Saturday, 28 September 2013

The volunteering life ... meet John

John Watson has been volunteering in the conservation team for 2 years now and during that time has made new friends, learnt new skills and enjoyed being with nature. Here he introduces himself and explains the many aspects that make volunteering at Gibside such a rewarding experience.

John keeping the Shrubbery Walk grass in order
Gibside has really started to come to life this year, especially the walled garden and surrounding areas. Maintaining the estate along with the ongoing restoration of the pleasure grounds takes a small army of volunteers, coupled with the NT's own staff. Together we help to continue in the footsteps of George Bowes' garden, originally started way back in the early 1700s.

As a volunteer with the conservation team for the past 2 years, I have been involved in various tasks each week, maintaining various areas within the estate. This includes cutting grass, attending flower beds, planting and pruning different types of shrubs, extending pathways, and many other tasks associated with gardening in the grounds. The cottage garden which had been neglected over the past few years, was a low priority and needed renovating. I was given the task along with my colleague Mike, to develop this garden into a low maintenance garden. We have worked hard on doing this, under the supervision of Gardener in Charge Keith Blundell. The garden is now beginning to look more like a garden than a neglected wasteland!
the cottage garden John has helped transform

Being a volunteer at Gibside has many rewards such as working on the slopes of the Derwent Valley, being surrounded by wildlife, majestic trees, and the relentless progress of nature. Learning new skills is also a bonus. Another reward is the people that you meet, who are from different backgrounds and have different interests, and the comradeship between volunteers and staff is very important too. I have made several new friends over the last two years, one in particular, Mike, who I teamed up with as we both started volunteering at the same time. Mike has renewed my interest in playing golf, and I have influenced him into learning to play the guitar. I only started to learn myself at the age of 65 years - you're never too old to learn new skills, age is just a number!

John busy in the cottage garden
I have always loved gardening since my dad took me to my grandfather's allotment when I was just a child. Having worked in an office and factory environment as an engineering production manager most of my working life, it is wonderful to be outdoors especially next to nature in a place like Gibside. Besides gardening I am a keen DIY man and recently renovated a house (along with one of my old workmates) for one of my granddaughters  ... this gave me a great deal of pleasure. I frequently visit the local library and usually read crime and war stories. I tend to latch on to one particular author until I have read most of their books; at the moment I am midway through 20 bestsellers by David Baldacci - only 10 more books to go.

As one of many volunteers at Gibside, I feel that we're helping to keep the estate alive for future generations, as well as keeping ourselves active. I would recommend being a volunteer at Gibside to anyone, whatever age, young or old, and from whatever background.

John Watson

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