Marsh Awards for Volunteering with RBGK

These Awards celebrate some of the 500 volunteers at Kew for their outstanding commitment, innovation and passion while volunteering at Kew Gardens and Wakehurst Place.

Volunteers have been a vital part of Kew since 1992, supporting the organisation and assisting staff in their work. Volunteer posts range from taking visitors on guided tours, helping horticulturists in the Gardens, or working within research teams.

Nominations for the Award are shortlisted by Kew and the final three Award winners are selected by the MCT.

Martin Delbridge, Kay Sharpe and Community Horticultural Learning Volunteers 2021

Martin Delbridge – Horticultural Volunteer & Tour Guide, Wakehurst site

Martin has been supporting the Wakehurst team as a Horticultural Volunteer and Tour Guide since 2018. His colleagues praise his enthusiasm and willingness to share his knowledge with colleagues and visitors and he was one of only 5 guides able to return to the site once Covid restrictions were relaxed. Martin is proactive and enthusiastic in offering help to other departments when needed and helped keep the Wakehurst volunteer community connected during lockdown by sharing horticultural knowledge and videos from his own garden. Martin has recently signed up to become an American Prairie Explainer and will play an active part in helping to train up new volunteers, passing on some of his knowledge and hopefully a good chunk of his enthusiasm and positivity to the volunteers that join the team.

 

Kay Sharpe – Herbarium Curational & Economic Botany Volunteer, Kew site

Kay joined Kew’s Volunteer team in 2016 in the Herbarium and more recently has supported Kew’s Economic Botany Collection team with a digitising project, one of many projects she is involved in. During lockdown she continued her volunteering commitment through online transcribing and was one of the first volunteers to return to the Herbarium once lockdown restrictions had relaxed. One of her many achievements include the preparation of 5000 botanical specimens and she always works to an exceptionally high standard with a great positive attitude.

 

Community Horticultural Learning Volunteers – Kew site

The Community Horticultural Learning Volunteers are described as a wonderful and passionate team who are a constant source of support, both to Kew and to one another. Through lockdown, some of the volunteers attended courses to increase their knowledge which they are keen to share with the public, and others visited the allotment to keep it tended and ready for the return of the public. The volunteers suggested starting up a community allotment library for students who were unable to afford books. With their vast amounts of experience, each volunteer has made a vast difference to making their visitors feel welcomed, safe and encouraging personal improvement. They have not been afraid of learning and trying new things, and some of their many strengths are leading by example and their immense capacity for empathy and kindness.

Previous Winners

Phil Singleton, Ben Jones and The Kew Litter Pickers

Phil Singleton – Wakehurst Place  

 Phil has volunteered continuously since 2009 when he started with the Wakehurst Horticultural team, helping to maintain the meadow in front of the Millennium Seed Bank. He has volunteered tirelessly, often unseen but always trusted and has a constant good humour, making the experience of working with him enjoyable for everyone. Phil has been producing a rota for the Wakehurst Learning team since 2014 and has made a real difference in this role which requires great attention to detail.  This key document allows the Wakehurst Learning Programme to run smoothly which is especially important during peak season when over 2000 pupils per month take part in education sessions, resulting in the steady engagement of over 10,000 pupils in 2019-20.  Phil has a wealth of educational knowledge which he shares with school groups and other volunteers. What Phil does is complicated and fraught with challenges such as peoples changing availability, but he remains organised, unflappable and in constant good humour. 

 

Ben Jones – Princess of Wales Conservatory Volunteer – Kew Site  

 Ben has been volunteering at Kew for over 16 years across various horticultural teams and his dedication is exemplary. He volunteers weekly and is often on site twice a week. Ben often goes above and beyond his core volunteer duties, especially during the annual Orchid Festival build where he helps other less experienced volunteers and comes in extra days and weekends to push through and help complete the task. Scott Taylor, Conservatories Manager, says that Kew’s Orchid Festival would not be the event that is today without Ben’s volunteer support. On average, Ben contributes 300 hours of his time every year, he is a great ambassador for Kew always promoting their important work with pride and passion. He is a popular team member who is always friendly and gets on well with staff, students and volunteers with whom he shares his vast Kew knowledge. 

