Volunteer gardeners at Ty Gobaith were left reeling in shock when a potential new team member turned out to be someone very different.

Working covertly with fundraising and nursing staff, the High Sheriff of Clwyd, Karen Farrell secretly joined the team of gardeners to help out in the beautiful grounds for the morning – whilst all the time knowing she was planning a swift change and a special presentation.

Throughout the morning Karen conducted a perfect ruse in conjunction with fundraiser Beverley Bradley and got stuck in, weeding, pruning and turning over soil.

Incognito Karen Farrell sneaks away for a photo whilst undercover as a volunteer gardener

Big surprise

However, at lunchtime as the team sat down for their food, the High Sheriff disappeared briefly and returned in full regalia to a shocked dining room to introduce her true self and present the gardening team with her first Volunteer Award. 

Addressing the team, Karen said: “I’m actually the High Sheriff of Clwyd, a representative of the King and I’m here as I wanted my inaugural Volunteer Awards to go to some very special people in a very special place.

“The work you do here comes from your hearts and provides a place of calm and beauty that is so beneficial to families and children from the second they come in.”

A shocked Paul Shingler gave a speech on behalf of the team

After composing himself from the surprise, volunteer gardener, Paul Shingler spoke for the group and said to a packed dining room: “That was the best kept secret I’ve ever seen in my life.

“We come here in all weathers and there’s nothing better than when we see children, families and staff enjoying the gardens.

“We all have gardens at home, but it means so much more when we come here.

“I want to thank you and everybody here on behalf of the volunteer gardening team.”

Earlier in the day as part of the plot, we mocked up a volunteer appeal photo

Wonderful people

Fundraiser for Hope House Tŷ Gobaith, Beverley Bradley, who helped put the elaborate plot together, said: “It was great fun and an honour to work closely with Karen and the hospice team to set up this lovely surprise.

“Our volunteer gardeners are such wonderful people and their work provides a real asset to the atmosphere and tranquillity of the hospice.

“Everybody pulled together on the day and I think they were genuinely shocked and delighted with their awards.”

The team (L-R) Elwyn Roberts, Helen Walk and Paul Shingler with their Volunteer Awards from the High Sheriff (in black)