Volunteer Jeff Ayling is a passionate carpenter and loves being able to work with his hands at the Museum. Here Jeff shares his reasons for becoming a volunteer and some of his fondest memories…
Jeff Ayling …
When I started volunteering at the Museum, I was working with the stewards, meeting and greeting visitors, but I was keen to do something a bit more hands-on. Soon after I began to specialise in repair work with the Curatorial Team and got to work on projects such as the fitting out of the Dairy. I was tasked with putting up all the shelving in the building and have stayed working with the Curatorial Team ever since.
I first became a volunteer when my wife and I retired, and we wanted to find a project that we could volunteer at together. Being able to work together, although we don’t ever see each other here, is fantastic as we learn and share so much from what we do. We also get to bring some of our own energy and expertise to the roles and those we work with.
Before retiring, I was employed as part of the carpentry team that worked on the Downland Gridshell when it was built. We did all the woodwork elements of the building, which I loved. This gave me first-hand experience of the Museum which is probably why we chose to approach them for volunteer roles in retirement.
Getting involved in different buildings and artefacts is what I really enjoy. I also like the idea of being asked to have a go at something different, and I never know what I’m going to be asked to do each time I arrive. For example, I had been working on the Saxon Hall House, which was a planned project, but I then got pulled into helping with the Kirdford Cattle Shed repairs, and spent several days making rafters for the roof, which was a lovely project.
In the time I’ve worked here there have been so many stand out memories. From a satisfaction perspective, one of my fondest moments was working on the Gypsy Caravan. The challenge of doing the woodwork to repair and restore her while ensuring that we didn’t have to take her apart was a tough but thrilling task. She’s just been moved back down the hill after being put away for the winter, many of the wheeled vehicles need to be moved as they’re prone to mould in the damp winter months.
At this time of year, in the spring, the Museum is a lovely place to be with the cowslips coming up and all the other wildflowers emerging. It really is a fantastic place to come and volunteer and we feel very lucky to be able to experience the Museum all year round.
To find out more about volunteering at the Weald & Downland Living Museum click here.