It was a really good project funded by the Home Office we worked with people seeking asylum who had just come to Leeds. We worked with people who were staying at a place called Hillside, on the Leeds Bradford Road quite near Hollybush, doing orientation walks around town, they had just come to Leeds and didn’t know anything. But we were also doing countryside walks and conservation activities. We had some young people, called the Explorers club, unaccompanied minors 16 to 18 and then we had adults obviously from all different countries. At celebration events we l brought food from all different countries, got together at Hollybush and had parties and stuff. I think there was something really good about Hollybush in that they are really open to lots of activities. So it created freedom, I was quite free to make it up as I went along which was good and we had lots of volunteers who helped.
We ran an allotment in Harehills and that was the main conservation stuff. People had sometimes experienced quite a lot of trauma and didn’t want to do lots of manual work, they just wanted to go somewhere, walk and talk, that was most appropriate, that was what we did. It was almost like an entry into Hollybush as some people got involved in the regular activities. With the Explorers Club we did the Countryside Code; a lot of it was about practising English.
Some of the young people went on a BTCV trip to Devon, doing a lot of conservation activities. We supported them to do that. That was 16 to 18 year olds who would not have gone on holiday otherwise, who were in foster care or mainly in accommodation, and didn’t have parents with them. There were two Iranians, two girls from Africa and two others. It was a really good experience for them; they wouldn’t have had that experience otherwise, that was really good
It only lasted for one year at Hollybush and the government didn’t fund it again even though we did really well. Because my project was on the edge, I was never quite sure what everyone else was doing, they all looked very technical and very competent and I was always in awe of what they did.
I recently, last year, did a Permaculture course there, the garden there is really inspiring, it’s like an oasis. I spent quite a lot of time just walking around the garden loving it.