Wanted – keen folk, young or old, fit or otherwise, to lend a hand in the garden at Woodlands Historic Homestead.
Irene Clarke has been doing it since 1990 and says it’s a great way to spend time.
“It’s very social and it helps keep you fit. We’ve had some folk come in the past, and they’d last maybe six months. So maybe it’s a bit of a challenge. But we enjoy a good cup of tea together.”
Years ago local garden groups would come out and help out, she says.
“Someone would pop out the plants and we’d be responsible for planting them that morning. Keith Rowling, who has since passed away, was on the phone all the time with all the reasons why we had to turn up. Sometimes I’d think – why did I get involved.”
The more she turned up, however, the more involved she became. In 1994 Irene found herself elected garden convenor and on the Woodlands trust board.
In addition to gardener Kevin Parker, there are now five regular volunteers at the Gordonton homestead, with others turning up from time to time.
“It’s always on a Tuesday. Some start at 8.30am and we work until about midday. They come out in all weather too.”
It’s a very specialised team – “Roger has the backpack, and goes around spraying the paths, Merv is the one doing the mowing on the tractor, and Rosalie and Ann are great on weeds.”
Sometimes Irene gets her hands dirty – “I seem to spend a lot of time talking lately.” (She’s been busy organising a special stitchwork display at the homestead.)
“But I know all the history of the garden, I know what areas were meant to be called, according to the original plan. The overall welfare of the garden is my role.”
Recent arborist work on some of the old trees has meant some spaces have opened up, which will be a project in coming months.
But there are more than enough jobs to go around now, she says. “This time of year, we have hydrangeas in need of pruning, and other things as well.”
At her own home, she has just under 100 roses, and two acres of garden. “I spend so much time here, it gets a bit neglected. But that’s okay, the leaves can stay on the drive for another day. It’s great to be at Woodlands.”
To volunteer (or dob someone else in) phone Irene on 07 887 7859.