April James joined the Friends in 2021 and provides minute-taking support to the Trustees at their regular meetings.
I moved to Swindon in 2019 and loved visiting Lydiard Park from the outset; it’s an incredibly special place and I can’t quite believe that the grounds are freely accessible to the public.
It was during the coronavirus pandemic that access to the park really came into its own for me though. I was visiting almost every day and found watching the seasons change a real joy and anchor during an otherwise very uncertain time.
Knowing how much I love the park, last year one of my work colleagues purchased a membership as a birthday present for me, so I spent much of 2021 itching to be able to access the house and gardens again once they reopened!
Whenever I move to a new location I try to make a point of learning about the history of the local area, and Swindon was no exception. Once I heard about and saw the vital work the Friends were doing to safeguard both the history and future of the house and gardens, I knew I wanted to give more active support to the charity than just being a member.
I work in the charity heritage sector and felt that my experience in assisting with board meetings could be useful to the Friends (my ‘superpower’ is actually enjoying taking meeting minutes). Thankfully they agreed, so here I am!
It is genuinely a pleasure to support the work the Trustees do and to see them in action in meetings – at all times they are dedicated to preserving the house, garden and park and are so enthusiastic about bringing alive the history of the house and the people who engaged with it. I always come away from meetings having learned something new.
What has surprised and delighted me during my time with the Friends has been the unexpected connections between the inhabitants of Lydiard House and other areas of the world. In my first (virtual) meeting with Chair Sarah Finch-Crisp, I mentioned that I used to volunteer as a guide at Highgate Cemetery, to which Sarah replied that a mistress of the 5th Viscount Bolingbroke was in fact interred in the cemetery’s famous Egyptian Avenue! It felt like fate that of all the places I could have ended up when I moved, it was somewhere with fascinating historical connections to my previous home.
I am very much looking to spending more time with the other members of the Friends and learning more about Lydiard’s varied history.