 

Volunteer Litter Pickers – Kew Gardens  

Kew’s team of 8 Volunteer Litter Pickers was established in 2011 and their role involves volunteering outdoors come rain or shine. This dedicated group of individuals are passionate about Kew and the environment, collecting litter and preventing the negative impact on Kew’s landscape and visitor experience that litter can cause. Their motivation is unquestionable as they turn up week after week to pick up the waste left by visitors, which includes soiled nappies, crisp packets and cigarette ends. The Volunteer Litter Pickers are invaluable to Kew’s Gardens Team and they have an excellent relationship with staff team members, communicating weekly with the Gardens Managers and reporting any issues encountered. Answering visitor enquiries politely and knowledgeably is a big by-product of this role. They are a tight knit group who support each other and Kew’s Horticultural team and the feedback from Kew staff and members of the public is always positive. 

Lesley Aird, Library Tagging and Barcoding Volunteers and John Selfe

Lesley Aird
Lesley has been a Science Volunteer at the Jodrell Lab since 2006 working mainly on the restructuring and updating of the DNA and Tissue Bank Collection and database which now holds circa 58,000 specimen and 37,000 taxa. Her substantial contributions and her attention to detail sped up the improvement and development of the database and allowed for the incorporation of numerous samples into the tissue collection.
Lesley has been a consistent and faithful volunteer for the past 12 years and has become and integral part of Kew’s science collections. An example of the enormous differences that she has made includes her work with Dr Christine Leon and the Chinese Medical Plant Collection, taking on the complex and lengthy task of sorting and entering the data and specimens of more than 1,000 samples of Dr Leon’s Traditional Chinese Medicine Field Collection. Lesley’s knowledge, enthusiasm, accuracy, attention to detail, hard work and commitment made the complex process smooth and efficient. She works well as part of a team and is always keen to share her knowledge and passion with other volunteers at Kew.

Library Tagging and Barcoding Volunteers
Since this team began volunteering in 2011, they have tagged and barcoded over 100,000 items in the main herbarium branch library collections, added book and journal volumes and provenance information. They have also databased over 11,000 maps and catalogued over 600 Economic Botany journals and annual reports. As well as adding to the records, they have enhanced existing records which has allowed for the information to be shared with internal and external stakeholders.

Between them, the volunteers have given over 6,000 hours of their time. They have allowed the library to offer more and better information to users than could have been done with the current staffing resources. The work can sometimes be monotonous, but the volunteers have stuck with it, some of them attending every week for the last 8 years.

John Selfe
John has been a consistent and reliable Horticultural Volunteer for over 6 years in the Princess of Wales Conservatory (POWC) and has given the some of the highest number of volunteering hours each of these years, helping to maintain the high standard of displays. John is a versatile volunteer and has a great deal of skills which he is always willing to share with others.

One of John’s main contributions is to the annual Orchid Festival. Every year he helps create the animals that are on display, comes in extra days and gives a great deal of commitment to making sure that the Festival runs smoothly. Without his help, the Festival would not be the high-profile event that it is now.

Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) Bolivia Project Volunteers, Debbie Muress and Janet Bostock

Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) Bolivia project volunteers

Since the Bolivia project began in April 2016, this dedicated group of 8 volunteers have given Kew 3,000 hours of their time assisting in unlocking the Bolivian specimen data housed in the Herbarium collection. The volunteers have digitised label data and imaged 8,000 Kew Herbarium collections in the first 18 months of the project and many of them also take on other volunteering roles at Kew. The team has great morale amongst them, are always happy to share their experience and have produced resources to help one another become even more efficient.

Debbie Muress

Debbie was one of the first volunteers to join the Wakehurst Plant Propagation and Conservation Unit in October 2007, and over the last 10 years she has been a dedicated, positive and supportive presence for staff and volunteers alike. The Unit relies on the input of volunteers to carry out the work that it does, and so Debbie’s decade of commitment accounts for a lot. She has supported many staff and students who have come through the nursery and is always keen to help with any jobs that need doing.

