Sonja is Volunteer Manager at The Dartington Hall Trust. She previously managed volunteers in community and healthcare projects in South Africa and Mozambique. More about volunteering at Dartington
This week, our volunteers gathered at Dartington Hall for a celebration of their achievements across the estate during the last year. They were joined by our CEO Rhodri Samuel, our Chair of Trustees Greg Parston, lots of our staff and plenty of others keen to show their appreciation for the amazing work they do.
While we don’t need an excuse to do this sort of thing, we chose this week specifically because it’s Volunteers’ Week – an annual event marking the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK.
At Dartington, the areas that our volunteers get involved in are ridiculously diverse – it’s a big estate with a lot going on. So this seems like a good moment to recap on the amazing number of ways that volunteers help us do what we do. Please do take a moment to read through them all below, and maybe check out our Volunteer Hub if you’re thinking of registering your interest in volunteering at Dartington.
A big year for our volunteers – from A-Z
- Archiving – assisting our Archive and Collection administrator
- Barn Cinema – volunteers are the first (and usually last) people our customers see, and provide a warm welcome. Stewards contribute over 5,000 volunteer hours to the cinema, covering screenings seven days a week, three times a day.
- Brochures/mailouts – volunteers help stuff around 11,000 envelopes with What’s On, Barn Cinema guides and Dartington Member newsletters every year.
- Deer Park Project – volunteers have been vital to this new project and so far have helped with:
- Historical research to develop our guided walk and interpretation along the Deer Park
- School visits, working with our Learning and Participation Officer
- Deer Park Guided Walks – training has begun
- Preparing resources
- Helping to run Deer Park activities at our Winter Warmer and Community Day events
- Events and festivals – helping to steward concerts, gig and performances in Great Hall and Space Studios. Also helping with festivals and events such as Community Day, Food Fair and Totnes Canoe Festival.
- Gardens – regular volunteers support the Gardens team in looking after the Grade II listed Gardens. They have been supported in this too by work experience students from Bicton College and Totnes Language School. LifeWorks College have transformed Foxhole Garden, earning their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze and Silver Awards.
- Gardens Tour volunteers – offering free tours every Wednesday and specially arranged group tours on request. Since April 2017, 154 people have been on volunteer-led Gardens Tours and they’ve raised over £150 in donations for the Gardens fund.
- Schumacher College – volunteers embody the Schumacher College principle of being in service to the world and to others. They assist with day to day work such as cooking, cleaning and gardening, greeting visitors and welcoming course participants – and generally maintaining the beauty of the place!
- St Mary’s Churchyard – recording and mapping gravestones before detail and locations are lost.
- White House Refugee Project – volunteers help welcome and support refugees and asylum seekers during training, workshops and residential. They also assist in the resettlement and support of new refugee families to the region.
- Woodlands and Conservation volunteers
- Hedge laying project (concrete drive) – this year have already planted 989 trees (inc. hazel, oak, hawthorne and field maple)
- Repairing and installing new footpaths
- Managing invasive species such as Himalayan Balsam
- Wildlife/plant surveys:
- Monthly farmland bird survey (including identifying two pairs of rare Cirl Buntings)
- Breeding Bird Box survey – 45 boxes surveyed weekly during nesting season for 30+ years
- Beetle survey – identifying several species previously unknown to Devon on the estate
- Butterfly survey
- Bat Survey with the Devon Bat Group
- Dormice survey
- Queen’s Marsh bird survey
- Otter survey along the River Dart
- Hedgerow survey – dating and mapping our ancient hedgerows