Volunteers have been and will continue to be vital in enabling our charity's mission to open West Horsley Place for people to enjoy. As well as assisting our aspiration to improve the wellbeing of our community through arts, heritage and nature activities, volunteers will learn new skills and create new social connections. Volunteers are a hugely important part of our team. 
This week we meet Victoria Franklin, who has been volunteering with us since the very early days. Victoria lives in Horsley and is a professional tutor of French, Spanish and Latin for face to face, or online, learners of all ages. As well as loving languages and foreign culture, Victoria is passionate about the performing arts and is active on and off stage with Cobham Payers and Guildford Mishapen Chaos Drama. Gardening, walking, ski-ing and golf also enhance her enjoyment of life. We caught up with her for a Q&A session. 

Q- How did you first hear about West Horsley Place?


A- Excited at the prospect of seeing West Horsley Place return gradually to its former grandeur, I leapt at the chance to help in any way I could. As an early volunteer for Grange Park at the Theatre in the Woods, I had enjoyed an early tour of WHP and was well aware of its importance and of the imaginative restoration envisaged.

Q- Can you remember your first visit? What was that like?

A- That first visit was mind-blowing: wrapped up closely against the seeping chill inside the house, I wallowed in the stories of its past, from its links to Henry VIII, the story of Raleigh’s severed head, its grandeur during the Age of Enlightenment, its association with Guy Fawkes and its struggles against rising costs as Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe withdrew into fewer and fewer rooms. 

Q- What progress have you seen in the repair of WHP since you started volunteering?

A- We are so lucky in the Horsleys to have this heritage gem in our midst and it has been a treat to see the restoration gather pace. I know nothing about this process, but I do know that the buckets have gone, the gaping holes in the stairs are filled, the interior of the huge stone reception room is beautifully decorated, the exterior red-brick clad walls are now safe and, joy of joys there is a suite of indoor modern toilets. 

Q- Has experience from your own career or your passions been transferable to your volunteering experience?

A- My hybrid background of theatre, PR and teaching (languages) has come in very useful when enthusing to visitors, from near and afar, about the stories behind the pictures, the former inhabitants and the future hopes for WHP.

Q- Have you enjoyed the experience of volunteering?

A- Being able to show people round the gardens takes us on trails past the distinctive crinkle crankle wall, the outdoor “rooms” of the rose gardens and the bunny-burrowed romance of the orchard. For me, so much of the charm and appeal of WHP lies in its quirkiness and its comfortable accord with nature. 

Q- Why do you think it's important for people to volunteer for local charities?

AOne of the benefits of being a volunteer is that you become part of a team and you feel you are contributing in your small way to creating something positive in your community.

Q- What is your favourite room or space at WHP?

A- Like the Duchess, I too love her favourite, yellow drawing room with its sun-facing outlook over the approach to the house. 

Q- What makes you excited about the future of West Horsley Place?

A- WHP’s plans to be more than a passive heritage site and to become a hub for local artists, performers and crafters who can share their talents with others is an inspiration for all ages. I really look forward to each stage of this project and can't wait to hear the happy chatter again of both visitors and active participants.