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Volunteer Monologue No.5
ボランティア・モノローグ 5
Heath Caroline  
66 years
ヒース・キャロライン 66歳
Working for the National Trust
2014 March 

Time to return something to the community
I often thought I would like to do volunteering when I retired. It is good time to return something to the community, isn’t it? It is nice to have the time to do something for other people. I probably think in this way as I was brought up by my grandmother and she used to help at her local church and a club for children with learning disabilities. I myself have not got a strong religious belief but this does not mean that I do not want to give things back to the community.

Learn something new and take on a new challenge
I did not want to do anything to do with teaching as I was a teacher.  I was ready for a change.   I wanted a challenge and to be where I could learn new things. I have always enjoyed going to National Trust properties and particularly finding out how people lived in the past.  What they wore, what they ate and what work they did etc.   So I approached the National Trust to become a volunteer via their website but was advised to contact a property directly.  Then I phoned up Standen which was one of the closest to our home and they instantly said to me ‘Come and see us’. That was what I did. It was autumn 2004 just before the property was closed for the winter.  I went along to find out what was involved in being a room guide.  I saw what they did and after a couple of hours I was actually helping as a room guide. It was lovely. I enjoyed interacting with the public and I still do volunteer guiding.  As well as giving information to our visitors about the house and family I often learn new facts myself.  We had a visitor recently who was related to the family and remem bered visiting when he was a small boy.  He recalled playing on the rocking horse that we still have in one of the rooms.  I have also become involved with the team that cook on the coal fired range in the kitchen.

Working in the woods all through the year
I was told ‘There are lots of opportunities to volunteer here’.  Volunteers are very active working in the gardens and in the woods. I know a bit about the gardening but did not know much about woodland work, so I chose to get into working in the woods. I started very early in the winter of 2005. You can really only work in the woodland doing things like cutting trees down during the season when the plants are dormant and birds are not nesting. So much of our work is done in cold, wet and windy weather.  Trees can only be coppiced in the winter. We cut the branches near to the ground making sure the cut is at an angle so that rain does not get into the centre of the tree and cause disease where you make the cut. Over a period of 8-10 years the trees will grow again if you have done the job right.  The wood we cut is mostly used around the grounds of the house.
When you are coppicing, you are clearing the ground so that light can reach the ground. You can get lots of plants that have not germinated for years beginning to grow again. Then you get butterflies and bees and all sorts of other insects coming in followed by birds and other animals.
I feel privileged working with team of people who know so much about ecology and nature studies. Everyone brings their own skills to the jobs.
Usually about 30 people work in the woods. We meet once every Wednesday for 5-6 hours and work all through the year.  Mostly the people are retired, but young students on countryside management courses also come for experience. The first time I was tired but really felt good working together with a team of people who enjoy many of the same things that I do.  Because I was a teacher, my work did not directly involve this type of team work.  This was one more reason that I decided to do this work and I have been doing it ever since.
Even in heavy rain and wind or a bit of snow we still work in the woods. There is only one time we do not work, if there is a gale. In the winter up to March the pressure to do coppicing is really on.  Other work can be done during the rest of the year.

Seeing the job through to the end is a pleasure
We have other projects for when we cannot coppice in the woods.  We build board walks through the woodland so people can walk and enjoy the woods without getting too wet and muddy.   We have done this in two areas of woodland.  We will continue to do this, building a new section whenever we have enough money for materials. At the moment we are mending a big section because we had trees come down during the winter storms that destroyed at least 15m of board walk.
We have made picnic tables and benches and also built a wooden bridge over a stream.  Recently we have made a woodland pond accessible so that children can come to enjoy pond dipping safely.  One of our biggest projects was building a big barn with oak from the woodland. This barn was built without nails just using wooden pins to hold the beams together.   We made the wooden pins too.  Seeing the job through to the end was a great pleasure. When the barn was finished we had a party. We got all our names carved on the rafters. That was a real sense of achievement.
Every few weeks we do a health and safety walk in the woods too. Two or three of us go off to walk all the way around the woodland footpaths checking to make sure it is safe and that there are no tree branches hanging down dangerously or other plants like brambles blocking the paths.   Apart from the work I have mentioned we help with anything that is needed in the woods and garden. We make charcoal using wood from woodland. The only thing I do not like is that I get very sooty when we empty the kiln and bag the charcoal up.  The charcoal is sold to our visitors for their barbecues.  This helps us to buy more materials to extend the board walk.

Never bored as there is always something new to see
In the spring flowers are coming out and birds sing while we are working.  Areas that we have coppiced have beautiful bluebells in April/May.  I have never been bored working in the woods. My sons think ‘Mum is off to slash and burn again,’ because I nearly always come home covered in mud and quite often smelling strongly of bonfire. We only burn the bits of wood that we cannot use for anything else. Bonfires with colleagues are very enjoyable. We usually make our lunch time cup of tea using the bonfire to boil the kettles.  Each December we have a Christmas barbecue next to our oak barn.
If I had not been a volunteer I would have missed many opportunities to learn new things and the companionship of the people I meet at Standen, which would be difficult to replace.  More importantly I hope that my contribution helps everybody that comes to Standen enjoy their visit.  It is privilege to share such a beautiful and interesting place with others.
ボランティア・モノローグ 5
キャロライン・ヒース 66歳(元物理教師)