A celebration of Kelmarsh Hall’s garden volunteers was held to recognise the time and effort they have dedicated to the historic gardens.
This year’s National Volunteers’ Week, running from June 1 to 7, focused on saying thank you to those who give up their time for charities and organisations across the country, so Kelmarsh Hall decided to hold a celebratory tea party for its own team of volunteers on Thursday.
Kelmarsh Hall, which is in the care of a charitable trust, now has a team of 14 regular garden volunteers, with more coming forward each month.
Each volunteer commits to at least one day a week and the team works predominantly in the 18th century walled kitchen garden where produce and cut flowers are grown.
General manager Lesley Denton said: “Today was about showing our gratitude to our wonderful volunteers who play such an important role in the preservation of an historic garden.
“Walled kitchen gardens often become derelict because they are so expensive to maintain.
“Kelmarsh’s kitchen garden is such an integral part of the hall’s history so its maintenance is of utmost importance to us.
“We want future generations to continue to enjoy it for years to come.
“We’re also developing our school visits programme so more children can come and learn about healthy eating in our kitchen garden.
“None of this could happen without the support of our volunteers so we thought it was fitting to say thank you as part of National Volunteers’ Week.”
Kelmarsh’s volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, including hospital support workers and retired professionals.
Marilyn Dixey, from East Haddon, worked in an office environment for years and was keen to spend more time outdoors once she finished work.
She said: “One of the best things about it is the social side and I look forward to coming here because it’s good fun.
“The other benefits are the exercise, getting out in the fresh air and in particular, speaking to visitors.
“I hadn’t thought about volunteering but when I saw it advertised at Kelmarsh, I got in touch.”
Tez Hill, from Kingsthorpe, Northampton, worked in business development in the construction industry before retiring four years ago.
He said: “I have always been interested in gardens and gardening so I asked about volunteering opportunities when I visited Kelmarsh with a school group because I was impressed with what I saw.
“There’s satisfaction in learning new things and seeing what you can do.
“It’s also satisfying to meet the visitors and see the pleasure they get out of the gardens.
“Nine out of 10 of them will stop and talk to you.
“It’s a friendly environment and there’s no pressure here.”
The Growing Kelmarsh project was launched in 2010, with support from the Big Lottery’s Local Food Programme, to re-establish the hall’s food-growing tradition in the kitchen garden.
If you are interested in volunteering in the Kelmarsh gardens, call 01604 686543 or visit www.kelmarsh.com.
There are also opportunities to volunteer with school visits which run throughout the year.