My working life has been in the energy industry where I was an electrical engineer. By far the most interesting part was when I was working on renewable energy schemes in the early 1990s when we all started to understand the damage we are causing to the climate. I worked on the design and construction of wind and energy efficiency schemes and continued with this on a part time basis when I retired from my full time job.
I have had many hobbies and interests over the years. Gardening has always been important and so has DIY and woodwork as well as sport, playing tennis and golf and more and more sport watching as life moves on.
I’ve been volunteering at Flower Pod for around 5 years. A little while before this my wife had died and I had been quite ill. I needed to start to make some changes to the pattern of my life and bring in new activities and interests. I had known about the Flower Pod for a number of years through reading the local papers and hearing about the plans and how they were moving on. It had always seemed a wonderful project for all sorts of reasons. Now that I had the time I was keen to get in touch and see about volunteer opportunities.
I had never worked in a socially supportive environment. I knew I could manage the garden activities but I was a bit wary about how capable I could be in supporting the clients, although I knew that this was one of the new areas I was very keen to become involved with. The whole idea of therapeutic horticulture is so well understood and the fact that the Pod is part of the overall aim of Reach to provide security to adults with learning disabilities and their families is such a good one.
I needn’t have worried about working with the clients. They are such a rewarding and welcoming group of people. There are so many different garden jobs to be done that there are always clients happy to join in and when the sun is out and everybody is outside working, chatting, singing and laughing it is a really uplifting experience. Of course, sometimes it is cold and wet but we can usually persuade most people to spend some time on gardening one way or another.
The wonderful staff are always working hard to make sure that the atmosphere is relaxed but also focused on giving as much benefit to individual clients as possible. And that also includes making the volunteers very welcome, wanted and informed.
The new friendships I have made are such a big outcome from my time at the Pod.
Being a garden, the jobs to be done are always changing through the year and one of the first things to be thinking about is the weather! How lucky we are that the large polytunnel is there when the heavy downpours come along. I have always preferred working with flowers and shrubs rather than vegetables and that means all sorts of work through the year. Every job can be done with a client from sowing seeds, pricking and planting out to harvesting the flowers. And there can be plenty of exercise in digging over of the beds, pruning, planting and the ongoing weeding battle. New jobs are always cropping up, and being invented, such as using a large bow saw to divide overgrown agapanthus roots.
Gardens are always moving on and since I have been helping out, all the volunteers and clients have made many changes. We have more flower beds, a beautiful rose bed, a maturing white garden, we make a lot of our own compost and are now busy setting out a wild area. There will always be new challenges and changes.
I love being at the Flower Pod for two main reasons. Ornamental gardening is a big interest for me and to be spending time with other volunteers, clients and staff growing beautiful flowers and expanding the garden in peaceful surroundings is wonderful. Secondly, the friendship, fun and warmth that is always there gives such an uplifting boost to our lives.
I hope I will be able to return to the Pod before too long as restrictions are eased off. I know the staff and younger volunteers have been doing great work to keep on top of the garden as best they can. I imagine there will be plenty of tidying up to do but I’m just looking forward to getting things under way with next year’s flowers in mind. Those wall flowers and sweet williams need sowing!