Why I Volunteer
Duke of Burgundy surveys; Visitor Centre garden (with wife Dee); occasional help with special events e.g. bluebells, Easter egg hunt; Estate Committee
Why does anybody volunteer for anything? Usually, I would suggest, because of a strong belief in the values of the organisation they support, a wish to enthuse others, a desire to “give something back” and, perhaps above all, for fun.
I have enjoyed Ashridge for 38 years. For the first 35 of those I lived in Harpenden and came here for five main reasons, alphabetically: bluebells, breakfasts, butterflies, cubs and running. The fourth of these perhaps requires explanation. I was a cub leader in Harpenden and each year I organised a February half-term hike. After a 6 mile round trek from, and back to, Tring Station, always including part of the Estate, the older Cubs stayed overnight at the hunting lodge (until it burnt down) and then at basecamp. By the time the lodge was rebuilt, we’d got used to the relative luxury of basecamp with its kitchen and hot running water. The lodge, though, had a big roaring fire (too big on one occasion, I guess!), rats under the floor, an outside loo and water collected from a tap under a cover outside Monument Cottage. Those were, in truth, the best days!! After an 8 year stint as Harpenden’s District Commissioner then 5 years as Hertfordshire’s County Commissioner, I not only took far less demanding Scouting roles but also retired from my job at Rothamsted Research and moved to Ivinghoe Aston. Guess what? I had more time.
I joined the Ivinghoe Parish Neighbourhood Development Plan Committee and, through links to that, was invited to join the Ashridge Estate Committee. This was a great thrill and, through the Committee, I started to volunteer in other ways. The Duke of Burgundy is a rare and specialist butterfly and I was very keen to help with the surveys coordinated by Emily. This involves weekly searches for the adults in May and eggs and larvae in June. I helped to man the Dockey bluebell desk, where the comments from the public about the new arrangements were overwhelmingly positive. The Easter egg hunt and heritage open days were also fun to help with. All of these roles enabled engagement with visitors, which I greatly enjoy.
The tradition of regular breakfasts at the Brownlow Café continues. One morning, Dee and I were enjoying our eggs on toast when we noticed that the borders were rather weedy and lacking care. We popped our heads into the office and Lenya immediately signed us up. With guidance from Emily and Lawrence we hope eventually to plant native flora that are found elsewhere on the Estate. This year we have tried to establish territory: dogs, bikes and deer being strong competition to the plants. Gradually, we hope, we will develop something educational and attractive, without detracting from the magnificent vista beyond, the reason that we and most others are there.
27th September 2016