It was in September 1998 that I walked through the doors of Hollybush, in fact it was more walking down the driveway really.
I had been spent to Hollybush from the Job Centre as part of the New Deal programme, I had mentioned to my advisor that I enjoyed being outside so she said that I might like this place, as they were running the Environmental Task Force option. So I turned up for my informal chat and a look around, after speaking to Patrick Crowley, who at the time I arrived was counting wildflower bulbs, and looking around I thought, yes, this is the place for me, so I contacted the Job Centre and a few weeks later I started on my first day.
My role was working in the wildlife garden, general maintenance and looking after the native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and pond plants that was for sale in the plant nursery and polytunnels. Also I went out with the Schools team building wildlife gardens in the grounds of schools, during my time doing this I learnt a lot of skills and picked up tips from the other volunteers. Patrick that was the Project Officer was very knowledgeable, enthusiastic, always had time to answer questions and was an inspiration to myself, also Ross that used to to volunteer in the garden leading school tours was a very interesting gentleman, he had a interest in old folktales and folklore.
Six months later my time on the scheme was at a end but I was not ready to leave so I returned and became a VO, during this time I continued to work alongside Patrick but also helped out with the Mid-week team, the Hollyvols and worked with Richard Anderson. There was also Stuart Harris that I worked with and we had this competition between ourselves on who could reverse the minibus and trailer into the barn in one continuous movement without unhitching it, quite a useful skill if it was raining!
I decided that this conservation work was what I wanted to do as a career so I went to college to get my formal qualifications but during this time I was still at Hollybush on my spare days, helping out in the garden, building the gardens with the school team and running the plant nursery with Patrick.
I then managed to get a job at Oakwell Hall Country Park as a Casual Ranger, this doesn’t mean driving about in the Landrover, wearing sunglasses and looking cool, well, it did involve driving about in the Landrover a bit!
Alongside working at Oakwell HalI, I still volunteered at Hollybush but I also started to volunteer at Skelton Grange, the other TCV office in Leeds, so after a short while of doing this an opportunity arose of paid employment at Skelton, so I applied and was successful. So after three and half years I had to say farewell to Hollybush, but it wasn’t a final good-bye as working at Skelton there is always the chance to pop over and see how the old place is.
Who would have thought that my initial six month placement I would still be with the organisation twenty one years later!