Bridget Taylor-Connor (nee Robinson) Project Officer, later Conservation Officer and Area Manager (1982 to 1997)
From an audio interview with Pat Browne
I was a student at Leeds Poly doing Landscape architecture finished that and decided I didn’t want to do that, and got involved in BTCV as it was then and Meanwood Valley Urban Farm at the same time. I started as a volunteer doing footpaths, drystone walling and things like that, 1981 I think.
The building, when I arrived, they had just managed to get all the windows and doors secured so they didn’t have to leave someone in the building all the time as the local kids had been using it as an adventure playground, and there were fires everywhere and there were people living here in a caravan, renovating the building, Bob and Shirley. And we had this room here (the front room) for communal meals, I wasn’t involved, I came just as a day volunteer.
Then I wanted a job, it was all Manpower Services Commission and there was a job running midweek activities taking volunteers off site working with mainly Local Authority wardens, Tong, Oakwell hall, the Hollyvols. We would come in the morning and load the van and off we went. Jed Bultitude was my boss. Then I did something with schools, tree planting, I might have done that first. I’ve now come full circle and am working in a school, and we are doing tree planting with the kids. The skills that I learnt here enable me to say at the interview that I was able to say we can do this, this and this with the kids. I am also a Yorkshire in Bloom judge, I got that skill from all the work with the volunteers and when I was employed doing the training courses. I’ve got a huge amount of practical conservation skills but also people skills, publicity.
The ethos of valuing people, it is very different in voluntary sector to when I worked as a school lunchtime assistant where no one listened to my opinions
Again through Manpower Services Commission we got on the front page of the Times on 8/8/88 and we got eight volunteers on eight different sites doing eight different things aged eight to eighty-eight, I’m not sure we actually had all the ages. I wrote the press release, it was fantastic.
I worked my way up, across and through and eventually ended up being the Area Manager for Yorkshire and the North Midlands (Notts and Derby).
I’m still in touch with lots of people including Celia Spouncer and Dave Thompson (now running an ecology consultancy in Northern Ireland) and I learnt how to (really) use a spade from Dave, he was the practical person, I learnt mass catering from all the weekends and working holidays, I did National Trust working holidays before coming to BTCV. You learn a lot of people skills, I’ve organised with local people in Ripon footpath clearance and you have to remember the tea and biscuits to reward people, it is a very simple way to say thank you.
As training officer and then Area Manager I did a lot of course on time and team management, how to motivate volunteers, how to manage staff and that has just kept me going through life skills and I’m sure I have developed and ended up where I am because of the people I met, what went on here at Hollybush, the support I got when I got ill through working full time here and volunteering full time at the urban Farm, just made myself ill, but got lots of support and came back to work.
We designed a wildlife garden where there was nothing beyond the tree nursery, the Council had sued the site as a dumping ground for demolition waste and there were still lots of piles of cobbles and stone. If you picked up a cobble there were toads underneath, so we left them as habitat piles and worked round them