NATIONAL Trust volunteers at Montacute House are being trained to become Talking Heads in the house's Long Gallery this summer.

The National Portrait Gallery is helping the Trust train 12 volunteers to become the spokespeople for four of the most iconic portraits in the National Portrait Gallery collection, which has its home at Montacute House.

The scheme is designed to bring the portraits alive for visitors and tell their stories through the volunteers who will give short ten-minute monologues on the paintings.

Sonja Power, house manager, said: "We hope this new departure for our volunteers will enable visitors to Montacute this summer to get beyond the canvas and find out more about the stories the paintings tell, the subject themselves and the period of history in which they lived.

"It is part of our attempt to bring our history alive through this remarkable collection of portraits."

The National Trust and National Portrait Gallery have had a special relationship for 30 years. Over 60 of the Gallery's earliest portraits, including a magnificent portrait of Henry VIII, the Armada portrait of Elizabeth I alongside glittering images of her courtiers, and some exceptional Jacobean paintings are exhibited in the Long Gallery at Montacute.

For younger visitors during the summer holidays, Montacute House is also developing an animal safari. Waist height displays with animal photos will challenge smaller visitors find the original in the room. It could be in the plaster work or in one of the paintings.

In the gardens, the borders are looking fabulous at this time of year and families are encouraged to make the most of the picnic area and the young children's playground or take part in the family activity days on August 1-2, August 15-16 and August 29-30 between 12.30pm and 4pm.