"During my working life, mostly in retail distribution and business sales, I often used to visit The Old Moat Garden Centre on a Saturday morning as a customer and wander round the greenhouses thinking how nice it would be to work in a place like this.

"So when I came in not long after my retirement in 2010 and saw at the till a recruitment poster for volunteers, I decided it was meant to be.

"Like most of the volunteers here, I come in on a specific day – in my case it’s Thursday – and from the start I worked more on the maintenance and tidying side than horticulture while still enjoying being surrounded by plant, trees and lovely scents.

"It wasn’t long before I got involved in events as well. There are a few annual shows that we always take a stall at, such as The Herald of Spring at Bourne Hall in Ewell and Epsom Family Fun Day, where we sell plants and cakes and generally promote The Old Moat and I enjoy talking about what we do here. I was also part of the team that visited a local company called Fidelity, which invited about a dozen different charities to come and sell themselves to the staff, who would then choose three to support for the following year. We weren’t one of the chosen three but they gave us £1,000 and an excellent lunch!"

"But what is it that I get out of volunteering? I would certainly say “you get more out of it than you put in”. James

"This increased involvement led to me to start taking the minutes at the volunteer meetings which we started up a couple of years ago, and when I decided the minutes were rather boring, I decided to jazz it up a bit and produce a newsletter, something more about the volunteer community. I try to make the newsletter entertaining and people always tell me how much they really like it.

"I was hugely honoured and humbled when The Old Moat put my name forward for the Epsom and Ewell Volunteers Awards and even more so when I was successful. I believe one of the things I was nominated for was my "excellent weeding skills"!

"I lead a pretty busy life generally – I play tennis and am secretary of the club, I’m studying medieval history and drama with U3A and am on the committee and I started having piano lessons about a year ago having wanted to play for a long time.

"But what is it that I get out of volunteering? I would certainly say “you get more out of it than you put in”. It’s partly the fresh air and exercise, the fact that it is both physically and mentally good, and that, as I originally imagined on my weekly visits, it is a nice place to work. It’s great to be part of the volunteer community, and I have made some lasting friendships here. You read about people who retire and just end up sitting on the sofa watching TV. This is one way of making sure that doesn’t happen. And one thing leads to another – not just the day I spend here each week but events, bucket collections, putting the newsletter together and so on.

On Thursday when I get home after volunteering, I lie back in the bath and feel a warm glow of satisfaction which is something I very rarely got in the commercial world after a day of meetings and writing reports no one would read. It is the feeling you’ve done something useful."

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