I will refer you back to my blog in February when I stated I felt very guilty. The National Trust at Mountstewart had given me so much since becoming a volunteer I was beginning to wonder when I would actually be of help. We had a very interesting introduction which involved talks with conservators and in particular the guys working on the stone floor on the central hall. Advice was given on general maintenance, what to look out for and what to report to senior staff. Everyone was very enthusiastic but the element of unknown was also very clear. How will this floor cope with the footfall, what problems will we experience during bad weather and will we be able to continue preserving the floor as well as allowing free access. Initially I felt I could spare a few hours a fortnight but then have found myself there up to three times a week as a volunteer.
The first morning, with the supervision of Tammi, June and I set out to examine the floor and make a note mentally as well as document flaws. Were the marks we saw coloured striations on the stone work, recent stains or inherited damage from the original household? It was quite a challenge and a lot to document. We feared visitors would be arriving and we would still be vacuuming but we got there in the last second.
The second day was more manageable as we had a better knowledge of the floor so we got a chance to work specifically at some worrying areas, toothbrushes in hand. I grinned to myself as I thought about my husbands view on my task for the day. I am not house proud and far from a perfectionist but it’s amazing how much fun you get cleaning someone else’s home. Day three and with another volunteer Billy I almost felt the floor was ours and well dare anyone walk on it! The loose dirt from visitors and staff was minimal and again we were able to clean up a few areas we had been working on. We were also able to discuss our work with Tammi and how we were going to continue to document any change so that each member of the team knew what was happening.
By the second week assessment and documentation was done in half the time. A few structural issues that we had been warned about were passed on and some vacuuming and light sponging in a few areas were adequate. That left me time to help Sheena out with a little dusting. Again this was much more fun than cleaning my own home. However time to leave and come back to the real world of muddy paw prints through my hall, living room,kitchen,baking and cooking to be done. The dusting can wait to another day!
I am becoming more and more aware of the work going on here in so many different areas with a vast array of skills and expertise. I don’t buy newspapers, rarely watch TV and live in my own world a lot of the time. However whilst queuing in shops I pick up the headlines from nearby newspapers. Just this week I saw an article highlighted by our local Trust the high incidence of mental health disorders along the Ards peninsula. This I have been aware of for some time and the fact of high unemployment with a loss of sense of purpose amongst many folk in this area. Volunteering is not ideal for most as an income is needed to survive and I feel fortunate to be employed part time and have the chance therefore to do other things. However if paid employment isn’t an option surely volunteering may bring some purpose to some of those people who aren’t so crippled by their mental health and in fact prevent worsening depression. It’s well documented how working outdoors can give so many people a sense of well being. It also gives opportunities for forming friendships with others you are working alongside. In this short time volunteering I am aware of so many roles that could surely be fulfilled by someone who for whatever reason cannot take on paid employment. It can give a sense of achievement and hope for their future.
Sunday in our house is a day of rest although as a nurse this can’t be true of every Sunday as patients can’t choose when to be ill or not. However weather permitting Mountstewart is our usual stop for a leisurely walk in the afternoon enjoying God’s creation. The new trails are amazing, if you haven’t been it’s a must for all the family.
Mothers Day was gorgeous weather and We had some time before I went to work. Patterson’s hill was closed off due to Heron nesting but this did not disturb our walk and good to see conservation going beyond my stone floor.
In particular I love the marshy area both sides of the blue trail that almost looks prehistoric. I try to think of the hustle and bustle of the farm life way back and family members having a canter along the trails. The folly is idyllic and a perfect place for Smudge to get a drink from the babbling brook before the second part of our walk.
New stones have been placed to make the paths less muddy and on the hill leading to the play area wood chips. The forest area at times makes me think of Tollymore forest park and yet we are literally in what was someone’s garden. How wonderful it must have been to grow up here with all the freedom of the land and beauty with it.
I stopped in the shop today before I left and spoke to another new volunteer Joanne who is working in retail. I decided I needed to know more about the place I was gradually spending more and more time. I had a browse through the books and decided on my purchase.
Through my profession I have met people who did grow up on Mountstewart as there parents either worked on the land or in the house and I remember one lady reading this very book that had been given to her as a gift. She reminisced as she flicked through the pages so I thought this was a good place to start.
I read the first chapter before I even left the car park. “A Year in the Life of Mount Stewart” by David Kirk.