Celebrating National Volunteers' Week 2023

Join us in celebration of the fantastic team at Cogges Manor Farm for National Volunteers' Week (1st-7th June). The Farm, Shop and Cafe are bustling with visitors, and – as our 'Swing into Summer' season of events and theatre is announced – it's an exciting place to be. We'd like to say a Big Thank You to Everyone who contributes their time, skills and enthusiasm to making this much-loved heritage site such a special place, and safeguarding Cogges for future generations to enjoy.

From welcoming visitors, helping with the animals, supporting at events, tending the gardens and orchard, maintaining the grounds, sharing skills, running crafting workshops, children's school visits, activities and storytelling sessions, baking on the Victorian range in the Manor House kitchen, engaging visitors with history or 'behind the scenes' Downton Abbey filming tours, working on community projects or taking wonderful photos, the list is endless! Thanks also to our team of Trustees, who give their time, expertise, and support to Cogges Heritage Trust. Read on to find out more about our volunteers, and what's been happening on the Farm.

"Thank you again. I am humbled by the commitment of our volunteers. Cogges has been on quite a journey – it's so exciting to see it so busy and once again at the heart of the community. The future looks bright."  Guy Reed, General Manager.

Community and learning

Walk, Talk and Tea has been a popular community project, spending time with older or more isolated people to tackle loneliness and other social concerns, thanks to the National Heritage Lottery Fund. We are delighted that volunteers Dawn and Zoe stepped forward and are keeping the group going, now the project has come to an end. Walk, Talk and Tea now runs independently, and enjoys free access to Cogges. We're so pleased, as it is such a wonderful thing for our local community.

Cogges Tapestry We're so excited that the Cogges Tapestry project has produced some gorgeous panels depicting memories of Cogges. Thanks to the Craft team, who have been working with community groups in Witney and West Oxfordshire, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. We are looking forward to displaying the finished work in the Barley Barn later this year! 

Thatching, walling and coppicing

Ox Byre Thatching The re-thatch of the Ox Byre with Master Thatcher, Alan Jones, is nearing completion, and we're looking forward to reopening the visitor welcome area and shop. We enjoyed Alan's thatching demos for visitors and his series of free, one-day thatching courses for volunteers and the community, thanks to the National Heritage Lottery Fund. Robert Courts MP thoroughly enjoyed his mini-masterclass up on the scaffolding with Alan, during his visit with Experience Oxfordshire for Visit Britain's English Tourism Week

The Cotswold stone project is almost finished, thanks to Wychwood Forest Trust, and many enjoyed the popular one day stone walling courses with Toby Swift. The shelter now has a new roof, and on the island some of the willows have been coppiced around our Forest School site. All volunteer teams and staff alike have worked incredibly hard, we have had some wonderful comments from visitors.

Looking after the animals

As a working farm, Kirsty our Farm Manager and her team of staff and volunteers are busy looking after the biggest characters at Cogges, the animals. Goats, Cotswold sheep, Rare-breed Oxford Sandy & Black pigs (visiting from a local farm), Shetland ponies, chickens (and chicks!), ducks, guinea pigs, rabbits, and the resident Farm cats! Kirsty said, "We've been very lucky to have many students here on work experience. Some are new to us, but it's also lovely to see past students return. We can get many extra things done, and it allows me time to plan new projects. We are grateful to them for choosing Cogges as their Placement. I would also like to thank the animal volunteers for all the hard work they do. We have recently had the annual sheep shearing, ready for summer, and we're looking forward to welcoming Cotswold Lions to the flock. The chickens are happy roaming in the warmer weather – look out for eggs in the Shop, straight from the Farm!"

Land Management Trainees

We're delighted that trainees Noah and Amy have joined the volunteer team, now their traineeship has come to an end, and are continuing to contribute the skills they have learnt. Amy said, 'The bits I particularly enjoyed about doing the traineeship at Cogges are doing All of it; because, I’ve been doing it for 2 years and I’ve met a lot of new people. It’s helped me to teach others about how to do the traineeship, and how to learn new skills and techniques – now I’m learning more new skills, and I’ve enjoyed doing it all.' 
Thank you for all your hard work, Amy and Noah! Find out more for 16-24-year-olds interested in the Cogges Land Management Traineeship.

