What Winterbourne means to me

We’re always shouting about how amazing our volunteers are, but there’s nothing better than hearing what Winterbourne means to them. For shop volunteer Bronwen, Winterbourne helped her rediscover her passion for Birmingham. We hope to do the same for you on your next visit.

Bronwen shares her story below.

Although Birmingham born and bred, I left the city for good after completing my studies at Aston University. There was a whole wide world out there I wanted to explore. After working in London, Spain, and Australia, I ended up in New Zealand for a brief holiday.

That holiday extended to over three decades living in Auckland. It was a magical place to be (there’s a good reason why the Lord of the Rings films were filmed there). I made a life, many great friends, and met my future husband there.

About every two years I would return to Birmingham for a holiday (my mum still lives in Selly Oak). My biennial summer visit would include an exciting trip to a European or UK destination, but one of the highlights would always be my visit to Winterbourne with family and friends. After a stroll around the garden, we would invariably end up having afternoon tea on the terrace, swapping memories, anecdotes, and photos. Winterbourne helped create some of my most treasured memories.

Though enjoying a very happy life in New Zealand, the pull of being closer to my now-frail mum grew stronger with each passing year. In 2022 we made the huge decision to relocate to Birmingham. After settling into our new home in Selly Park, I began looking for ways to make new connections and friendships.

Having spent over three decades on the other side of the world, I had few friends left in Birmingham. I considered volunteering: there were many options. Winterbourne popped into my head, so I went onto their website to check out volunteering opportunities. I couldn’t believe my luck: they were looking for new volunteers!

I filled in the application form, submitted it, then waited. A call came from Laura, asking if I could come in for a chat. We arranged a time to meet, then the nerves began. It felt like a combination of a job interview and an exam. I started researching as much as I could about Winterbourne: the house, the garden, and the Nettlefold family.

When the day came to meet with Laura, I was full of trepidation. Did I know enough? Would it go against me that I’d left Birmingham so long ago? Did I still sound like a Brummie? Surely, they must have hundreds of applicants to choose from. Thankfully, I made it through the ‘interview’ with Laura.

It’s difficult to explain how excited I was when told I was going to be working in the gift shop. To be part of the team in a place I loved so much seemed amazing to me. It’s now two years later, and Winterbourne has lived up to my expectations and then some.

Winterbourne truly is a unique treasure for Birmingham. I feel privileged and proud to be part of its volunteering community. Working in the gift shop, I get to speak to people as they leave, many of whom are at their happiest having experienced all the delights Winterbourne has to offer.

I had to travel halfway around the world to discover a place that had been on my doorstep the whole time I was growing up. Winterbourne has helped me rediscover my passion for Birmingham.