Volunteering is retired solicitor Robin Burnett’s idea of heaven

There’s a wonderful pool of goodwill throughout the region says retired solicitor Robin Burnett, who shares his love for volunteering and the world treasures on our doorstep.

Robin believes you are never too old to discover new things. After a successful law career, including being at the helm of Burnett Barker solicitors for 36 years, he admitted he still felt he had skills to offer.

This took him on a journey of volunteering and ultimately discovery about the fantastic Suffolk people who do so much, for so many.

He said: “I guess you could say I had retired cold turkey. I felt I still had some skills that could be of use and a role that wouldn’t be too stressful.

“I wanted to work with the good people of Bury and I had a particular interest in flowers, so I was quickly recruited as chair of the Bury in Bloom committee, which is part of the Bury Society.

“Bury in Bloom is something the whole town has got behind. We are competing against the country’s best in August for the Britain in Bloom competition and it is a great way of uniting everyone into giving a huge effort.

“I had been part of a successful business in the town, but I had no idea about the incredible number of volunteers around Bury St Edmunds and the wider area.

“When we decided to run the certificate scheme, judging people’s front gardens, we had about 60 people volunteer to be a judge – which was quite phenomenal.

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“There is a wonderful pool of goodwill in Bury St Edmunds and throughout Suffolk when it comes to volunteering and so much energy shown by individuals. To me, this is one reason why Suffolk is appealing to so many.

“I would urge everyone to take up some form of volunteering. Anyone wishing to volunteer should keep an eye out for requests for help and perhaps contact the organisation Volunteers Suffolk on www.volunteersuffolk.org.uk.

“It was a real discovery and helping to volunteer is my idea of Suffolk heaven.”

Robin was born on the South Coast and spent time in Hong Kong after finishing his law studies before moving to East Anglia.

Time spent working in Ely and Newmarket was followed by opening his own practice, Burnett Barker, in 1979 – which continues to be one of the most respected and established solicitors in Bury.

The move also saw him meet his wife, Jackie, and father-of-five Robin admitted they quickly knew they had found their home.

That’s not to say he knew everything about the wonders of West Suffolk.

While he had supported the likes of Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery and King Edwards VI School in a voluntary capacity during his career, Robin quickly became immersed with the volunteer movement when he retired from the practice in 2015.

Alongside his role on the Bury in Bloom committee, he also started volunteering at Ickworth House in Horringer.

He said: “Ickworth House is a world class treasure on our doorstep and I simply love the place. It has a wonderful atmosphere around it and a beautiful park and property that is constantly developing.

“There is an astonishing number of volunteers throughout the National Trust, which is an organisation I have always loved.

“I am currently a room storyteller, but I would also like to get involved in researching the fascinating history of the property.”

While Robin’s heart is in present-day Suffolk, he is equally fascinated about its past.

“I am a trustee for the Friends of the Public Record Office which is packed full of information that I never knew existed.

“I also help research and prepare captions for the Spanton Jarman photograph collection, which is so fascinating; where you can go looking for a particular fact and then quickly get diverted. I have always been interested in Suffolk’s past.”

Away from West Suffolk, Robin is a regular visitor to Norwich, the home to one of his sons; the galleries and stately homes of East Anglia and especially the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

But it is the area in between Cambridge and Norwich where Robin is happiest.

“We have always lived together in Bury St Edmunds and we have never had any desire to move elsewhere – why would we? It is largely unspoilt and has this wonderful medieval core overseen by the Abbey. For us, Bury is unbeatable as a town to live in.”

Robin’s biggest “hell” in Suffolk is the amount of litter he sees in the town and the country.

“There is depressing amount of litter and fly-tipping in rivers and streams. I am delighted to be supporting and taking part in the Great Britain Spring Clean massive litter-pick on March 2-4, alongside a number of town leaders and Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill.”

Visit www.keepbritaintidy.org/gbspringclean for more information.

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