Barbara making our Christmas wreath


Barbara making our Christmas wreath


Decorating Hardwick for the Christmas season


So it’s that time of year again; the time of year when we fetch out the tree and the boxes of baubles to begin the festive and potentially chaotic journey of putting up the Christmas decorations. Now at Hardwick this is no different. Aside from the fact that rather than your average 6ft tree, we’ve opted for two trees that are 18 feet tall – higher than your average double decker.

The first challenge was actually getting the trees into the house – definitely a team effort. As you can imagine getting an 18ft Christmas tree anywhere is quite a task – without being surrounded by historic collections in a 16th century mansion. Once they were up we began the process of adding lights, beads and baubles to the gigantic entrance hall trees; all in beautiful and traditional gold’s and reds.

While the bigger trees were being decorated, myself and Judy got to work on decorating the trees in the kitchen with paper garlands, golden bows and ornaments handmade by local school children. Barbara worked on adding beautiful garlands to the staircase; decorated with pine cones, beading and baubles as well as creating the wreath that hangs outside the Hall. The entire house was lit up with candles. Along with the usual decorations we have a Christmas cracker trail, which ties in with this year’s theme – where children can follow along a route and read the story of the Christmas Carol, all of which were handmade.

A particular challenge – as you might have imagined; was getting the star on top of the tree, or in this case trees. At home this might involve getting the tallest person in the house to stand on their tiptoes and there you have it. With that not being an option, our method involved our House & Collections manager Nigel on top of stepladders using a little ingenuity by use of a curtain rail to hook the star on top of our wonderful 18ft trees.

After seeing the hard work of the team of staff and volunteers at Hardwick, I have to say the Hall is looking stunning. If you want to see it for yourself, Hardwick is open until December 22nd – so don’t miss out!

My very first blog post

fernphoto My name is Fern Chambers and I’m one of Hardwick Halls many volunteers; a visitor experience volunteer to be exact. Now I know that sounds rather wordy but what it actually means is that I deal with customers little questions while I happen to be round and about the estate, to making sure no tweet remains unanswered.

Only recently I was sat at my desk at Lloyd’s mortgage department. I can’t say that I really imagined myself there age 19. I think I’d imagined myself on the way to landing my ideal job, or maybe studying at university. Perhaps somewhere a little more exciting or somewhere that didn’t involve a hundred phone calls a day regarding mortgages. Now I’m lucky enough to be sat writing this very blog at the lovely and entirely breath-taking Hardwick Hall. Now if I was going to volunteer at a National Trust property why would it be anywhere else other than the home of Elizabethan England’s most charismatic woman? (And also the home of Malfoy Manor to Potter fans of you out there.)

My volunteering came about through me beginning studying towards my degree in Events and Tourism management; part of this includes me spending a day working. Now every Thursday I spend the day at Hardwick dealing with mainly social media. From updating our blog to posting on Twitter; my time spent scrolling the newsfeed of Facebook and my 6,000+ tweets could finally be put to use. (Fitting something you want to say into just 140 characters is a lot tougher than it sounds!)

On my first full day volunteering, I’d started the day wondering how on earth such an estate was going to find something I’d be useful for. This was most definitely put to rest once my manager Emily talked me through what I’d be doing. The rest of the day was made up mostly of joining the tours to improve my knowledge of Hardwick; another volunteer Harry Broadhurst was leading the tours around the Hall and Gardens. We focused on the history of Bess of Hardwick and the architect behind the property; Robert Smythson. Being quite a bit of a history fan anyway I loved this part of the day.

On another of my days here I spent the morning getting lost in the gardens taking photos for Twitter and Facebook where I bumped into Brian; a garden volunteer who kindly gave me a guided tour of the gardens – educating me along the way on the plants and trees we have here – all the while dodging apples from dropping onto our heads while we were in the orchard.

I don’t think I’ve spent a day here yet where I haven’t heard volunteers in the office below bursting into song which probably says a lot about being at Hardwick. Now I’ve been here for a few weeks I can definitely say that volunteering for the National Trust is all it’s cracked up to be – if not more.

If it sounds like something you might be interested in here’s a link to the Trust’s volunteering page:

A new beginning

In March 2011, I was sitting at my work desk pondering the future – my redundancy had just been confirmed and I was on 3 months’ notice.

After some thought about what I’d like to do, I decided to apply to be a volunteer at Hardwick Hall. I wanted to do something practical outdoors and fortunately for me there was room for another volunteer with the Rangers’ Team.

I started volunteering with the Rangers in mid-June 2011. I agreed to commit 2 days a week for at least 2 months, as that would give me time to decide whether I’d made the right choice or not. By the third week, I had tried my hand at strimming, installing tree guards and orchard regeneration. The place, the work – and the people – had been a revelation and I knew I had found the new challenge I was looking for.

When the Passport to Your Future year 3 programme was published on the internet earlier this year, I had no hesitation in applying for the placement at Hardwick. Following a taster day and two interviews, I heard that I had been successful. I’ve taken my first step onto a new career ladder and it’s definitely leaning against the right building!

Janine Hagues

Keep checking vaccancies with the National Trust’s Passport to Your Future programme at