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Meet the Blickling volunteers and have a go yourself

PUBLISHED: 09:28 22 February 2012

Blickling Hall volunteers. Carole Davidson, Bunty Gotts and Brian Butcher.

Blickling Hall volunteers. Carole Davidson, Bunty Gotts and Brian Butcher.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2011

They are the very public face of one of Norfolk's most popular visitor attractions; a dedicated army of volunteers who help make a visit to Blickling Hall enjoyable, informative and educational. Plus: More places to volunteer in Norfolk.

They will guide you through the historic rooms, create the aromas from the kitchen, dress in period costume and character, or serve you in the bookshop, restaurant or plant shop.

Believe it or not, there are more than 400 volunteers who play such an important role at Blickling — some give up a day a fortnight while others may be on duty for two or three days a week during the busiest periods when the house is open.

Some of the volunteers will work discreetly behind the scenes, tending the gardens or performing administrative duties while others will be there right answering your questions as you wander through the stunning hall at one of Norfolk’s best known National Trust properties.

While several volunteers have been there for many years, others come and go for a variety of reasons, which means the National Trust and Blickling is always looking for more people to play an important role in the visitor experience to the hall and estate.

Among the volunteers is Bunty Gotts whose ranges from being a steward in the room and answering people’s questions to being a member of the halls’ so-called “diggers” group; those who interpret the history in character.

You may see Bunty, 70, in her 1930s costume in the kitchen recreating food that would have been served in that era using produce from the estate. “It is demonstration cooking and some of the characters that we play are still alive and they are the reason we are able to do it because we have their testimonies of what life was like at Blickling in the 1930s,” she explains. “Volunteering has the attraction of working in such a wonderful place and you meet people from all walks of life and it is a very social experience.”

The volunteers are recruited through the volunteer support team at Blickling led by Carole Davidson and Brian Butcher. While the day-to-day work of the volunteers is co-ordinated in specific areas by individual staff such as the house manager or the head gardener, Carole and Brian ensure that the right volunteers are recruited for the areas they are needed in.

“In 2012 we are running proper induction sessions for volunteers, focusing on the National Trust, Blickling and the areas they are joining up to, so hopefully they will feel part of the team,” said Carole. “The other thing about volunteering is that it is not just what volunteers can do for us but what we can do for them. I think one of the things you realise when recruiting for volunteers is what it adds to people’s lives.”

While a team of more than 400 volunteers may seem like a lot, more are needed as they play such a vital role in bringing the history of Blickling to life.

Brian Butcher adds: “Whilst the estate is open all year round, we get into the full swing of things when the hall re-opens in February. An interest in history, enjoyment of meeting new people, a warm and friendly personality and the ability to give a few hours a week is all that’s required.”

■ Anyone interested in volunteering at Blickling Hall can get more details by calling Carole Davidson or Brian Butcher on 01263 738077.

PLACES TO VOLUNTEER

Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Volunteers play an important part in the success of NWT helping to protect wildlife at some of Norfolk’s most valuable natural areas. Volunteers of all ages, backgrounds and skills are recruited for everything from habitat management on nature reserves to working in visitor centres to wildlife surveying. More details on 01603 625540 or at: www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk

Norfolk Museums

Whether it is dressing up in period costume, working behind the scenes or helping out with family events, volunteering at one of Norfolk’s museums can be a very rewarding experience. You will meet like-minded people and increase your skills. For more details call Rachel Trevor on 01603 223533 or visit: www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk

BTCV

The British Trust For Conservation Volunteers works with some 628,000 volunteers a year across the UK. The Norwich group runs a wide variety of events and activities and you can either just join in or help organise and lead projects. More details on 01603 767300 or at: www.btcv.org.uk

Norwich Puppet Theatre

Without volunteers the Puppet Theatre couldn’t survive. In return for your time and effort, they offer valuable experience if you’re interested in working in theatre or just the chance to meet new people and enhance your social life. More details on 01603 615564 or at: www.puppettheatre.co.uk

Sainsbury Centre

If you really want to delve into the Sainsbury Centre collections, you can train to be a volunteer guide and share your knowledge with our other visitors. All you need is time, enthusiasm and an interest in world art. More details on 01603 593199 and at: www.scva.ac.uk

North Norfolk Railway

The Poppy Line is run primarily by volunteers — from the engine driver and fireman to the guards and signalman. And behind all these are volunteers manning the office, taking bookings, restoring coaches, cleaning carriages and maintaining the track. More details on 01263 820800 or at: www.nnrailway.co.uk

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