Do you fancy a different New Year’s resolution? If you’d like to help tell the story of this historic cottage, why not sign up to become a volunteer? We need volunteer guides to help open Oakhurst Cottage to visitors and give guided tours of the property.
Owned by the National Trust since 1954, Oakhurst Cottage was bequeathed to them by the local Allfrey sisters on condition that it was ‘not let to well-to-do people’! The last tenants, Mr and Mrs Jeffery, lived in the cottage until Ted Jeffery died in 1983. Although modernisation had been offered, they only had a cold running tap, a single plug socket, no bathroom and an outside privy. It was this lack of modernisation which makes the cottage a rarity and provides an opportunity to see how a family home for a farm labourer contrasts with that of the country mansions in the region. Opened to the public in 1984, it is furnished as it might have appeared in the mid-19th century and visitors are given guided tours using local volunteers. The cottage is located just beyond the cricket green in the edge of the woodland known as The Hurst.
To give you some idea of what it involves, the season runs from April to October and we open on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday afternoons from 2-5pm. It is run as guided tours by appointment, on the hour at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm (although we don’t run this last one in October as it is too dark). As it is such a small cottage, generally we show round a maximum of 6 people in each one – so we are giving a very personal tour. The Trust would like people to volunteer for several sessions a month and there is a simple online booking system to put your name down for sessions.
Volunteers are given training – when I first started I shadowed one of the experienced volunteers and then developed my own ‘script’ to deliver to the visitors using the information provided to suit my style. Each guide wears a National Trust volunteer badge. You usually show people round on your own but if there are sufficient guides you can sometimes pair up.
I am one of the volunteers at Oakhurst and I find it fun and rewarding. It is an opportunity to meet all sorts of people – last year one of the visitors was from Taiwan. You get to work in an amazing historic building, telling people all about its extraordinary history – and knowing that you’re helping a great cause! Plus, if you volunteer enough hours, you may be provided with a Volunteer Card which gives you free access to National Trust properties and discounts on purchases in their shops, restaurants and holiday bookings. For more information see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/volunteer
We have a small group of very keen volunteers but we really need more this year. So if you are interested please do get in touch with me – call 01428 687820 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.