I was working in an architects’ office, but I loved being outside – someone there talked about the world being a bigger place and that I should go and explore.
I heard about BTCV and I went on initial task in winter, it was freezing cold, I was ill, I hated it and it was rubbish, but I’d booked 3 or 4 so I went on the next one. On that I met Andy and he opened the world of working woodlands for me.
I worked on old buildings and the idea of moving into an old building that was being done up fascinated me, the idea of the building’s journey and the journey of the people involved. I went on a few more projects, visited Tan Pits but didn’t click with it, I went back to Hollybush, liked it and asked Giles if I could stay on as a long-term volunteer.
Hollybush gave me the confidence to be out in the world, I came from a close-knit small family. I didn’t socialise much and heading off to halfway up the country was quite a big thing. I learnt to cater for large numbers of people, learnt organisational things, task skills we lead some tasks together down in Wimbledon, and even just navigating round the country, I hadn’t done that before. I didn’t even really cook very well at home. Giles got me learning to drive the minibus and taking people places. I’d never driven anything that big or been responsible for all those lives. I was developing basic skills in navigation, map reading, arriving on time! We had no Google maps then. Since then I’ve driven for youth groups and done cooking for church groups for four to five days with the skills I learnt at Hollybush.
It was a completely different the environment to what I was used to, the area where Hollybush was -with rough kids around the place, nothing like that where I came from. It was a house with no glass in windows, just breeze blocks when Andy moved in or just double-glazed plastic, banging in the wind. I’d volunteer to wash up, just to get my hands warm it was so cold, standing on a stone floor which was collapsing. My sister joked that “you’re going to do the washing upppppp” as you fall through the floor. Learning about a different world was great as now it doesn’t faze you when you go different places.
Lesley Iredale, BTCV Volunteer and Founder Volunteer at Hollybush