Sunday, 8 December 2013

The volunteering life ... meet Mike

Mike on leaf-raking duty
Mike helps to looks after the Garden Cottage garden here at Gibside; he also lends a helping hand with a wide variety of other tasks in the gardens. Here he introduces himself and his interests and explains some of the joys of volunteering.

I have been volunteering at Gibside for two years now and more often than not it has been once per week as a garden volunteer. Initially it was a Thursday but the possibility of playing golf on that day led me to change to a Wednesday. However, all of this is reliant on the weather and as I sit here at my computer late in the year 2013 it is dreary, raining, depressing and it is a Wednesday and too wet to go in.

I have been retired since 2005 and although my intention then was to travel, life took a different path and took me to Newcastle over two years ago now to be with my partner Margot. What I then needed to do was to find something to do as Margot was and still is working. I followed my interests and as I enjoy gardening I looked around and found that the National Trust was looking for garden volunteer. Following a visit to Gibside to see the Head Gardener Keith I agreed to start and the rest is history as they say. Who they are I have no idea!

It was a good move and I am still here and intend to continue as long as possible. I have met some nice people in my time here, none more so than my colleague John who started at the same time. I enjoy his company, we have a laugh and we have things in common like sport and music. Volunteering at Gibside also gives me an opportunity to learn about plants, shrubs, trees etc although when Keith tells me what a certain  plant is called I cannot recall its name after a short while (which is frustrating especially when a member of the public asks what a certain plant is called). However it is great to be outdoors getting fresh air and exercise. John and I were given the old cottage garden to look after and through hard work we have it looking really nice and presentable and both of us are proud of our efforts.

Garden Cottage garden that Mike helps look after
Looking round and about Gibside there is lots to do especially following the changes made by the site. Part of the changes made are in the walled garden which is starting to look lovely now that the area is free from cars and will require ongoing maintenance, so there will be plenty to do. The fact the site is huge impacts onto the type of work needed to be done, so Wednesdays is unpredictable in its nature and we could be weeding, cutting grass, moving plants and other items, laying turf etc; there are the endless trips to dump garden waste, oh and a few cups of tea along the way. All in a good day at Gibside.  Is it tea time yet?

Outside of Gibside I enjoy playing golf at least twice a week, attending an art club, walking, learning to play the guitar, and doing tai chi. In my time here in Newcastle I have also tried woodworking, photography and many other things. Before Newcastle I lived in Bolton for 20 years, and before that Scotland, but Huddersfield is my own town and that is where my roots are. For all my roaming around I have never lost my Yorkshire accent and I am always proud to be a Yorkshireman.

My career spanned 37 years, working  in the textile industry for 6 years and then 31 years in the chemical industry for ICI which became Astra Zeneca who then demerged the agrochemicals to become Syngenta (a Swiss based company).

At this point I need a cuppa!

Lets hope next Wednesday is a nice day.

Mike Kitson

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