I volunteered with Patrick Crowley and later Stuart Harris, on Wednesdays mainly for the schools’ team, but also around the gardens and house, from July 1997 to 2008.
The first task was a raised bed in a school, it was a bit ramshackle back then as there was just an Escort Estate and a trailer for tools. It limited the number of volunteers to those who could cram into the Escort, to four or five alongside Patrick.
We worked in lots of schools, building ponds, paths, gardens, wooden staging for dipping platforms, you wouldn’t do those at home) and planting bulbs. It was all very interesting, we used to get a The school dinner, that was good. We went out all weathers, rain and frost, on one occasion in Shipley, it was chucking it down so hard it was futile. The holes for the fence were filling up faster than we could dig them, we were trying to ram stones and stuff round a post to get it vertical so we had to give up.
The group set off about 9.30 and worked until 4 or earlier if it was getting dark. It was fairly hard work, I wasn’t that young when I started. I had been a science teacher before I retired and already had some carpentry skills.
Patrick left to work at Oakwell Hall , and a younger lad Stuart Harris took over and a more substantial van, a minibus was available, and the group could be bigger.
In the 1990s we had kids on YOP (Youth Opportunities Programme). They didn’t have many qualifications and they really didn’t want to be here, would work for a quarter of an hour and then that was it. Patrick had to “flog” them to get any work out of them, they were a bit reluctant. Jobs needed hard work and big holes to be dug for benches, building brick walls.
We worked all around Leeds, Wakefield, and Otley. Patrick was an “excellent organiser”, jobs planned out, wood ready etc. He had talked to the teachers beforehand, thought it through and knew what we needed to do. That’s what you need in a boss, Stuart was well organised too.
We dug out the far pond in the Hollybush Garden and built a bridge (dipping platform) at the side of it. Old tree stumps became habitat plies
In the later years I became an odd job man around the Centre helping to fix various bits and pieces, odd bits of plumbing, fitting door closers; (including building the shelves over John’s desk), repaired doors. Worked on the Growfil garden building walls and fences. Hollybush was different back then with the toolstore and workshop in the outside building. There was a tea place (volunteer)room in what is now the classroom, it had old armchairs where the group could take long tea breaks,
I met my wife at Hollybush in 2000 she was volunteering as well, we got on well and married in 2002, still married 17 years on It does have good effects does Hollybush, some people take away skills, I took a wife.
After this he volunteered as a driver for Wheatfields Hospice and is a Monday volunteer at Rodley Nature Reserve. In 2018 I came back to volunteer in the garden on Wednesday afternoons.