This is one my favourite photos of Smudge at Mountstewart, probably our favourite place to visit. I have been visiting for
twenty five years and she has been there for eight of them. She gets so excited we cannot utter the name Mountstewart in conversation at our home as she gets so excitable she expects to go there right away so we have to speak in code if we are proposing a visit. The new trails have added to our experience immensely. I have been a member since I was twenty two and have gained so much not just from visits in N.Ireland but also in England and Scotland. I am fortunate to work part time and as I have recently finished my design and patchwork course I felt I could volunteer to help with conservation. At this moment in time I am feeling a bit guilty as I seem to have gained more than I have given so far.
TIR NA NOG
The world of volunteering is much more than I ever expected and I look forward to being more involved in his community. I met with two employees of the trust thinking I was there for some sort of interview only to realise this was quite the reverse as the conversation kept going back to "if you decide to join us" I was invited to take part in any events volunteers are involved in and was delighted to see a programme online where I could book these.
I have always been interested in my family genealogy which I may have inherited from my dad's love of history. I have found a few skeletons in the closet much to the annoyance of family members but in the process I have gained so much reward especially in the reuniting of one of my dad's cousins to her half sisters she never knew she had. The era I have most interest in is late Victorian early Edwardian as I feel there was so much change then. Personally I feel I should have been born a middle class lady of the late 1890s where I would have sat all day sewing between having at homes. Some of my friends may feel I have achieved this goal at the age of 48 since I only work evenings and the rest follows.
I have been fascinated by Mountstewart from the first day I walked in the gardens and was delighted to have met and talked with Lady Mairi on a number of occasions. During our little chat on whether we were going to be volunteers or not it was discussed the importance of preserving the past whilst allowing it to be enjoyed by all. On one occasion I showed Lady Mairi a photograph of Smudge under the blue hydrangeas, which I love. She asked if it was taken in my garden. I hesitated and then I stated I suppose it was as we were fortunate to share Mountstewart through the National Trust.
Anyway back to volunteering...I opted to join the volunteers garden walk where the head gardener informed us of the changes in the garden and plans for the incoming year. A lot of plans that have to take place simply because nature decides and others because of governmental regulations. Unfortunately it's keeping to regulations that causes a financial burden on the trust and many of these are unseen by the general public. I know very little about plants and their Latin names but found this walk and talk most enjoyable and informative. When Smudge and I walk in the future I will be looking at everything from a different light. The highlight of my week was a talk by Neill on ladies in big Irish houses covering my favourite time in history. I hung on every word and was so envious of his research. How I would have loved to have chatted with the ladies he did and been exposed to the documents they were willing to share. To finish the week I thoroughly enjoyed Dr Blacks talk on "hanging the head" I seriously never thought of this art as interesting but again I will look on portraits differently in the future. So... as you can see now why I feel guilty as although I aim to volunteer already the National Trust have given me so much more.