The tasks we support are usually outdoors and include tree planting, coppicing, scrub clearance and fence building. We also have special tasks such as boardwalk construction on Orford Ness or pulling Reed Mace at Flatford Mill. Many tasks involve a bonfire. Volunteering with us is rewarding, and the group is very friendly and sociable. There is a tea break and lunch break during the day, with hot drinks, biscuits and cake.
Essex & Suffolk NTV is an inclusive group, offering volunteering opportunities to all ages and abilities. Under 18s are welcome to attend, but must be accompanied by a parent or responsible adult, and complete a parental consent form.
We do not have a formal membership with our group, however all volunteers completing a total of at least 50 hours in a year will receive a National Trust Volunteer Card. This is valid for one year and allows free entry to all NT properties, some of the benefits of NT membership, plus discount off purchases in NT shops and cafes, as well as a range of other discounts.
The Group owns and maintains a selection of tools, and insurance is provided by the Trust whilst we are working on its properties.
These are the properties we help maintain, and some of the activities we undertake:
- Bourne Mill – 16th century water mill – with some machinery – on the south side of Colchester town centre. We work in the grounds, the garden, the mill pond, the sluice and the mill race as well as the mill itself
- Bridges Farm. Suffolk farm with water meadows and boathouse. Work involves fencing, property maintenance, cutting down and disposal of hedges, and reinforcing the river bank (revetment)
- Danbury Commons, Lingwood Common and Blakes Wood. 214 acres of common land, incorporating heath, gorse and coppice – all ripe worksites for SNTV! The area encompasses a Site of Special Scientific Interest, ancient woodland and military defences, which we carefully manage to encourage growth of rare flora and fauna
- Dedham Vale. Base for working on the Trust’s estate east of Dedham. Tasks much as Bridges Farm
- Dunwich. Extensive lowland heath on the Suffolk coast. Tasks as Bridges Farm but culling invasive birch has been a feature in the past. We were involved in the “Red Earth” project a few years back which saw three sculptures made from coppiced trees erected to represent erosion along the coast. We also help maintain Mount Pleasant Farm, which forms part of the estate
- Fenbridge. Area between Flatford and Dedham with views over the Stour valley. Lots of fencing and coppicing of diseased elms with bonfires
- Flatford. Lots of sites in the Flatford area. There is the Dry Dock which is flooded and drained each year and we also maintain the ‘Haywain’ mill pond between the Mill and Willy Lot’s cottage. Both these activities have been on television
Valley Farm is the site of the garden which is the focus of a ‘Go local’ initiative which provides fresh fruit and vegetables for the Flatford tearoom. A property volunteer team are regulars here, but we sometimes help out at the weekend
There are the usual Bridges Farm type tasks, and we have built an otter holt. When the Trust acquired parts of Orvis Farm, we installed farm gates and built culverts
- Ickworth. Ickworth is one of the most unusual and interesting of Trust properties, an elegant Italianate house and gardens set within spectacular English parkland. The extensive wooded parkland, created in part by Capability Brown, is a living landscape rich in plant, animal and bird life. Our work here includes gardening tasks and managing hedges, shrubs and trees
- Kyson Hill. Small ‘park style’ open space overlooking the south bank of the Deben, just east of Woodbridge. Site of the annual hay cut, stud post renewal, step maintenance and felling vigorous trees to retain the view of the river
- Melford Hall. Melford Hall is a large red brick house dating mainly from the 16th century. It incorporates part of a medieval building held by the Abbots of Bury St Edmunds. It stands beside the River Chad, at the northern end of Long Melford. We help maintain the gardens, and nearby wood
- Orford Ness. One of our most interesting properties. A unique shingle spit offering distinctive fauna and flora and also steeped in military and nuclear history. Access is by boat from Orford Quay
- Pin Mill. The Trust bought this in 1987 because they valued the standing timber. Unfortunately, the hurricane in the same year blew most of it down! The aim now is to turn it into a lowland heath, like Dunwich. This has involved cutting back the invasive gorse to give the heather a chance, so there is a lot of bowsaw and lopper work together with bonfires.
The other aspect of Pin Mill is the north facing escarpment along the Orwell river bank. We have supported footpath maintenance, revetment work and knocked back undergrowth
- Sutton Hoo. Apart from the Visitor Centre there is an extensive Trust estate at Sutton Hoo. As well as the Bridges Farm style tasks, we have built bridges, steps and miles of fences. This has been the site of ‘Megabashes’, where the invasive weed Ragwort has been eradicated so that sheep may now safely graze
- Thorington Hall. One of Suffolk’s oldest and most intriguing houses, this is available to book for up to 18 people as Holiday accommodation. There’s a large garden and orchard, which we help to maintain