A loyal team of volunteers with more than 400 years service between them were celebrated at a ceremony at Wakehurst Place.
A total of 42 long serving volunteers were presented with awards by Andy Jackson, head of Wakehurst Place, Kew’s country estate in Sussex, at a thank you lunch.
More volunteers are needed as ‘garden explainers’ and to help with school visits and family activities.
An open day for people interested in finding out more is being held at Wakehurst on Monday, March 18, from 11am to 3pm, or call 01444 894055 for more information.
Volunteers play an important part in the running of Wakehurst, the 500 acre country estate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
They assist with science and conservation work, leading guided tours, helping with school visits, carrying out horticultural tasks such as pruning and weeding, and helping with conservation, technology and research tasks in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank.
In total, in the last 12 months, volunteers at Wakehurst and in the Millennium Seed Bank have given a total of 12,354 hours service.
The list is made up of:- 29 volunteer guides who have given a total of 1,617 hours of their time; 18 horticultural volunteers who have between them put in 4,500 hours to help experts to keep the gardens looking their best; 50 volunteers in the schools and families team who have spent 3,207 hours helping with educational visits and 16 volunteers who have given 3,029 hours to the Seed Bank, assisting with tasks such as seed cleaning, to enable the Seed Bank to store full and healthy seeds, and germination tests.
In recognition of the vital contribution made by volunteers, long service awards for five, 10, 15, and 20 years service were made at the presentation.
Mr Jackson said: “We are extremely fortunate to have such a committed, enthusiastic team of volunteers – they give us hours and hours of their time and make an invaluable contribution to the running of Wakehurst.
“All year round, in all weathers, they assist Wakehurst’s staff in our science and conservation work and share their enthusiasm and love of Wakehurst with visitors of all ages, from school children up.
“The number of volunteers receiving long service awards highlights just how loyal they are and how long they have been with us, they are part of the Wakehurst family and this was our opportunity to say thank you.”
One of those receiving a long service award was Mike Hardcastle who began volunteering after he retired.
He helps with school visits, showing children around the gardens, helping the teachers and laying out equipment for indoor classes in the Wakehurst Mansion.
Mike said: “I started volunteering at Wakehurst ten years ago and I really enjoy it. There is always something different to see – I can visit twice in a week and see changes in the gardens and see different wildlife, and I enjoy sharing that with school children and helping them to enjoy and appreciate the gardens.”
He added: “Volunteering here is a great way of getting exercise, I’m never bored, and I’m learning all the time, which I enjoy.”
Glenys Adams, who has also been volunteering with the schools and families team for ten years, said: “I love Wakehurst, I love the gardens and I love the atmosphere and I do feel as a volunteer that I am really valued.
“The children are lovely and the Wakehurst teaching staff are so good with them it doesn’t feel like a school day to them – it is lovely to see their faces light up when they do something like pond dipping, they love it and so do I.”