Built in the 1820s, this has been my family home since 1928. The house sits in 5 acres which include a very productive Victorian walled garden (vegetables, fruit & flowers), a greenhouse, woodland areas, lawns, a paddock, a tennis court, a large farmyard with old outbuildings and an orchard.
After moving home from Scotland 4 years ago, when my parents down-sized and moved to the other side of the garden, I started a garden restoration project (with help from volunteers) and, although a lot has already been achieved, there is still plenty to do. We grow all our own vegetables and have a wide variety of fruit which all needs to be planted, picked and eaten or frozen.
I am in the process of renovating part of one of the outbuildings to create a studio for workshops (Tai Chi, Pilates, flower-arranging etc) and will need help cleaning, painting and moving furniture.
It's often a busy, sociable household as, apart from family and friends coming to stay, there are occasional film shoots and events in the garden (plant sales, Tai Chi etc). I also use two rooms in the house for bed & breakfast, although I don't need any help with this.
It's a great place for anyone wanting to learn a bit about horticulture, practise their English, see everything that Belfast has to offer and, with good bus/train links from the local village (1.5km) to Belfast, the rest of N. Ireland is reasonably easy to visit.
There's a great park (130 acres) within a 10 minute walk, where I do quite a bit of foraging, two golf clubs within 1 mile, and bicycles are also available.
I have a very much loved Norfolk Terrier who will happily help with any digging work!
Having lived away from home for a long time, I know what it's like to arrive in a foreign country without knowing anyone, the language, or anything about the local culture. I am therefore acutely aware of how this feels from the other side. I speak reasonable French, some Italian plus a few phrases/words in Russian, Polish and German. In the kitchen, we have a white-board where we write words that we all need frequently and we have all learnt a lot from this!
Helpers will meet my family, friends and, probably, B&B guests too and there is a wealth of visitor information (leaflets/ maps etc) in the house to help plan trips on days off. Everyone who comes here is included in whatever is going on in the household, unless they choose otherwise.
Huntley is only 5 miles from Belfast, where there are lots of venues where traditional music is played, great places to eat out and historical tours of the city.
Most help is needed in the walled garden, preparing beds for vegetables, planting seeds, transplanting seedlings, weeding, weeding, weeding, potting seedlings for my plant sale (not every year), putting up fruit cages & supports for beans, pruning fruit trees, bushes & roses, propagating, mulching, splitting logs, raking leaves, making compost and making bonfires with the woody garden refuse. I will also need some help cutting back large bushes, creating hedges, clearing ivy, moving and replanting shrubs/bulbs, and emptying, tidying & repairing the outbuildings.
Most of my previous volunteers have generally had little or no experience in a garden, but have surprised me, and themselves, with what they have achieved. I give guidance and instruction where needed, but am also happy to give rein to creativity and imagination with some wonderful results.
I use a lot of the fruit to make jellies and jams and I also make chutney - I'm very happy to accept help here and share recipes.
I am in the process of renovating one of the yard buildings to create a studio for workshops (tai chi, plates etc) and will need help cleaning, painting, removing old carpet and moving furniture.
Some carpentry skills might be useful for help with mending fences and patching some of the yard buildings.
I usually have helpers for a period of 3 weeks. This gives them a chance to settle into life in the household, and feel a sense of achievement with the tasks they do. Most previous helpers have worked 6 hours per day/5 days per week with two consecutive days off and I encourage them to go and explore N. Ireland. Some helpers choose to do an extra hour each day and then have 3 days off to go further afield. Schedule to be discussed after arrival.
English, French, Italian
I have two small, but comfortable, single bedrooms available in the house and a second bathroom for helpers. The main bathroom is for B&B guests. The set up is probably best for two friends, but I have had couples here, who have been happy to squeeze into a single bed for 3 weeks!
I provide all bed linen and towels.
Please also bring your own personal toiletries (shampoo, toothpaste etc).
It is the responsibility of the helpers to keep their bathroom clean at all times!
Free Wifi access.
Meals: We all eat together and my mother joins us for supper every evening.
Although some dishes are vegetarian, and we eat lots of vegetables from the garden, most lunch and evening meals involve meat/fish of some kind.
Breakfast: normally fruit, yoghurt, cereal, porridge, muesli, bread/toast with home-made preserves (fruit from the garden). After the first couple of days, volunteers would be expected to get their own breakfast.
Lunch: cold meats, salad, pate, bread, cheese, fruit and, on cold/wet days, home-made soup etc. I prepare this.
Supper: Hot main course and (sometimes) pudding/dessert and/or cheese. I prepare this.
I regret I don't have time to provide special meals for people with special requirements e.g. vegans, 100% vegetarian, lactose-/glucose intolerant.
Please bring with you: lightweight waterproof jacket/trousers, strong waterproof boots (lots of rain and mud in Ireland) and shoes for inside the house. A day-pack for weekends off is also useful.
I will provide gardening gloves and extra gilets/bodywarmers if required.
Being very close to Belfast, although not IN the city, there are a great many things that might interest helpers on their days off: Game of Thrones tours, St. George's Market, the Titanic exhibition, hop-on/hop-off city bus tours, Crumlin Road Gaol, golf, pubs/venues with traditional music, the Linen Museum in Lisburn. Further afield: Giant's Causeway, Ballycastle, White Park Bay beach, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Londonderry, Enniskillen, the Mourne mountains & Newcastle, the Ards Peninsula, Portaferry & Strangford
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week