Janet Bostock

Janet became a Kew Tour Guide in 20017 and since then has constantly been the most prolific tour guide, leading over 600 tours of the gardens on a variety of themes such as behind the scenes in the Tropical Nursery. She is currently chair of the Social Endeavours Committee which organises social events for the guides, including a celebration of 25 years of guiding at Kew which took place in February this year. Janet always goes the extra mile in her volunteering role, even to the point where she stepped in to lead a group of visitors on a fungi walk around the gardens when the Expert tour was oversubscribed, and has dedicated over 1400 hours to the gardens and the Guides programme.

Volunteer Guide Training Committee, Derek Reynolds and The Arboretum Nursery Volunteers 

Volunteer Guide Training Committee 

The Kew Gardens Training Committee, made up of volunteer guides Anne Bawtree, Jenny Jones, Carolyn Lowe, Julia Lourie, Carol Ritchie and Sue Lowndes, have collectively given 82 years of volunteering services, meeting regularly and organising a number of training sessions for volunteers. They also offer additional time and support to the Visitor Engagement Volunteer Coordinator, helping to organise a programme of Tour Guide assessments. The Committee spend a great deal of time studying and researching the latest information so that their training sessions are as relevant as possible. Each member of the Committee also gives their time as a tour or information guide at Kew. Their Guided Tours educate and inspire visitors while delivering the important message of Kew’s scientific and conservation work. In 2017, Kew’s tour guide committee will celebrate 25 successful years since its inception, and the Volunteer Training Committee is a key contributor to this success.

Derek Reynolds 

Derek has served as a Wakehurst Volunteer Guide since the inception of the programme in 1993, during which time he has provided reliable tours when he has been rostered, no matter what the weather or season. He passionately explains to visitors the developments and seasonal interests in the gardens, and never complains even if no one shows up for a tour. Derek has always been a keen supporter of Wakehurst and delivers information to visitors in a knowledgeable way, with a personal touch due to his long time involvement with the gardens. The staff at Wakehurst, and indeed the public who attend his tours, give great positive feedback to Derek for his passion and commitment, making him a much loved and well respected Volunteer Guide.

Arboretum Nursery Volunteers 

This group of volunteers, made up of Tomiko Francombe, Jane Calder Jess Moore and Melanie Martin, have been volunteering collectively for 6 years, maintaining the same level of enthusiasm for the tasks given to them (a new one every week, sometimes not the most glamourous!) that they had when they began their volunteering work. Without the commitment of these volunteer, the Arboretum Nursery would simply not be able to produce as many healthy plants as they do. The volunteers welcome the constant change of students and apprentices at the nursery like they have always known them, doing their best to help in any way they can so that the student can complete the relevant tasks for their diplomas.

 

 

 

 

Jim Winstone, Jackie Breakwell & Alfie Smith, Jamie Jenkins & Andrea Ferguson

Jim Winstone

Jim Winstone has been a horticultural volunteer in the Order Beds since 2009, donating around 450 hours annually to Kew Gardens, the equivalent cumulative contribution of one full time staff member for one year. Jim consistently donates one of the highest numbers of volunteer hours each year and has never ceased to impress with his tireless energy and enthusiasm for Kew. He volunteers for the love of gardens and inspires others in his commitment to Kew’s volunteering programme. Come rain or shine, he is always there to lend a hand with a smile. Jim definitely goes the extra mile as he is so committed to not letting the team down. He appreciates how busy the team at Kew are, and does whatever he can to help ease their workload.

Jackie Breakwell & Alfie Smith

Jackie Breakwell and Alfie Smith have been volunteering at Kew for over 15 years, first in the Temperate House, where they have been looking after the outside borders, and since the renovation, maintaining the planting borders and lawn edges outside the Palm House. They are enthusiastic, hard-working and independent with great attention to detail and they are always happy to do a wide variety of jobs, either on their own or as part of a team. The Temperate House manager notes that they are “outstanding, brilliant and committed to the full, putting in extra time over and above their required time, especially when further hands are needed.”

