My Time to Shine - The Great Outdoors

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Every month we focus on a project funded by Time to Shine to see how they support older people in Leeds. This month we hear about The Great Outdoors project.

We talked to Garden Project Officer Anne Proud and she told us all about it.

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May 2021

The Great Outdoors is the Time to Shine project that is run at Hollybush. I came into the project about 18 months ago and I’m currently the only member of staff.
Hollybush is a conservation centre in Kirkstall that comes under the banner of TCV. It’s been there for a long time – local people know it as this centre for conservation. We’ve got wood-working workshops, polytunnels, a garden, woodland, ponds – all sandwiched in this tiny sliver of land between the canal and the river, with the main road on one side. As you’re sat in the garden the buses go by and you can hear people on their phones!

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A lot of our projects start

with people. The activities are a very good way of giving us something to do,

an excuse to meet up

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Our remit is older people over 50. A lot of the people who come to our projects tend to be long-term unemployed, or they struggle with their mental health, or people who are just isolated. We sometimes get referrals through the health service, through BARCA and Touchstone ringing us up. Word of mouth is a big one. Anyone who comes to sign up at Hollybush signs up as a volunteer. This creates a general sense of a hugely diverse group of people coming together.
 
We’ve had a number of projects. Wood Squad is for people who’ve done short woodwork courses, working with Tom our carpenter. Whittling Wednesday – which I think will be renamed Whittling Tuesday – is out in the woods in a new structure called the Bird’s Nest, with our new whittler Donovan. They work with green wood – but there’s also a lot of drinking tea. They build a fire - and you know what people are like with a fire! People love to poke it and play with it. They’ve got this big black kettle where they brew up.
 
We’ve got two satellite sites. One at Armley Medical Practice. Our team got some funding and they built raised beds. We’re hoping to start that back up soon. That’s mainly for people who go to that medical centre – or anyone in the Armley area. And we started one at Fairfield Community Centre in Bramley. I’m in a wind band and we used to rehearse there – I noticed the raised beds and thought they could do with a bit of work. So, we started a monthly group. We’ve tapped in with the Bramley Care Bears, who are great.
 
I’ve run a walking group at Hollybush for about four years now. Pre-Covid, it was a weekly group, every Monday. People would come into Hollybush and we’d drive in the minibus to different nature reserves and green areas across Leeds. We’d have a member of staff to lead the walk and another one to mentor people. It’s good to have two members of staff because conversations happen – and people like to find out about other activities at Hollybush. There’s a lot of courses at Hollybush, a lot of them are free to people on benefits. Woodworking, Practical Conversation skills (like tree-felling, dry-stone walling, coppicing) Craft courses (basket weaving, felt-making), Gardening and more.
 
We should all be back up-and-running by the time this article appears. The walking group has carried on in- between strict lockdowns. So, people who normally do gardening or woodwork have come on the walks. We’ve moved the walks to where people live so that they didn’t have to go on buses. I’ve done walks all over Leeds now.
 
A lot of our projects start with people. The activities (like gardening, whittling or walking) are a very good way of giving us something to do, an excuse to meet up. If you’re feeling a bit “wobbly” it might be easier to tell people you’re going to do a bit of gardening or go to a walking group, rather than go to a specific support group. There’s no stigma. Particularly with older blokes. Being outdoors is an added bonus. If you’re sat outside, with an open fire, you can see people just going, “Ahhhh!” People love the actual physical process of woodworking. And the conversations people have are amazing. It’s my role to create those relaxed spaces outside, with practical things to do, and people talking to each other. The social side is huge.
 
Trying to re-introduce our tea breaks is one of our priorities at the moment. On the walks we used to
have a good half hour tea break, with a choice of cakes. It was a real ritual. It’s not the same, bringing your own flask. We have to recognise that these things are important. A lot of people are very nervous about going out again. I know some people are struggling. We have to adapt, to suit where people are at.
 
Liz Boyd is a volunteer on the project; we spoke to her about why she loves The Great Outdoors.
 
Why did you get involved?

I joined Hollybush after I retired. It will be 6 years in June. I joined the gardening group. I knew that I had to have some structure in my life – I’m not very good at structure. It was my boss that said, “have you made an appointment at Hollybush yet?” I hadn’t – but I eventually did and started there soon after. I remember my first day. I was weeding, and thinking, “I don’t know what I’m doing here, because I should be in my own garden doing this. I think I might have made a mistake.” But then I realised it’s not just about what you do, it’s about the people you’re with. I’ve met people there who I wouldn’t have met in normal circumstances. And they’ve become important relationships.
 
It grew and grew, and I got more involved. I became a volunteer officer quite quickly and went on leadership training. It’s my responsibility to lead a group of about 5 or 6 people on a task. Tasks vary – we’ve got a front garden and I’ve had quite a lot to do with that. People vary with what they can and can’t do. Some have no experience of gardening; others have lots of experience: it doesn’t really matter. I used to think it really mattered if you didn’t accomplish everything you were asked to do. But in the end, it depends on the circumstances and who you’ve got in your group.

At one point Anne said, “can somebody start to create a little orchard patch?” So, we did - and we’ve got two apple trees there now. They’re only little but they produced fruit last year. That was quite an accomplishment! You learn to do things you wouldn’t have done before. It was quite hard work, we had to move a lot of roots.
 
We have various raised beds that we look after. I did a lot of barrowing before Christmas. I don’t know how I did that! Barrowing great loads of mud from one place to another. The strength exercises I’ve been doing came in handy! Sometimes it’s hard work, sometimes it’s easier, but you do get a sense of achievement, especially working together with other people.
 
What are the benefits for you?
 
It’s good to think you’re doing something useful. You’re helping to maintain the garden. But it’s the people too. Quite a lot of people do rely on the garden for social contact. There are people with various disabilities. The relationships you make keep you going. And being outside - I just love being outside. There’s only been 2 or 3 times where I’ve been absolutely soaked at Hollybush. When I’ve got in the car afterwards and thought, “I’m actually wet right through.” But being outside and doing something with other people is great.
 
How have you been involved since Covid hit last year?
 
I think it was July I came back onsite. Freya tasked me to come in and clear a few weeds around the orchard. We were also doing litter-picking around the area. It’s not my favourite activity! But lots of people come along and you meet them and it’s really quite nice. And the walks, on and off. They had to shut down for a bit. But they’re back now. We used to have a proper walking group on a Sunday. All day walks. We don’t do that any more. At first, I thought, “I don’t want to go on these little walks, they’re not for me.” But again, it’s the social thing. You meet people you haven’t seen for a bit, different people at different locations. It’s more of a stroll, but that’s fine. I haven’t gone back to Hollybush yet, but I will go back. I’ve kept in contact over Zoom. I’m in no hurry but I will be there soon.

Thanks Liz and Anne.
You can find out more about the Great Outdoors by contacting Anne Proud at Hollybush.

Phone: 0113 2742335 Email: a.proud@tcv.org.uk Website: tcv.org.uk

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