THREE CHEERS FOR VOLUNTEERS
During National Volunteering Week, Lowther Castle salutes its invaluable supporters
Just ten years ago, Lowther Castle – the great Gothic castle that sits just outside Penrith – was a sorry ruin. While various bodies including English Heritage had helped start the castle’s recovery programme, there was nevertheless a great deal to do. The masonry of the building itself was dangerously unstable. The gardens were overrun with undergrowth.
While the castle’s journey towards its current position – as an award-winning tourist destination – has had many ups and downs, one of the major factors in its rehabilitation has been the input of volunteers.
Without the help of volunteers, the Countess Garden would not be the oasis of green calm that it now is but would still be full of poplar trees; the shapes and formations of the Japanese Garden would still be under thickets of brambles; the Rock Garden would be barely visible. Volunteers were responsible for the great swathes of narcissi that visitors now enjoy every spring in the Patte d’Oie (in 2012, a world record was made there when over 600 volunteers planted 106,652 daffodil bulbs in just under three hours). They were also responsible for the planting of the 28,000 Camassia bulbs which are now blooming in the wildflower meadows.
Of the many people who have made a remarkable contribution to Lowther Castle’s regeneration, husband and wife team Tony & Lynne Rumsey have been among those involved for longest. Tony began his professional life in 1968 as a photographer with the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. For 35 years, Tony travelled the country photographing historical sites and buildings including Royal Palaces and Residences, Stately Homes, Private Estates (like Lowther), Cathedrals and Churches, ruins of all sorts, Industrial Complexes, Prisons, Military Establishments, Archaeological sites, Farms, Barns, and Beach Huts and all other Listed Buildings as per the Statutory Lists.He also helped the RCHME and later English Heritage to preserve their collection of over 10 million images.
Tony retired from this job – the only job he held in his life! – in 2011 and moved to Cumbria.
“Lynne and I spent all our holidays in the Lake District. We fell in love with the area around Penrith and the Eden Valley and promised ourselves we would move here one day. We first found Lowther Castle when we brought our children to the Lowther Wildlife Park on one of our holidays. We were hooked from this point on, were always driving through the park and taking walks around the Castle walls wondering what lay beyond. Our cameras were always clicking.”
On arrival in the Lakes, Lynne became a garden volunteer at Lowther and has been a regular on an almost weekly basis for over eight years. Tony meanwhile kept clicking and was eventually persuaded to set up a website www.rumseyphoto.co.ukso that visitors and other interested parties could enjoy his photographs. The website now contains over 17,000 images charting the changes at Lowther Castle since 2011. It is a remarkable photographic record.
Jim Lowther, owner of Lowther Castle, said this week: “Volunteering is frequently cited today as an excellent contributor towards a sense of personal well-being. We are hugely indebted to our volunteers for their remarkable contribution to us. We are proud to be part in this way of the Penrith community and look forward to many more decades of collaborative effort. Three cheers for volunteers!”
If readers would like to volunteer at Lowther Castle – either in the gardens or at one of our flagship events such as Hallowe’en or Fireworks Night – please contact Ben Melling on 01931 712192 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Further press enquiries including image requests to Charlotte Fairbairn email@example.com
Claire Logan-Stephens Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tel: 01931 712192