Jamie Jenkins & Andrea Ferguson

Jamie Jenkins and Andrea Ferguson have made an invaluable contribution to supporting Kew’s work over many years and in many different areas of Kew. They have both played a pivotal role in supporting Kew’s Community Access Membership Scheme, giving a huge amount of time and commitment in helping to set up the new updated Community Access Member Scheme.

Individually as well as together they make an important and enthusiastic contribution to the running of Kew. Jamie has been leading and supporting Kew’s Health Walks also aimed at people who are recovering from or living with various health issues. Andrea also volunteers in a number of areas across Kew, and for the past year she has been a member of the Schools lunchtime bookings team.

The Herbarium Reorganisation Volunteers, Jane Lewis and Charlie Shelton

The Herbarium Reorganisation Volunteers

This group of volunteers have been instrumental to reorganising the herbarium collections, which include specimens from almost every geographic region of the world. The volunteers have moved close to 6.5 million specimens, gathered data and labelled collections. They have liaised with internal staff to enable the re-classification of whole families of species and this massive reorganisation would not have been possible without them. The volunteers are a dedicated team, some having volunteered two days a week for three years. Their vital work means that researchers visiting the collections from all over the world can benefit from specimens being organised according to modern scientific classification.

Jane Lewis 

Jane volunteers on a regular basis as a Kew Volunteer Guide. She has led over 113 tours for the Guiding Programme and a number of Discovery Tours. She has also played a key role in driving the Kew British Sign Language Tour project, and has mentored Volunteer interpreters throughout their training. She has also coordinated the scripting of a Garden Tour which could easily be interpreted into British Sign Language. This is now being used to lead tours in this area. Jane constantly receives positive feedback for her work from visitors and from staff and volunteers at Kew.

Charlie Shelton 

Charlie has been volunteering at the Tropical Nursery at Kew since 2008. He has donated on average 230 hours per year to the Bromeliad and Adroid living collections, making sure that plants are ready to be on show. He has also supported major exhibitions at Kew, such as the annual Orchid Festival.
Charlie can always be relied on to carry out a wide range of tasks and has been a loyal volunteer for years. His experience in horticulture and personable nature mean that he is a highly valued member of the team.

James Whiting, Veronica Cheng and The Arboretum Team

James Whiting

Jim Whiting has made an invaluable contribution to Kew’s Discovery Programme since he joined as Volunteer Driver in 2008. He is a passionate ambassador for Kew’s work and his reliability and dedication have been critical to the programme, especially during a period where the Discovery Programme Coordinator post was vacant. Without Jim’s dedication and commitment the programme would have wound down entirely.

Veronica Cheng

Veronica started horticultural volunteering in 2005. She initially volunteered within the Queens Garden, then during the restructuring of the Hardy display section alongside this. Since 2008 she has volunteered for the Broadwalk access team. She has also played a key role in the maintenance and redevelopment of the Queens garden prior to the re-opening of Kew Palace.

The Arboretum Team 

The Arboretum Volunteers have contributed over 7,000 hours of volunteering at the arboretum at Kew Gardens in one year alone. Their work is always physically demanding as it involves activities such as weeding and edging tree circles, yet they show so much enthusiasm for their role. Even though they are volunteers, staff members know that they can rely on them in the same way that we do with their colleagues and their support is much needed. The volunteers’ enthusiasm is so emphatic that members of the public who approach them often ask about how they might be able to volunteer too!

The Kew Guides, Alan Cornwell and Jill Ashcroft

The Kew Guides

The Kew Guides deliver tours 363 days a year, including weekends and public holidays. Balancing Kew’s messages with humour and individuality, the guides engage visitors who are then inspired by Kew. The tours are adapted to the needs of individuals and they take place whatever the weather.

Mike Fay states, ‘I have been familiar with the tremendous contribution of the volunteer guides since they started over 20 years ago, and it’s difficult to think of a more dedicated group of people – with some faces changing from time to time but with many long-serving members of the team. I’ve really enjoyed my interactions with the guides. Their thirst for additional information to use in their tours seems limitless and the people who go on the tours are sure to get a first-class introduction to the work of Kew.’

