Award for young conservation volunteers at National Trust house

Student volunteers at Claydon House with county council cabinet member Bill Bendyshe-Brown
Student volunteers at Claydon House with county council cabinet member Bill Bendyshe-Brown

History-mad students from schools across the Vale have received certificates after taking part in activities including cleaning and handling historical objects at a National Trust property.

Eight youngsters took part in the voluntary conservation course at Claydon House.

The scheme, one of the first of its kind in the county is being run by Bucks County Council in partnership with the National Trust and was offered to pupils to complete as part of either their bronze or silver Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE).

To complete the course, the volunteers made a series of visits to the house near Middle Claydon, over a period of three months to assist trust staff with conservation management at the property.

Activities included cleaning historic books and the grand staircase, learning how to clean and handle historic objects, carrying out condition reports and inventory work, and caring for the fabric of the building.

The volunteers were required to complete a total of 15 hours at Claydon House in order to meet the requirements for the award.

Volunteer, Matt Storey (age 14) from Waddesdon School said the part he enjoyed most on the course was making lots of new friends, and learning different skills. He said: “The best part was helping out in the shop and the part I least liked was hoovering.”

Among the other students that took part were Rory Forsyth (age 15) from Waddesdon School and Jessica McGrath and Alison Dancer-Leach, both age 15, and both from Cottesloe School.

Katie Phillips, house manager at Claydon House said: “We were delighted when Bucks County Council first approached us about offering a volunteer programme which could fulfil students bronze Duke of Edinburgh skill section.

“I myself did Duke of Edinburgh up to gold level when I was younger and it’s a scheme I would encourage all students to do.

“Over the past five months we have been able to offer students the opportunity to learn how to care for a historic house and collection up to National Trust conservation standards.

“They have assisted our house team here at Claydon with deep winter cleaning of objects, moving 17th century paintings, daily dusting and greeting visitors.

“It’s been an interesting and varied programme.

“We’ve thoroughly enjoyed hosting the Duke of Edinburgh students and are looking forward to our next intake in November.”

Presenting the students with their certificates at Claydon House, Bill Bendyshe-Brown, Bucks County Council’s deputy cabinet member for education and skills said: “The students have done brilliantly with their volunteering at Claydon House and it was a great honour to present them with their certificates.

“I too undertook the Duke of Edinburgh awards in the 1960s and realised the benefits of this award very early on, not only in my school work but also in my presentation to my future employers.

“As well as helping to raise environmental awareness and encourage students to become active citizens, the Duke of Edinburgh’s award is an invaluable element of the course because young people grow in confidence, become empowered through participation and it is highly regarded by employers.”

Young people interested in taking part in the scheme this November should contact their school, or email for more information.