The English Heritage site consists of a mansion house with over 90 acres of garden, with the ground floor of the house open to visitors. My normal volunteering day starts when I arrive at Wrest around 9:15, as I usually volunteer in the mornings. The first thing I do is head to the volunteer mess room, where the volunteers can sit and chat. I pick up a walkie-talkie and a folder (filled with historical information) and walk to the visitor centre, ready for a 9:30 briefing with the staff. The briefing involves talking about events and groups of visitors arriving for the day, and any general information that we need to be aware of. After the briefing, I head back to the house with the other Room Guide that I am working with to do general checks to ensure the house is ready for visitors.
The morning shift usually sees a slow trickle of customers at opening, until it reaches its peak around lunchtime, so during quieter periods, I like to spend time either reading a book or reading up on history about the house in the volunteer folders. Wrest has an extensive historical record, including the residence of the aristocratic De Grey family for over 700 years. However, I am more interested in Wrest’s modern history, especially its time as a hospital during the First World War and the history of the Agricultural Institute that was formed at Wrest after the Second World War.
Visitors of all ages come to be immersed in a ‘cultural lesson’ of sorts, and most visitors appreciate the extra knowledge that us volunteers can give. Visitors can range from retired couples and large coach parties with a thirst for knowledge to young families and groups of friends spending quality time together. However, I do feel that as an age-group that the ages of 13-25 are especially under-represented in visitor numbers and in terms of volunteers and staff, therefore I’m glad that the Shout Out Loud project are attempting to redress this imbalance.
Around lunchtime, the afternoon volunteers will arrive to relieve the morning volunteers. I brief them about any events or notable details of anything that is happening in the morning. I pass the walkie-talkies and folders over, and then I repeat the process the next time I volunteer. After my shift, I sometimes like to meet up with friends or family for a walk around the grounds or meetup at the café. After all, I like to make the most of my free volunteer entry and café discount! 😁