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!


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Trying something new

A few years ago I needed to lose some weight and I started walking.  I calculated that I walked about 3 miles every morning.  When I walked I wore a pedometer and it used to say that I walked about 1,500 steps during my 3 miles.  I think at the time the recommended number of steps a day was about 10,000.  I wasn't just far off that, I felt as though I was miles and miles and miles off.  It used to take just over an hour to walk my 3 miles and I couldn't spend nigh on 7 hours a day walking to get to the 10,000 steps.

So I gave up on the pedometer and just walked.

Then I got busy and didn't walk.  Then I started to walk again and had another go with a different pedometer which still seemed to measure hardly any steps.

Because I hardly ever seemed to get any steps counted, but felt as though I was walking a lot, I found it very disheartening and that is why I stopped walking.  I didn't know if I was kidding myself about the distance I was walking (even though I had checked it very carefully and had calculated that I was within a tenth of a mile or so of what I thought).  Perhaps I was walking too slowly.

So as I said, I gave up on the walking.  It wasn't a good idea, but I did it, and I cannot change the past now!  Plus I don't believe in regrets!!

Then fitbits and jawbones and the like became popular and I thought about getting one, but assumed that it had to be linked to a clever phone which I don't have, and I didn't really want to wear one of those wristband things.  Plus I really don't understand the thing of monitoring how long you sleep for and all the other things that it would tell you.  I just want to know how far I am actually walking!!!  For real!

The other day though for some reason I had a look at the fitbit website and discovered that you could buy a little tiny one that clips onto your pocket - or bra - and it is basically just a pedometer.  Plus you don't have to have a snazzy phone to use it with!  Yay!!

So, yesterday I went for it and bought one.  This cute pink little fellow.  It is called a fitbit zip.

It is pretty tiny, was very easy to set up and so far seems to be counting far more steps than any of the other pedometers that I have had before did.  It also has a really strong clip which makes it a little tricky to clip on, but it doesn't then fall off which the pedometers that I had before were prone to doing.

It is very early days and I am sure that I will be well off walking 10,000 steps anytime soon, but if I can see how many I am walking, and track that so hopefully I can increase it over time, I hope that it will motivate me to do more.  I read a great quote on Vicki's blog, "No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch".  So no matter how slow I go, I will keep that in mind and also try and keep in mind something else that I think Vicki said which is that I will do more than I did last week.

I don't know where this will lead, and I know that at the end of the day it is down to me to get off my tuchus and get moving, but I hope that it will help me to see where I have been and head towards where I want to go.  With a bit more accuracy than I had in the past!!!

I feel confident about this because I have been keeping track of what I have been doing and writing my to do lists and crossing things off and it has really motivated me, so I think that being able to track this and make goals and so on will help me too.  Plus I feel in a better place and more determined than I have before.  So we will see. 

Somehow September and back to school time - although we don't have anyone going back to school here! - seems like a good time to start new things doesn't it.

Now, I just need to work out how to get the dreadful old music off my MP3 player and load up some new stuff that will give me a beat to walk to!  Of course figuring out how to work that piece of tech is pretty much beyond me.  I need either a 12 year old or hubby.....  Might take a while to get that piece of the puzzle sorted!!

I don't know if I will report back on this, but I will try and let you know how it goes in case you are interested!

Just so you know, this isn't an advert, I haven't been paid, or given a fitbit.  I bought the little guy in the photo - or is it a gal! - with my own money and I am doing this because I want to, not at anyone else's bidding!


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Saving Castle Drogo

Way back in April when we were driving back up from our Cornwall holiday (I am only a few months behind!!!) we stopped off at Castle Drogo.  We have been there before and it is a really interesting place to visit if you ever get the chance.  The main attractions as we had been driving for some time were the cafe and a visit to the other little room - you know the one!  Castle Drogo was the last castle to be built in England.  It was designed by the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.  Although for some reason I always want to call him Edward.  Poor man!

Castle Drogo was built from 1911 to 1930 for Julius Drewe.  However, almost immediately after it was built it started to leak - I know how it feels to live in a leaky house! - ever since then repairs and patching have been going on.  The Castle was given to the National Trust in 1974 when it became the trusts first 20th Century House.

In 2017 all of the current repairs to the Castle will be complete, after a project of over 10 years.  The roof has been taken off, many stones from the walls removed and windows painstakingly repaired too.  The Castle is still some way off being completed and back to its "usual" self, but it is very interesting too.

There are some art installations in place in some of the rooms and I will show you these in another post.  If you click on the pictures that are to come up they will enlarge and then you can read all about the work and see the timeline of the Castle and all that has happened here and some of the main events in the Drewe family.

You can see the Castle in the distance behind the stoneyard.  It all seemed like a giant jigsaw puzzle that someone was in the process of working out.  I was surprised at how large the stones actually are.

You can see that most of the building is shrouded in scaffolding.  The green on the side is a staircase that you can go up and you can see work happening on the roof.  We didn't go up because we didn't have time and I was wearing a very long skirt, so not good for climbing!

If you are interested in seeing the roof works and other things though you can look on the NT website here.

Although you cannot see the Castle you can tell from this door how amazing it looks.  We have been to see the Castle before work started a couple of times and it really is a fascinating building and well worth a visit.  Just imagine an Arts and Crafts Castle and how amazing that might be and you are some way there to imagining it.

These information boards tell you a bit more about the work happening and what the causes of the leaks are!

Here you can see the fascinating history of the family and the Castle.

As I mentioned there are various art installations in the Castle, but before you enter the Castle you can visit The Site Hut of Parallel Time.  Also called by me the Site Hut of a Parallel Universe!

I cannot confess to understand all that was going on here.  However, the gist - I think! - is that this is the site hut and the artworks - mostly all interactive - demonstrate communications between the site office and other people such as Julius Drewe.

Then we headed off to the Castle for our walk around, which I will share with you in another post.

Just to give you a taster, this is some of the damage which the building has suffered internally.  So sad, but it is being repaired so that is good!

More to come another day!  I can recommend it as well worth a visit though if you are in the area, either now, or especially when it is all fixed up again!