I’d been a VO for a short time at a BTCV office in East London when i was at university and loved it.
When I came back to Leeds couple of years after university knowing I wanted to pursue a career in the environment but not knowing where to start I rediscovered BTCV and applied to be a VO at Hollybush.
Summer 2003 the weather was glorious, I was part of Stuart’s schools team and was having a fantastic time learning new skills such as brick laying, expounding the virtues of a shoveholer to my dubious family and making new life long friends. I was totally hooked.
Hollybush offered me the perfect blend of practical environmental work, a shed load of laughs and a place that I felt 100% at home.
The people who came to HB were quirky, caring, passionate, young, old and from hugely diverse backgrounds. It was working with this huge mix that I truly loved, I realised that I was good at the people stuff and that maybe this was where my future career lay.
In January 2004 I was lucky enough to get a part time admin position at HB and by 2005 I had created myself a new role of Placement Coordinator as the work at HB grew and with it the numbers of volunteers that needed recruiting, managing and supporting.
The job was great but challenging at times as we butted heads with old school conservationists at BTCV whilst trying to win support for what we were doing at HB: trying to offer environmental opportunities for anyone that wanted a go in an inclusive and accessible fashion.
Need a day off from the hard grind of task?
Well…if you really think you need me to come along…
Over my years at Hollybush we had some amazingly fun times. Every now and then we would come up with an excuse for a day trip and we would all clambour into the minibuses and head off for a mad adventure!
We went walking in the Dale’s, we took a trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, had a picnic down by the River in Addingham, went to Kirkstall Abbey, went to Robin Hoods Bay.
Whoever turned up for task in the morning came along, there was always a good reason for me to come – somebody’s leaving do, help with younger volunteers, it was hot!!
While it was mainly an excuse for the staff and VO’s to have a day off from the hard grind of task it was also legitimately great for some of the people who came to HB to get out and explore their local countryside and scenic spots. Some had never left the city.
There was always a brew and a biscuit, sometimes an ice cream.
If it was someone’s last task there was the very important question of “best task, worst task?” And if it were one of Stu’s VO’s leaving they were always his favourite!
We played frisbee all the time.
10 years after leaving HB I find myself working as a Senior Project Officer for the Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Myplace project. Myplace is like a properly funded Hollybush and I absolutely love it.
As well as showing me where my career path would go Hollybush gave me the best friends I could ask for and, like so many others, I met my husband there – Phil Reddell.