15 July 2022

Three Cheers For Our Volunteers

Did you know that our Parks and Gardens team run their very own Volunteer programme? Joining the team every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10am until 3pm, the volunteer group work with a member of the Park & Gardens team each day.

A typical day includes the team taking the volunteer group into one of their areas of responsibility for the day. First they meet in the gardeners’ yard at 10am, to gather their tools for the day and to also explain or demonstrate the task at hand. Once that’s completed, the team then carry out a morning gardening session together until midday, have lunch together in the gardeners shed and then do an afternoon session to finish. Sometimes the team will get together with all the team and volunteers, to carry out tasks in large areas, for example, the recent renovation of the south parterre box hedge planting, for which the volunteers potted nearly 2000 lavender plants earlier in the year. There were a total of 30 team members and volunteers working together that day, including Lady Salisbury at points.

The volunteers also support with interacting with visitors, answering questions and proudly representing Hatfield Park when they are here, which helps them feel part of the team and wider operation. At times, one of the gardeners will run a master class in a task like rose pruning or fruit tree pruning which are very popular. The team also often have annual away days and garden visits, which Lady Salisbury hosts to other gardens like Sissinghurst, the London Garden Museum, Chelsea Physic Garden, and Cranbourne Manor Gardens. They have also started a series of volunteer delivered talks in the gardeners shed on topics of their choice, the first of which was on sustainable water usage by a volunteer with many years of experience.

Lord and Lady Salisbury now open and close the volunteering season (starting in March and finishing in December) with a lunch that they provide in the marble hall, alongside a group task together in the gardens for the day. The volunteers are also invited for Christmas drinks at Hatfield House too. For the first time this year, one of our volunteers reached the amazing milestone of 10 years of volunteering at Hatfield House. Lord Salisbury commemorated the occasion by commissioning a hand painted plate which he presented in the marble hall by way of thank you. Several of the volunteers now see each other outside of their time in the gardens, meaning that they have formed lovely friendship groups as a result of their volunteering at Hatfield House.

The programme has helped send on volunteers to paid positions and apprenticeship programmes in several other gardens teams including Kew Gardens and the Cambridge Botanic Gardens. It has also facilitated work experience to young people through the Prince of Wales Trust scheme, which falls under the wider banner of the volunteer programme. The team also have strong ties with Capel Manor College where we have received several volunteers from. The programme is also open to volunteers with diagnosed learning difficulties enabling the team to provide purpose and opportunities to people who may have limited work opportunities.

Many volunteers have expressed that the programme has had benefits for their mental health, physical health, social life, horticultural knowledge and skills. It has also given them a greater understanding and appreciation for how Hatfield Park is operated and cared for, both in the gardens and in it’s entirety. The volunteers bring such a diverse range of talent, knowledge and experience into the gardening team, from professions such as medicine, law, building surveying, fashion, banking and many others. This helps enlarges the conversation within the team, giving different points of view and inspiration in the way that the team approach and care for the gardens and challenge them in a positive way. Oliver from our Park & Gardens team said:

“I think it’s fair to say that for many volunteers, their day in the gardens is a highlight of the week and for the staff, there is a real feeling of pride and achievement if you have run a really successful and positive volunteer session. It’s great to see a group people leave smiling and energised, having learnt something about horticulture, done some exercise, shared experiences from the week, achieved something really useful in the garden, often with an immediate tangible result. It’s also great for the staff to develop their skills in leadership, communication and people management.”

Three Cheers For Our Volunteers - Hatfield Park