Volunteers Week 2020 (1st – 7th June) was a great chance for us to catch up with our trustees and volunteers. This national event usually enables charities like ours to celebrate the essential work carried out by volunteers. This year we know that our volunteers are #nevermoreneeded as we navigate through the difficult times and look to the future. They have continued support us, and even written some blogs (!) whilst we have been closed. Tony McCabe has used his time away from the Orangery to prepare a virtual exhibition of his contemporary glasswork which will be available on our website very soon. Chris is a keen cyclist and has been using his daily exercise to drop in to the gardens from time to time to water our citrus plants. Diana has been working through risk assessments to plan for situations that we never envisaged when we opened just over a year ago.
Our volunteer meeting (via Zoom) focused on the steps that will be put in place to allow our gardeners to return safely. We know that some of our volunteers will not be able to return for a while, and that things have changed in their absence. The gardens look different, our priorities have changed, and we won’t be sitting together in the tea room for a while. However our shared commitment to preserving this special place remains unchanged. It’s a small step, but it’s a step forward.
Our activities and events will also change during this time. Instead of an art exhibition within the Orangery building we are working on a digital exhibition in collaboration with South Staffordshire College, using the gardens and the learners’ experiences during lockdown as inspiration. In place of a promenade performance we are working on an audio drama with Fired Up Theatre with opportunties to join in for those who have a voice for radio! We hope that if you enjoy our digital programme you will consider making a donation. Your support is even more important whilst we are closed and cannot generate any income.
As we take stock of another month that has passed we look forward to being able to welcome volunteers and visitors to the gardens in the coming weeks, having a fresh emphasis on using our outside space. Everything is busting with life – the trees are beautiful in their lovely fresh green leaves, the spring flowers are over but the roses are in bud and the dark red peony is in full bloom. More of the rhododendron have come into bloom including the lovely pink one. After a very dry month, the rain has really spurred the plants into life including wild flowers and nettles. Things will not return to how they were before, but we are finding new ways to enjoy them.