Volunteering Opportunities at Standen Garden and Estate
The beautiful garden and estate at Standen are only able to open to the public due to the help of approximately 100 volunteers.
Being a National Trust volunteer is a wonderful way to learn new skills, meet new people and get some healthy outdoor exercise. Whether you enjoy detailed gardening work, major scrub clearance, planning for large projects or anything in between there will be something to suit you here at Standen.
There is no need for prior knowledge or experience as any training required will be provided, and working alongside other volunteers allows you to absorb as much information as you need.
There is no age limit on volunteering; our current team ranges between 12 and 85 years old. A reasonable level of physical fitness is required, however, and a willingness to join in with what we are doing. Volunteering at Standen is also particularly suitable for students or those wishing to develop skills for career changes.
Travel expenses are covered by the National Trust, and you will also receive a card giving free access to National Trust properties and discounts in shops and restaurants after 50 hours work (at the Trust’s discretion). Drinks and cakes are also provided.
If you are interested in any of the volunteering roles described below, please contact our Volunteer Co-ordinator.
Meeting on a Thursday, this is a friendly group of mixed ages and abilities. This group is involved in varied activities ranging from seed sowing and planting, to weeding and tidying, with bigger projects (usually during winter) such as complete renovation of large borders. No gardening knowledge is necessary, just a love of working in groups and outdoors (in all weathers!). Recent projects include the renovation of the Croquet Lawn borders and restoration of the Bamboo Garden pond, as well as planting new trees and shrubs.
“I can still remember my first day volunteering at Standen. When I woke up it was pouring with rain and I did not know whether to drive the fifteen miles as I was not sure whether I would be the only volunteer to venture out on a wet and windy January day. Had I known what I know now I would have realised that the volunteers work through all weathers. When I arrived at Standen I found the head gardener, James, who was waiting for me. He directed me to the stable yard where I was introduced to the rest of the volunteers and was made to feel very welcome with tea and cakes on offer. As it was still raining very hard James found us a job that was out of the rain, much to my relief!
I have had a very enjoyable two years working with a great bunch of gardening volunteers through all weathers from snow on the ground to soaring temperatures in the summer. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every minute of it. Often the visitors commend the work that is being done in the gardens and comment on what a pleasure it is to wander around. I still look forward to Thursdays; it is so varied from planting or landscaping to felling trees, etc. Had it not been for James’ dedication, enthusiasm and vision of how he sees the gardens, as well as his constant encouragement, we would not have achieved so much.
I can thoroughly recommend volunteering if you like the outdoors, having fun and interacting with people.” ~ Roy
The Woodland group are a great bunch of welcoming people of all different abilities who meet 3 out of 4 Wednesdays every month. The aim of the group is to help maintain the woodland areas across Standen estate, these being Rockinghill Wood and Hollybush Wood. Recent projects have included the construction of boardwalk areas within both woodlands to enable visitors to enjoy the woods without getting bogged down in the marshy areas. The group have also produced a number of picnic benches and installed these in the picnic area. Throughout the winter months activities such as coppicing, hedgelaying, planting new hedgerows and woodland clearance takes place to encourage new the new growth of woodland flowers such as bluebells and anemones. They are also constructing a new oak framed workshop and storage area within Hollybush wood sourced with timber from the woodlands. No experience is necessary and new volunteers will be made most welcome.
Kitchen Garden Group
Every week on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays and on monthly Saturdays this group helps to maintain part of the original Kitchen Garden. Tasks include sowing seeds, potting on, planting out, weeding, harvesting the produce, and answering questions from visitors. They grow many heritage varieties as well as modern ones. Produce is sold to the property restaurant and to visitors. This group is suitable for experienced vegetable growers as well as those who are new to growing their own food or are on a long waiting list for an allotment.
“I had recently stopped looking after the garden at my children’s primary school, as they had both moved on to secondary school. I saw a display in the East Grinstead Library window and was interested in gardening in a large garden of an historic house. I enjoy being able to undertake tasks that are not possible in my own small garden and have learnt new skills and met new friends. Although the original group that I joined meets every 2 weeks I have also joined the Kitchen Garden group so I can volunteer every week. I enjoy being part of the community at Standen and am proud to show friends and family the projects that the volunteers have completed. The work is very varied and gives you a chance to try out many different tasks. There is a huge feeling of satisfaction among the group when each job is completed.” ~ Elaine
We are also working to expand our new dedicated cut flower area. Our eventual aim is to be able to supply all the flowers needed for the displays in the house. So if flowers are more your thing than vegetables and you are interested in helping out with this, then please get in touch.
Garden Stewards and Guides
Whenever we are open we like to have Garden Stewards walking around the garden to assist visitors as much as possible and to make their visit an interesting and enjoyable one. We also need Garden Guides to lead tours of the garden for our visitors. To help you in these roles a bag is supplied with leaflets and maps, and monthly briefings are held to keep you informed of areas of the garden that will be of particular interest to visitors. Don’t worry, a detailed knowledge of plants and Latin names is not required! See the garden change through the seasons and share your enthusiasm for the garden and its wildlife with our visitors. If you want to help at Standen but don’t want to do any physical work, then join this team for an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
“What a joy it has been to have spent the spring, summer and autumn walking around the gardens of Standen. It was extremely interesting to see the garden flowers and shrubs wake up in the spring, show themselves off during the summer and gradually fall asleep in the autumn. Seeing the garden week by week made me realise how much happens to the plants, shrubs and trees – no two weeks are the same. The highlight for me was finding two baby Little Owls. They were about fourteen days old, still with fluffy down but with some mature feathers just showing. I showed them off to visitors with cameras and to children, many of whom had never seen an owl before.” ~ Barry
North Sussex Volunteers
This group was founded in 1979 and has evolved considerably over the years. When it began, whilst primarily based in Horsham, volunteers would work at different sites around Sussex and Surrey within the local area, assisting wardens and gardeners at each one. They now concentrate solely on working at Standen with the Head Gardener James Masters and meet one Sunday a month, generally the last. Previously they helped revitalise a 12 acre wild flower meadow which allowed wild Exmoor ponies to graze. They are now based in the Plantation, where they are working on increasing and improving the Children’s Play Area. Over the past few years the group has already built an open air stage, bench seating, a maze out of old boardwalk, and an amazing higgledy-piggledy fence with lots of secret paths and hideaways. Plans are now in place for them to improve the Stage area with solar lighting, replace the maze and add a feature climbing pole at the centre, as well as building a tree house and a swing. The volunteers in this group have many more ideas which will come to fruition in the months and years ahead. With all these plans for future work, new volunteers are always welcome – the more we have the more we can achieve to improve the visitor experience!
There is the chance to come in individually to work in the garden on your own on any day, either on a specific task or area. To do this, you will need good horticultural knowledge and ideally to have previously worked with one of the other groups or with a member of our garden team.
South Downs Volunteers
South Downs NT Volunteers started in 1988 and is a group that works mainly at weekends. Over the last 5 years they have annually carried out over 2000 hours of conservation work on behalf of the National Trust. They work for properties across East and West Sussex. The group undertakes many different tasks helping to restore and conserve Downland, Heathland, and Woodland. Jobs include the removal of invasive alien plants, footpath maintenance, and fencing. They take members from 16 but most of their members are between 30 and 50. They also welcome Duke of Edinburgh students. Apart from working they offer a full social program of pub quizzes, organised walks and visits to other places of interest and sporting events. For more information on this group, please go to their website: www.southdownsntv.org.uk