Volunteer open day at scenic gardens

Volunteer open day at scenic gardens

As a £6m restoration project for the house and gardens at Mount Stewart reaches its halfway stage, the National Trust is launching an open day to find volunteers to help complete the revamp.

The picturesque grounds at Strangford Lough in Co Down will open on Saturday to recruit extra helping hands, which are especially needed during its transformative project.Garden Manager Paul Stewart said there is a lot of work going on and volunteering provides opportunities to keep their CV attractive while learning new skills.Last year, in the gardens alone, volunteers put in almost 20,000 hours of unpaid work.One volunteer gardener Lindsey Boyd, said the venture was a "new beginning"."I'm 58 now, coming 59. So where do you get a job, you know, at that sort of stage in life?"I thought to myself now, if I can get into such a lovely place and prove that I can actually do the work there may be a chance of forward placement...and that's exactly what happened," he said.Volunteers are crucial. We're Europe's largest conservation charity and without volunteers we just couldn't do it. We just could not conserve these places.Paul Stewart, National TrustVolunteering also brought about a change of plan for an archaeology graduate who took on an unpaid internship with the property conservator."I was actually looking maybe at a career in museums and then I started to volunteer here in Mount Stewart," Christina Taylor explained."I just decided that this is the sort of career path now I think I want to take. I don't see it as a voluntary position - It's just working alongside the house team and the project team there's so much I've learned in terms of the material I use, the methods of packing, for storage. It's just been such as invaluable experience."The public sites can also provide a stimulating environment for those in retirement, as retail volunteer Stella Robinson told UTV.She said."I had just retired from the Civil Service, and they advertised for volunteers so I came in and I said yes, I'd like to."I love people and it's just lovely in the summer, when all the tourists come in from everywhere in the world."The Open Day at Mount Stewart is on Saturday from 11am - 3pm.

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