PUBLISHED: 10:20 13 January 2015 | UPDATED: 10:20 13 January 2015
If you love nature and historic places then why not make a new year resolution to get involved with the National Trust? Making a difference locally is a really rewarding way to spend your time - and fun too, writes Jeremy Owen.
Volunteering is the heartbeat of the National Trust, with an incredible 10 volunteers for every member of staff.
All kinds of different people give up their time to support the charity, from the recently retired to graduates and school-leavers looking to get much needed work experience.
With historic houses, nature reserves and even a former military base, the types of roles available in Suffolk vary enormously.
And volunteers get involved in every aspect of the trust’s work protecting places of historic importance or natural beauty – from looking after wildlife at Orford Ness and Dunwich Heath to acting in ‘living history’ performances at Ickworth and Sutton Hoo.
Behind the scenes, the trust is always looking for support with its administration duties or serving in its bookshops and tearooms. There are also a limited number of graduate opportunities at the trust’s houses and nature reserves.
‘More fun than work’
Jo Dean joined Ickworth more than 15 years ago and enjoys the social aspect of volunteering for the trust.
Before retiring, Jo was a director of an IT support company she owned with her late husband.
She first joined the National Trust as a volunteer room guide while still working and her management and organisational skills have come in very useful in her various roles. But more than anything, Jo has fun volunteering.
“Some people think volunteering is on a par with work but it’s not like that at all, it’s fun!” says Jo, from Fornham All Saints.
“I spend over a thousand hours a year at Ickworth but I would never say I work there, I have a most enjoyable time.
“You volunteer to give time to a most worthy cause which you feel seriously committed to and believe in passionately, besides which it is such a bonus and it is so rewarding.”
Jo still volunteers as a room guide every Sunday as well as organising the events for the volunteers, including walks, talks and coffee mornings. She is also responsible for all new inductions, for both staff and volunteers, and organises the long service awards.
The entrance gate for the massively popular annual Wood Fair is also organised by Jo and an enthusiastic team.
“I love our annual Wood Fair,” says Jo. “That is the highlight of the year! We get thousands of people coming. I enjoy the fun and banter – it is such a good couple of days.”
Jo says she enjoys the camaraderie amongst the volunteers, who regularly meet outside of Ickworth for lunches and trips out.
“I don’t know what I would do without the friendship of Ickworth people,” she adds.
• To find out more about opportunities with the trust, you can either visit your local property, call our regional volunteer coordinator on 01284 747566 or email firstname.lastname@example.org