Volunteering at... Leeds Castle

Can't believe that I actually took this photo! I'm impressed.

Leeds Castle is widely known as 'The Loveliest Castle in the World' - and it really is that. Nestled in the beautiful countryside of Kent, Leeds Castle is a 900 year old national treasure and has been used as many things... a Norman stronghold, the private property of six of England’s medieval queens, a palace used by Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, a Jacobean country house, a Georgian mansion and an elegant early 20th century retreat for the influential and famous. Now, in the 21st century, it has become one of the most visited historic buildings in Britain.

I have been volunteering for Leeds Castle since around June, but it was only this week that I was able to get down to Kent to see the magnificent castle and meet the wonderful team I've been remotely working with. I was matched with them via the volunteer-matching service, Furlonteer, because with the pandemic hitting and the organisation being hugely reliant on tourist trade, they had to make some really tough decisions on staffing and some redundancies were made. I stepped in to help out with some of the marketing admin; writing press releases, writing blog posts and helping with content and a bit of Google AdWords too. I don't live local to Leeds Castle, so I'd never actually been there before volunteering with them but, with my background in the hospitality industry, I was pretty well-matched with them as their hospitality facilities are immense and stunning.

The Castle and grounds are so impressive (with the most amazing play area if you have kids), and it was awesome to meet the team and find out a little bit more about what they're up to. With a new lockdown imminent, further challenges are afoot because again they will be seeing their income drop significantly with zero visitors and weddings to host. When they eventually get to reopen, they will need a lot of support for the maintenance of this magnificent castle.

Leeds Castle is Actually a Charitable Foundation

And you can volunteer there!

What Leeds Castle is not widely known for is being a charitable foundation. While it was once the stately private home of the aristocracy, since being turned into a foundation when its last private owner died in 1974, it relies on the profits it makes from visitors and charitable donations to keep going, and everything is driven back into the Foundation to keep this 900 year old relic going for at least the next 900 years.

What Leeds Castle also has, which helps make it even more special, is some AMAZING volunteer opportunities. I've been volunteering in a remote capacity, offering my professional marketing skills, but if I lived in Kent they'd be hard-pressed to keep me away from this place, as it's such a magnificent place to spend time. I would not be doing my job if I didn't highlight some of these amazing opportunities, some of which are truly unique. Along with getting to hang out at the Loveliest Castle in the World, you get free entry into the Castle, as well as the opportunity to make friends with some great people - because volunteers generally tend to be pretty awesome.

  • Conservation Volunteer - this one is a really interesting one, as it requires both brain and strength. It's a practical role which requires you to help with the upkeep of estate infrastructure (fencing and the woodlands), but you will also be helping to undertake the nature surveys.

  • Day Visitor Operations Volunteer - if you like people and want to help the visitors find their way around the beautiful Castle, and help them get more enjoyment out of their visit by chatting to them about Leeds Castle. You'll get to know the Castle intimately, and will gain access to bits that aren't available to the general public.

  • Falconry Volunteer - this is a remarkable role where volunteers can assist with the day-to-day running of the Bird of Prey centre, which houses owls, hawks, falcons, an eagle and a vulture. It's also a fantastic opportunity to learn and study for your Lantra Award or Raptor Award. I love the sound of this role.

  • Floristry Volunteer - if you love flowers, you'll know that they require a great deal of care and attention. You'll also LOVE this voluntary role as you'll literally have your pick of arranging flowers from some of the most beautiful gardens you'll ever see.

  • Gardens Volunteer - if you're passionate about gardening, then helping to tend the gardens at Leeds Castle will be a dream. You can help with developing new projects and be a part of delivering this. Gardening is great for mindfulness, especially here.

  • Golf Volunteer - Leeds Castle has a stunning golf course which stretches across and throughout the grounds. If you're into golf and want to live and breathe it, I can't think of a better place for you to hang out.

  • Musical Volunteer - for this one, you need to bring some genuine talent I'm afraid. While I could probably rock up and bash out chopsticks on the half grand piano in the Castle, I don't think it would impress the visitors. There is also a magnificent organ in the chapel that is ready to be played. Here, you can pick music and play to your heart's delight whilst entertaining the visitors.

  • Wildlife Volunteer - this is wonderful opportunity to look after the habitat of the waterfowl and the peacock on the site. Here, you can maintain their welfare and support the Wildlife Warden with experience days with the lovely birds.

If you're interested in volunteering at Leeds Castle, click on any of the links above, or for a full list of all of the voluntary roles, click HERE. I personally couldn't think of a more rewarding way to spend your time if you're local to the area and want to do something really amazing.

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