A rewarding insight to volunteering at the National Trust site, Uppark.

Mulching in the mist.

Can you email, answer texts or post to social media whilst wearing damp or muddy gardening gloves? I can't, I don't want to. Uppark's almost non-existent 3G and mobile phone coverage ensures that this remains a challenging task even after the removal of said gloves.

I am glad of this.

David Edyvean - Publishing professional and garden volunteer at Uppark.
I work in an industry, publishing, where communication is swift, constant and electronic; amongst other activities, my current roles requires the daily use of Excel and sundry databases for sales tracking, forecasting and reporting. I appreciate that for thousands of paid National Trust staff, life without all the usual communicative tools would be unthinkable and work's work after all but, selfishly, my Thursdays with the garden team at Uppark are a screen free oasis of outdoor, all weather physical activity.

I've found a rare and lucky balance for which I'm very thankful.


When I first contacted Andy Lewis at Uppark, I had a general idea of what volunteering in a National Trust garden entailed but was hazy on the detail. I knew that local, physical and community were three words I wished to balance opposite global, digital and corporate. I also knew that the rewards I sought were, for me anyway, based on a completely new set of criteria and that I also wanted to succeed and make a difference in an alien environment.


Summer pruning
I'd like to try and give you a sense of why working at Uppark has been so transformative rather than write you a "what I do" list. Although we probably undertake most of the same things that keen gardeners tackle at home (weeding, digging, pruning, mulching, planting, grass cutting, edging and general tidying all come to mind immediately) all this is done on a large scale (Andy is, after-all, responsible for 54 acres of garden and estate). This is new and exciting in itself but, more than this, since nothing can be achieved without deft management and instruction from Andy and his professional team combined with an amazing sense of camaraderie and teamwork amongst the volunteer workforce, I'm privy to the creation of a very powerful National Trust dynamic of which it's wonderful to be a part.

For whom are we doing all this and why is it so rewarding? Our own sense of self, the creation of a mutually supportive volunteer community and the physical satisfaction of working in such stunningly beautiful surroundings are really important but these are self-regarding by-products of what we're really about. The National Trust's aim to restore and preserve its buildings, gardens and other assets for everyone forever is a noble vision to which I fully subscribe. Ultimately, therefore, it's our members, visitors and future generations for whom we toil and without their interest, questions and comments, our days in the garden would be sadly diminished. They love to talk, we love to interpret the garden and our work within it for them and the popularity of our garden tours, which Andy has worked hard to promote, is testament to this. We love a good crowd... it helps to justify us.

Sunset at Uppark

How do Alitex and Uppark conjoin? We both work towards the creation of beautiful and productive outdoor spaces. We've enjoyed a mutually beneficial agreement whereby Uppark utilised Alitex's onsite greenhouses for propagation purposes and Uppark continues to benefit hugely from their volunteering contribution and the advice and help we received from Alitex regarding the removal, restoration and reconstruction of our former Petworth glasshouse was critical to the success of the project.

It's cliché, I know it, but win/win all round comes to mind.

Tags: national trust, uppark, greenhouse, volunteering