I came to be involved with the Conservation Volunteers after being referred from an organisation called Learning Partnerships having then recently taken part in the Inspire and Achieve programme which aimed to equip people with the confidence and skills or in my case necessary work experience in order to move into some kind of employment.
I remember the first time I ever went out “on the vans” so to speak, the location was Charlie Cake Park in Armley and our main tasks for that day were litter picking also to maintain the central green space. I having thoroughly enjoyed my first day at Hollybush heard that very same afternoon that there was the opportunity to study and earn an NVQ level 1 diploma in Wildlife Conservation which I took up in a heartbeat and was swiftly introduced to Craig the diploma tutor who was to become such an indispensable part of my journey ahead.
So a few weeks passed and I was invited to take part in a taster day at Rabbit Ings country park. and it was there whilst planting trees in the wilderness that I was first introduced to fellow volunteers Maggie, Kate and Paul the people who would change my life for the better. they by a stroke of lucky coincidence had decided to enrol on the diploma course at the same time as myself and in the next coming weeks my outlook on life changed immeasurably not only by the companionship and legendary banter that there company afforded me, but by the compassion and deep humanity that each of them displayed towards my own life circumstances.
For the first time in my life I actually wanted to do something with it, this desire increased with every session as I saw my personal and practical skills grow each week. to know that I was making a difference to the landscape whether that was saving local wildflowers from an invasion of seemingly all pervasive Himalayan Balsam (seeming invincible at first glance but with roots so shallow that it can be taken out and removed with one tug) or finding frogs hidden in the long grass at Ledston luck and gently returning them to their natural habitat left me not only with a sunbeaten face and my old jeans covered in mud, but with a feeling of accomplishment and purpose that I had seldom experienced in my life up until this point.
Of the legendary banter I shall never forget our anticipation where was the bird of paradise about to fly out of next? and not one of Craig’s sessions were complete without a singsong be this any song we liked but one that always stands out in my memory is the rap song “There it is” which we would replace with “Hollybush,hollybush.”
Although it has been nearly six years since I last attended Hollybush I still keep my completed diploma portfolio which is full of photographs of me and the other volunteers carrying out our weekly tasks, truly truly they are memories to be treasured forever.