Alan Cornwell

Alan volunteers in the Gardens team at Wakehurst Place and has taken responsibility for the formal lawn edges and paved areas adjacent to the Mansion and Stables Restaurant. Nominator Paul Reader writes, ‘Alan has contributed over 1,000 hours to Wakehurst in 2010 and over 1500 hours in 2011, and has now volunteered at Wakehurst for over 12 years, during which period he has increased his contribution to the estate each year. His contribution is highly praised by both staff and managers.’

Jill Ashcroft

Jill has volunteered with the Tropical America Regional Team for two and a half years. She has taken on over the role of “Laying out” incoming material for future study which requires a great deal of skill. Joanne Everson says, ‘Jill has been volunteering with the Rock and Aquatic Garden team for nine years and is reliable, dependable, conscientious and careful in all areas of her role. Maintaining the Rock Garden collection to the highest standards takes dedication and a methodical attitude which Jill has in abundance.’

Helen Pickering, Millennium Seed Bank Volunteers and Barry Sorrell

Helen Pickering

September 2009, Helen has volunteered in the Kew Herbarium for three days per week, where she has been the driving force behind data gathering and compilation for a checklist of the wild plants of Sudan and South Sudan. This collaborative project was initiated by the University of Khartoum. Of the estimated 4000-4500 species present in these two countries, Helen has made a major contribution to the 2800 species so far documented. Her work includes herbarium and literature-based research to compile summary information on plant species, their distribution and their habitat requirements. Helen has also visited Sudan as part of this work where she provided training to colleagues in the University and also acted as an ambassador for Kew at the “International Conference of Graduate Students and Scientific Research” in Khartoum in February 2010.

Millennium Seed Bank Volunteers 

are 14 volunteers working at the seed bank, some of whom are approaching 10 years of dedicated service. The team has cleaned over 3,500 seed collections. Their contribution has so far saved the organisation over £167,000. The seed bank volunteers provide RBGK with at least 1 full day’s work each per week. They provide a visual experience for visitors to the seed bank and also help with media relations. They are excellent ambassadors for the project both at work and in their own time.

Barry Sorrell

Barry was one of the original intakes of horticultural volunteers at Kew. He has been making an invaluable contribution to Kew’s mission and objectives for the past eight years during which time he has consistently given some of the most hours annually to the programme e.g. last year he was the second highest donator of horticultural hours.

Fern Volunteer Group, Simon Brown and Ron Bicheno

Fern Volunteer Group

The group of volunteers, know informally as the “Fern Volunteer Group”, and led by Sheila Thompson, have been working together since 1996, data basing specimens from the Kew collection. Approximately 20 people have been part of the group. Until recently they have concentrated on capturing data from fern specimens collected in South East Asia. Together the group have data based and bar-coded over 70,000 specimens. Their combined contribution is equivalent to over 8 person years of time.

Simon Brown

Simon is a founder member of the Learning Volunteers at Wakehurst. He helps young people learn about plants by supporting Wakehurst teaching staff and by his personal engagement with students. He helps with the standard school programme making an outstanding contribution to the gifted and talented programmes for schools, continuing professional development, family events such as half term activities, winter festival events and the Big Draw, so his reach is much greater than young visitors alone. He has built up an impressive bank of knowledge of plants and plant biology in the 8 years he has been volunteering and he conveys this with great enthusiasm to students and visitors alike.

Ron Bicheno

As a retired staff member of many years, working in the Stable yard Green Waste Composting Area, Ron now helps (2 days a week) in keeping the area clear of any contaminants which could harm the composting process. His many contributions around the Yard helps keep the composting area and associated buildings clear of unwanted materials. By doing so Ron plays a part in making sure Kew creates the best garden mulches that it can. Although the composting area is a “behind the scenes” activity, it plays a massive role in the continued growth and longevity of Kew’s collections. By working around the Stable Yard area he also contributes to Kew’s Sustainability award.