Minsteracres has been the very grateful recipient of the generosity of the Sage Foundation several times recently. Employees of Sage can use up to five day’s work time a year doing voluntary work in their communities, and our shrubbery has found its way onto their volunteering map.

Most recently visitors included a long term volunteer of ours who works at the accountancy software company. Daniela Strumbec Lazin who works in the company’s subscription team explains, “There were about 15 options on the list and Minsteracres was option 8 – I couldn’t believe it!”

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Daniela and her husband Alex have been great supporters of Minsteracres for around 15 years since they first came here on retreat. “I just loved the place. I said to myself that I really wanted to give something back. Before I knew it I was helping with hospitality!

“When I saw the e mail about the volunteering I was thinking it’s amazing that Sage is doing that. For me, I’m so loyal to Minsteracres that it was the perfect opportunity to introduce my colleagues to the place.

“I think Sage really want to make a difference in the north east. They send an e mail, but it’s up to you if you want to do it. It works both ways too – we help an organisation, but we are also ambassadors for our own.”

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As a dining room volunteer, working in the outdoors was as new to Daniela as to her colleagues and they all seem to have enjoyed it. So much so in fact that one is thinking of joining the conservation volunteers. “Getting out of the office is massive – being outdoors is so completely different to what we all do. It’s great to get out and be involved.”

It’s fair to say that the team (including Liz Robinson, Catherine and Lauren Brough, James Tate, Adam Lincoln and Richard Allcock) was not on light duties. Daniela described cutting back the laurels as like going into battle, but like the others, she loved it, “It’s a team building experience – working together in nature has been fantastic!”

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Andrew Pennington who leads the conservation team at Minsteracres is delighted with the progress the team have made. “Following close on the heels of another team from Sage, they have made a big impression on this part of the woodland,” he explains. “Removing invasive species like laurel lets light back into the woodland floor and allows dormant native seeds to grow. Soon we should start to see wood anemones, snowdrops and bluebells again, as well as getting a better view of the birch, pine and Norway spruce trees which were hidden.”