The Garden Team volunteers

From Farm to Fork, it’s wonderful that garden produce is being served up by the Cogges Kitchen café. There has been a plentiful supply of salad leaves and courgettes along with beetroot, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweetcorn, and soft fruit. We've had tasty parsnip soup and pumpkin soup, and much more on the menu for our visitors to enjoy!

The greenhouse and cold frames are bursting with flower and vegetable seedlings, now in the process of being planted outside in beds, pots and tubs, ready for a good show later in the season. This has left room for planting tomatoes and cucumbers into the bed in the greenhouse, where the grapevine is already in blossom. The herb border has suddenly burst into life with a wonderful array of over 60 edible herbs and medicinal plants, as well as weld, woad and safflower which have traditionally been used for dying cloth. The 'no dig' beds have now been planted out for this season. On one side potatoes are growing well and on the remainder of the plot we have planted several types of winter squash, and some outdoor tomatoes. Don't forget, visitors can take home selected plants for a donation!

The Craft Team volunteers

Get ready, Sew! The Craft team are preparing for the Cogges Summer Fete Weekend in June (17 & 18), where they will have a craft stall each day from 11am-3pm, selling handmade items including felt, knitted goods, handmade bags, paper flowers and much more. At the Harvest Fair Weekend in September (2 & 3), look out for wool-themed crafts demos with Cogges fleeces. The team have started work on a range of costumes in the Manor House, washing the cottons, and mending all the clothes ready for use. A big thanks to the team for raising £345 for Cogges funds at Easter!

Thanks to Audley Travel

We were delighted to welcome Audley Travel, a corporate group with a local Witney branch, volunteered for two days at Cogges. The first group spent their day clearing brambles from the moated site to ensure a safer, more pleasant environment. The second group spent the day weeding paths around the Manor House and Walled Garden. The enthusiastic group also redistributed the play bark in the bigger play area. So, a big thank-you to them. We have more groups of corporate volunteers coming in the next few weeks, if your company would like to get involved, find out more and get in touch!

Meet Gill, a volunteer!

What do you do at Cogges? I am volunteering on the “Witney Remembers” Oral History Project. This is a Heritage Lottery Funded Project which was set up to capture and record people’s memories of Cogges over the years, and to bring these together in an exhibition. A group of about 12 people received training in Oral History back in September 2022, and then we got going contacting and recording people who worked here, volunteered here, or visited here - going right back to when it was a working farm under the Mawle Family. We are now bringing together memories on “What Cogges Means to Me” for the first mini-exhibition which we hope to put on in the summer.
What made you want to become a volunteer? 
The project itself sounded very interesting, and because both myself, my husband and both grown-up daughters have all worked at Cogges at some stage. My husband was the gardener here when Oxfordshire County Council operated Cogges; I came over to run reminiscence sessions here; one daughter worked in the café; and another did work experience in the kitchen!

What do you enjoy most? Talking to people about Cogges and learning more about its history.
What's your favourite thing about Cogges? 
It is a special little time capsule in the middle of Witney, beautiful in all seasons.

Thank you Gill! Find out more about our volunteers.

Join the volunteer team

Last year, the volunteers of Cogges Heritage Trust were awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. Designed to recognise outstanding work by local volunteer groups to benefit their communities, and equivalent to an MBE, it is the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK.

Would you like to make a difference in your local community, learn new skills or take on a new challenge? Perhaps volunteering for Cogges could be a good choice for you. We have over 160 volunteers that support the running of Cogges and it's their enthusiasm and knowledge that helps to make Cogges such a wonderful place to visit. Get involved and get in touch with Victoria, our amazing Volunteer Co-ordinator. Find out more.