Let’s hear it for the Volunteers

By Andy Winfield

This week the Botanic Garden volunteers were awarded the highest accolade for volunteering in the land, the Queen’s Award for Volunteer Services; aka the MBE for volunteer groups. As a member of staff here I’m very chuffed for them because I know that without them the Garden would be a very different place.

It could be argued that one of the most precious commodities we have these days is time, and so the value attached to people offering us their time for an afternoon, morning or just a couple of hours each week is unquantifiable. The Garden has four full time Gardeners, including a job-share; one trainee; just under two administrator positions shared by three people; and, of course, the Curator. The number of volunteers on our books is two hundred and forty-four!

The volunteers are guides, gardeners, stewards, leaflet deliverers, office administrators, newsletter editors, front gate welcomers, exam invigilators, marketing supremos and car parking attendants. They come to us from all walks of life and ages thrown together through a love of plants. When we have a tea break its great to see the combinations of personalities excitedly talking about a plant they’ve seen or a garden they’ve visited; a Bristol University student talking with an eighty-year-old pensioner about succulents; a brawny tree surgeon discussing mycorrhiza with an arty American. It’s a very positive environment to work in, and I’m not sure I would have stayed in the job for this long without them. The Garden exists because of them, the staff would be drowned under the weight of work without them.

They say that to truly appreciate something you should imagine living without it, and the Botanic

Garden without volunteers would be a greyer place. The tea breaks would have less chatter and smiles, the Garden would be unfinished and unkempt, there would be no refreshments, welcome lodge or guided groups; no home baked cakes brought into the mess room, no newsletter and probably no Friends group. The idea of it is unimaginable.

So, this award is hard earned and well deserved by everyone that has ever pulled a weed, poured a cup of tea or pushed a leaflet through the door of a snappy dog for the Botanic Garden.

Congratulations from all of the team, we’re inspired by you!

Andy Winfield



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