Garden walks led by volunteers have taken place at Wakehurst for nearly 20 years. Our community of knowledgeable volunteer guides enhance the visitor experience by providing a wealth of interesting information, interpretation and orientation for visitors.
The beautiful setting for guided walks at Wakehurst
Our volunteer guide programme at Wakehurst aims to offer two Garden walks every day. In the future we also hope to run special subject tours, developed according to the individual interests of the guide.
New guides joining the programme are given full training to prepare them to give knowledgeable and informative tours for visitors. Periodically we train small groups of additional committed volunteers to conduct guided walks, to provide information about plants and their uses and to tell visitors about the history and current work of Kew at Wakehurst. Our guides also provide general orientation information to the public.
Becoming a volunteer guide
Candidates accepted as trainee guides are expected to take part in an intensive training course. Training consists of a series of lectures and tours. Prospective guides will also be expected to do some additional private study, working towards a simple practical examination at the end of the training programme.
Once in-service, our guides are evaluated periodically and participate in regular monthly training sessions to keep up to date with developments in the Gardens and across the estate at Wakehurst. After successful completion of training, volunteer guides are asked to make a minimum commitment of eight hours a month. Guides are asked to take at least one weekend tour per month.
The volunteer guides at Wakehurst find the work and training stimulating and enjoyable. However, before returning the application form, we request that you take the time to ask yourself the following questions:
- Can I commit myself to at least two years of guide service after completion of the course?
- Am I flexible enough to adapt to a wide variety of groups and situations?
- Do I have patience in dealing with people?
- Do I have the energy to walk for an hour while talking and keeping groups interested?
- Can I make a commitment to a date and time sometimes as much as four weeks in advance?
- Can I volunteer cooperatively with other guides and staff members?
- Do I also enjoy acting independently?
- Do I have enough time to commit or am I already doing too much?
In our training programme, new volunteer guides take part in a series of sessions that cover the following areas of life at Wakehurst:
- Introduction to Wakehurst - a brief outline of the history of the Wakehurst Mansion and estate, why Kew came here and what has happened since. This is followed by an orientation walk.
- History of the Mansion - lecture and tour of the house.
- The Ornamental collections at Wakehurst - lecture on the features of the upper gardens and their strategic role. This is followed by a series of tours in the three areas of the Gardens, each lead by the team leader of that area.
- A walk through the temperate woodlands of the world - a lecture on the arrangement of the woodland botanical collections at Wakehurst. This is followed by a detailed tour of the arboretum.
- Conservation - a lecture on the in situ and ex situ conservation work undertaken here, followed by a tour of the Loder Valley Nature Reserve.
- Maintaining the collections - a tour of the Nursery Unit to see how plants are raised for the gardens to replace and improve the ornamental and botanical collections. Trainee guides are also taken to see the plants used to support Kew's Millennium Seed Bank.
- Kew's Millennium Seed Bank - a lecture on the work of this global conservation resource, followed by a tour of the building.
- Guiding techniques - lecture followed by a general question and answer session on all parts of guiding at Wakehurst.
- Basic botany - a lecture on plant names and classification and laboratory work on the structure of plants.
- Tours - practice guiding sessions with the group to try out the techniques you've learned.
- Introduction to Kew - tour of Kew with a volunteer guide. This session may include a behind the scenes tour of the Herbarium and Jodrell Labroratory at Kew Gardens.
How to apply
For an application form, call Sarah Bell on 01444 894055 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.