Attracting over 200,000 visitors and 22,000 members annually is no small feat, and with Director Clare Goddard at the helm, committed staff and the enthusiasm of around 180 volunteers, these numbers are steadily growing.
Although not always seen, Hilliers volunteers play an important role in supporting visitors of all ages to have a fantastic visit time after time. They do this in a variety of ways on a part time basis – helping in the education centre, meeting and greeting visitors and mailing out membership paperwork for example.
Hilliers Director, Clare Goddard, said: “At the gardens we have the great fortune to work alongside a large team of volunteers. They are, without doubt, a true asset. Their passion, dedication, knowledge and commitment are invaluable.”
We went along to meet a range of volunteers to hear what they love about their work…
Marc White, volunteer photographer
Local resident Marc is a keen amateur photographer. He explained: “The gardens are such a beautiful place, and photos can help encourage people to come and visit. I volunteer once a week – there’s lots of variety in what I photograph. There’s the landscapes and events throughout the year too. I like the people I work with, and there’s a great team spirit. (Thanks to Marc for the photo above).
Clint Shepherd, volunteer gardener
Clint is a retired civil servant who works in the gardening rovers team, based in Brentry Wood over the road from the main gardens one day a month. He told us: “I love being in these gardens. I’ve worked in gardens all over the world and this one is up there. The benefits I feel are really strong – it’s a green gym, the fresh air and working next to professional gardeners. I find it really rewarding.”
Anne Scarborough, Meet and Greet volunteer
Anne supports visitors when they first arrive at main reception, by giving them relevant stickers, maps and advice on how they can make the most of their visit. She admitted: “When you’re used to a life that’s so busy to suddenly not have a lot to do when you retire, you come up here and meet all these lively people – it’s just lovely.
Shelagh Newman, volunteer gardener
Shelagh has had a passion for flowers and plants for many years and has previously volunteered in the Lake District. Since moving to the south coast, she enjoys volunteering at the gardens. She explained: “What’s nice is that there’s enthusiastic young gardeners we can learn new things from and we can hopefully pass on our experience to them. However much you know about horticulture, you can’t know everything. Every time you come, you can learn something new.”
Thinking about volunteering at Hilliers?
If you have a few hours to spare on a regular basis, here’s a message from Director Clare Goddard. She said: “Volunteering is an extremely sociable activity. For new volunteers, it is a great way to meet people, learn new skills and to enjoy the gardens throughout the seasons. There are a range of opportunities both inside and out and no previous experience is required. Come and join us.”
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens are set across 180 acres near Romsey, in Hampshire. The gardens, which bring together the most comprehensive and unrivalled collection of trees, shrubs and hardy plants in the UK, is run as a charity under the sole trusteeship of Hampshire County Council.