Written by Lily Middleton, Sunday garden volunteer.
I started as a garden volunteer for Fulham Palace in May 2022. One of the main reasons for joining the lovely Sunday team was to have the chance to really get stuck into gardening. I only have a small balcony myself, and as you can imagine, it can be quite limiting. I don’t tend to buy many plants, I propagate as much as I can, but again, space is an issue here. My partner puts up with rows of seed trays on our living room floor in the spring!
I also wanted the chance to build on my horticultural knowledge. I work for BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine as my day job. Having the chance to do the pruning we’re writing about or understanding the seasons through the changing tasks at Fulham Palace, has been hugely beneficial.
Despite quite a few practical reasons for becoming a volunteer, I’ve found I’ve got so much more from volunteering than I ever imagined. I’m a busy person, with lots of passions and interests, so when I first signed up a few friends and family members questioned my choice to give up even more of my free time. But heading to Fulham on a Sunday morning never feels like a chore. I love arriving and having a natter with senior gardener Franziska and the other volunteers. I embrace being told what to do and just getting on with it, whether it’s all working together as a group to learn how to prune the wisteria, and collectively fearing getting it wrong, or pottering around cutting flowers and creating bouquets to sell on the barrow.
With my small growing space, I don’t have many opportunities to grow crops, it was just tomatoes and chillies this year. So, another treat at Fulham is to see what’s been harvested that week or to head off with a trug and do some harvesting myself. Myself and other volunteers usually end up buying a few crops ourselves, and as a result, I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of cooking with different ingredients, especially since becoming a vegetarian in the last year and attempting to be more creative in the kitchen as a result!
One memory that really stands out is the day that we were all weeding around the apple trees, and it must have been Remembrance Sunday as you could hear more from the church next to the garden than usual. As Jerusalem drifted over the gardens from the church, we all felt as though we’d been transported back decades. Despite the proximity of the garden to the hustle and bustle of Putney Bridge and Fulham Palace Road, it really is a sanctuary.
So, whilst time in the garden builds on all our knowledge as we get involved with different tasks throughout the year, it really is that sense of peace and community that makes volunteering such a joy and means that the alarm clock on a Sunday morning is never unwelcome.
Interested in volunteering?
From harvesting plants and selling on the barrow to welcoming volunteers and giving guided tours, volunteers help make the Palace special.