My name is Jackie and I have been a volunteer at the New Forest Heritage Centre for about 3 1/2 years. I have to admit I have lived in the area for over 25 years and had never been inside the building or been aware of the work they do. I first learnt about them after visiting a volunteer fair held in Lyndhurst community centre. It has been a great way to learn about the New Forest - which is essentially on my doorstep and under my nose - yet I was so unfamiliar with.

The time has flown by and I have learnt so much and made so many good friends in the process.

It is usual for volunteers to focus on one area which could be:

The library - helping with documenting the collection

The museum - talking with visitors to enhance their experience or simply answering questions about where to walk or places to visit

Discovery and craft days - helping people get messy as they learn about the New Forest.

Special events - helping with exhibition preview evenings in the New Forest Gallery by serving drinks and nibbles to guests

Fundraising - this could be anything!

However I have been lucky enough to be able to volunteer across all areas as well as some back office support. Some of the madder things I have done include dressing up as the Queen of Hearts for an Alice in Wonderland  preview exhibition and dressing up as Pete the Pony for a marketing event in Winchester Great Hall. Everyone else was chilly on a cold winter night but I was warm and snug in my costume !

Helping at the preview nights is a good way to get a sneaky first peek at the new exhibitions and often meet and talk the contributors

Helping at one Discovery Day enabled me to have my first ever visit to the New Forest Show.

The best thing about volunteering at the Centre is that there is never any pressure. You do as much or as little as you are able to give - and it is appreciated.

I have had spells where it feels like I am there all the time and periods like now where I can only give a little.

But what I have learnt about the Forest will never leave me and for that I am grateful.

So if you have some time to give why not get in touch there will undoubtedly be something that your skills can be matched to.

Come and have fun!