A Volunteer’s View by Chris Hains

Chris Hains

Hi, I’m Chris and volunteer as an information enquiry person within the gift shop of the New Forest Heritage Centre.

I retired by accident (long story!) and moved to the New Forest just 3 years ago. I had been visiting for the previous 31 years. My very first visit was when I was 12 on a school field trip and I fell in love with the place way back then.

I was now time rich and looking for ways to contribute to my new community.

I went along to the volunteers fair last year and spoke to several organisations and charities all looking for help towards their cause.

The New Forest Heritage Centre appealed to me as they were looking for people to help visitors (both locals and tourists) find their way around the Forest, share knowledge and promote New Forest etiquette. (Slow down and don’t feed the ponies!)

My profession was in Learning and Development and imparting knowledge was what I enjoyed about my work. I knew I wasn’t an expert on all things New Forest but I knew ‘my part’ of the Forest and I have a passion for preserving the New Forest environment and learning more about the area in which I live.

Well ….I have learned so much!

Through training and conversations with the lovely experienced people at the Heritage Centre I now know; the best walks and cycling areas depending on the individuals needs and requirements; what buses, trains and ferries to get to travel across the New Forest; what to do when it’s raining, (Heritage Centre Gallery and Museum, obviously top of the list); where the dog friendly beaches are; the best places to see bluebells, birds, dragonflies, cattle, pigs and of course ponies.

Some of the more unexpected enquiries I have had are:

‘What time does the National Park open?’

‘Where is the best place for a fashion photo shoot?’

‘Where is the National Park?’

‘How much does it cost to go into the National Park?’

These questions remind me not to take this precious place for granted.

But there is one question I still struggle to answer… it’s when a gentleman comes in, he stands in the doorway, his eyes briefly scan the shop and then he asks ‘Where’s my wife?’