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A smiling adult gardening on a cobbled walkway, in front of a cobbled wall. Some historic engineering equipment can be seen in the background

© Sheffield Museums

For me, personally, I enjoy being part of a group that is doing something worthwhile

"My volunteering journey coincided, like many people’s, with retirement. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do something.

Within a month of my actual retirement I saw an advertisement asking for gardening enthusiasts to help at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet. It was local, it was outside, it was gardening and it should make a difference. It ticked all the boxes for me and so I signed up. Volunteers had different levels of gardening experience – or none at all – but they all had one thing in common...enthusiasm!

The initial task was to try and bring the Manager’s Garden back to life. One of our early volunteers (who is still gardening with us most weeks) had recently completed a degree in Garden Design and she drew up some plans showing how we could restore the garden to how it might have been in Victorian times, when the Manager and his family lived in the house. The plan included an area for growing fruit and vegetables, and herbs which would have been grown for their medicinal properties.

Abbeydale is probably unique in that it has so much green space for an industrial museum site. It is always lovely to see it ‘buzzing’ on school visit days, and the children love getting ‘stuck in’ to their Victorian Day at Abbeydale. They bring the site to life.

Gradually our original remit of restoring the Manager’s Garden has increased and we now help look after most of the green areas on the site. All was going well until lockdown, which kept us away from site for months, and nature took over!

Despite the daunting task in front of us, our band of happy and enthusiastic volunteers returned and set to work. It will take a while to return it to how it was pre-pandemic, but we will get there.

For me, personally, I enjoy being part of a group that is doing something worthwhile, and helping to show Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet is well-cared for, and it is especially rewarding when visitors say how lovely it looks!"