Making a difference together: couples volunteer at Arlington

PUBLISHED: 15:49 27 January 2014 | UPDATED: 15:49 27 January 2014

Volunteers having Christmas lunch, 2013

Volunteers having Christmas lunch, 2013


The National Trust’s historic estate, Arlington Court in North Devon, relies on the help of dedicated volunteers to open for visitors. From 15-21 February, Arlington will be holding volunteer open mornings for those who wish to find out more about what goes on behind the scenes and the opportunities available to work with the team anywhere on the estate.

As a tribute to Valentine’s Day, 20 couples who volunteer at Arlington Court were asked to complete a survey about working at Arlington and their experiences of volunteering as a couple.

The couples come from all walks of life and include a London borough councillor, teacher, police officer and electrical engineer. As such, they bring their individual skills and knowledge to the property. Some of the couples moved to North Devon to retire, not knowing anyone in the area, so they saw volunteering as a way to get to know new friends. Those who are Devon-born-and-bred were usually recommended by a friend.

Most of the couples enjoy volunteering because of the interesting visitors they meet; while others, such as Alan and Sue Pugsley, are attracted by of the range of activities in which they can participate. Alan is a gardener, buggy driver and car park assistant while Sue helps out with events including children’s craft workshops. Sue comments: ‘Being part of the Arlington team is a bit like being part of a family – we are able to chat about each other’s jobs – although, it can be tricky getting out of the house on time when we both volunteer on the same day.’

Jen Sargent began volunteering in the house eight years ago after several enjoyable visits to the house and grounds. Her husband Paul began volunteering as a buggy driver four years later. Paul says: ‘I decided to drive the buggy after Jen nagged me to do something to get out of the house. We both volunteer on separate days, to give us time-off from each other!’ Richard and Eva Martin, both active in church ministry before retiring, have a different approach. ‘We travel in together and meet up as soon as duty is over to compare notes about the days’ experiences. We then stop off for fish and chips on the way home.’

Vic and Pam Poppy attended a volunteer recruitment event six years ago and since then have been volunteering as costumed Victorian characters. Vic takes on the role of the gamekeeper, whilst Pam is the school teacher. ‘We enjoyed researching these characters as it kept our little grey cells from stagnating. The best part is the comradeship which develops with other volunteers and staff, all working for a common cause.’

There are other benefits, as Martin and Moyra Bradley point out: ‘We’ve been volunteering for 10 years and to those thinking about taking a first step we can thoroughly recommend it – there is free tea, coffee and cake, visits to other properties, a volunteer discount, organised outings and special events such as summer fetes and Christmas festivities.’

The staff at Arlington have worked hard to ensure volunteering is enjoyable for everyone by holding monthly coffee and chat sessions for volunteers and staff to find out more about an aspect of the house, carriage museum or grounds. A quiz night in October has now become an annual event and volunteers are encouraged to put forward any ideas on how to develop the property.

If you would like to find out more about volunteering, come along to one of our recruitment mornings from 15-21 February, 11am-1pm, in the main house to talk to a member of staff and existing volunteers. Alternatively contact the property on 01271 850296.

Latest from the Devon Life