I worked in Wakefield and then Kirklees for BTCV I came back to Hollybush after I´d had my first child in 2006 managing a Heritage Lottery funded training project at Oakwell Hall then after my second maternity leave back as a job share BTCV National Training Officer in the freezing cold top office. It was espically cold. People used to swear it was haunted it was so cold, but it could have been because it had two outside stone walls. Lisa and I did management training, recruitment training, leadership and how to manage volunteers. It involved going all over the country.
I think my volunteering and training has had a lifelong impact on me because I´m still involved in volunteer management now, at Leeds Older People’s Forum.
Travelling to other sites was good as it allowed me to see how other offices did things. Us training officers probably knew more about the organisation than the managing directors as people just told us stuff when we went to train them. It was interesting to make links between projects and get them to talk to each other if they were doing similar things.
That came to an end with the big round of austerity redundancies, BTCV had the brand review and became The Conservation Volunteers, and wanted to make the larger offices like Hollybush into hubs to get more of the community involved. We thought we could do that by opening up a cafe. We started off by thinking that the learning disability team could have a little hatch to do teas and coffees but it seemed to complicated so we started looking at the old laundry and junk room as a little kitchen and John got a grant to convert it.
The old volunteer room became the indoor seating for the cafe to begin with, we worked around the volunteers, opening 10am-2pm after they´d had their tea. But it got a bit complicated, so they got moved into a gazebo for the summer and John started raising money for the roundhouse. It took longer than we hoped, and the garden volunteers had to survive outside or in the barn for a couple of years.
TCV had a grant to employ someone for three months to get the cafe up and running, so I did that and stayed on for nearly three years overseeing the café, events and helping with publicity.
When we started the cafe was staffed by volunteers and me. We had some good volunteers like Rob Griffiths who was an ex chef. We served simple things like cake and soup and in the summer we did salads, scones, hummus and pitta bread. The signature thing was that we grew salad in the polytunnel for about nine months of the year and served that in the café, also fruit upside down cake.
We used the fundraising events in the cafe to engage with local people. It´s amazing that there´s a constant stream of people coming to these events who had no idea what Hollybush was.
I think a lot of the schools work we did had a good impact on the community. They went out to local schools and told them how to make wildlife gardens but lots of children also came to our wildlife garden. At events we get people coming up saying ´I remember coming here when i was seven´ which is really nice. It’s just another little way of influencing people and getting them to change how they think about things.
I think the volunteers are different now. When I started it was mostly young people looking for work due to the economic climate in the 1980s. Now there´s a much more diverse spread of people of different ages and backgrounds involved.
People 30 years ago came to learn about the environment because they saw a career in it but now they come for other reasons and go away with more information about the environment
To me, Hollybush means lots of nice memories of nice people and good friends.
There was a very good group of us who helped to run the fairy trail and Halloween trail. We had a stressful but great time running high energy children´s events.
Halloween has become quite scary so we thought it would be nice to do more traditional activities like apple bobbing which didn´t make the children cry! The kids really like being in the dark. Little children don´t get to go outside and play in the dark much.
It´s always very friendly, people will always have a chat and give you a cup of tea, it runs on tea. When it was called BTCV we used to say it stood for battered transits, cars and vans or biscuits, tea and coffee volunteers. It´s still definitely that, even though when they changed the name to TCV we lost the biscuits! You can get people to do a world of work for a good biscuit.
Jessica Duffy many roles from 1986 to 2016 now Learning Facilitator – Time to Shine
Leeds Older People’s Forum and occasional event volunteer