembered parents and grandparents who had similar plots.  We included all sorts of props and tools particular to that era and used growing techniques of the day.  It was very successful and the produce was in abundance.

Being involved in building The Clearing (the geodesic dome) was very exciting.  I enjoyed building the oven, breadmaking, and learning about greener ways and recycling.

I have had several opportunities to ‘dress up’ for various events: a character from a Jane Austen novel (wearing a corset certainly makes you stand up straight!); a day celebrating people from Compton Verney’s history (a Land Girl from the 1940s and a suffragette), Alice in Wonderland (Cheshire Cat).  Dressing up is definitely one of my favourite activities here!

I have loved being outside supporting the Grounds Team over this past difficult year, and that has been a great support to keeping up spirits.

What have you learnt since joining the team?

I have learnt so much about nature, plants and the amazing range of wildlife here.  I have been able to take home lots of ideas to use in my own garden.  How to use nature in art has been inspiring too, and I have enjoyed the workshops we have had from painting animals on pumpkins to weaving with twigs and branches to create the trees around the Welcome Centre.  I learnt techniques about making a Christmas wreath last year.

I have learnt that art is for all of us, and to have courage to explore my own creativity here and at home, inspired by what I see here at Compton Verney.

What’s your favourite spot at Compton Verney?

Obviously the grounds are where I feel most at home. There are so many magical areas.  he bridge is a particular highlight and I often pause to look at the lake. The changing light offers great photographic moments, but to be there in person, having a quiet moment and taking it all in, is the best way to appreciate it. I always say ‘hello’ to the girls (the sphinx) on my way in!

Inside the galleries, for me it has to be the Folk Collection. I love the connection to how people have lived and worked and recorded their lives. For me this art is full of humour, mystery and honesty.

What would you say to someone thinking of volunteering?

I would say you will benefit so much from volunteering. It might give you the opportunity to do things you never thought you would do – it is so varied you are bound to find an area that inspires you in particular. It is fascinating to get behind the scenes and see how events come together before they are presented to the public. You will be amazed by how committed everyone is. You can be sure you would be welcomed and supported by everyone.

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