‘I’ve been volunteering as a ‘meet and greet’ volunteer at Furzey gardens for four years. During lockdown it felt so strange not to be heading across the Forest every Monday, I really missed meeting up with the other garden volunteers and students and staff. It was particularly frustrating not to be able to share the spectacular spring flowers with visitors in 2020 at what is usually one of our busiest seasons.
‘When we were able to open the gardens again in June it was extra special as all our visitors were so delighted to be out and about again, especially those who had been shielding and I was happy to welcome them and share their joy. It was great to catch up with the other volunteers too.
‘Volunteering at Furzey helped me regain my self-confidence and enthusiasm after losing my husband. The friends I have made here have been wonderfully supportive and I find a Monday spent welcoming visitors to this beautiful place lifts my spirits and sets me up for the rest of the week.’
‘I had been a volunteer, one day a week, at Furzey for just over six months when lockdown came.
‘I knew that my volunteer role would have to put on hold but I remembered that Deb the Nursery manager had talked about the need for watering during dry spells. Lockdown and a beautiful dry spring coincided and it prompted me to send Deb a text to see if I could help after hours. This led to an hour or two of watering or weeding once a week.
‘It was so good to be outside, away from home and meet Deb in a socially distanced manner. It became a weekly oasis when Covid seemed a long way away and it was great to hear how the people we support were being supported in new ways. It gave me ‘something in the diary’ and seeing plants developing reminded me that although life was different it hadn’t stopped – definitely therapeutic.
‘After a week or two, I asked how the nursery plant sales could be continued as it was clear that there were lots of plants ready for sale. Unfortunately, the only outlets at that time were friends and family of staff and volunteers. I knew that many of my friends had been busy in their gardens and were complaining that they couldn’t buy plants so I proposed a trial of selling them to my friends in Brockenhurst. I emailed a lot of people, many connected with our local church, and they started telling their friends and lots of orders came in. My orders had to be restricted to the number of plants I could put into the boot of my husband’s estate car. The work experience team did a wonderful job of selecting the plants and every Tuesday I collected the plants.
‘I developed the secret target of selling £1,000 of plants and we exceeded that as many ‘customers’ put in repeat orders.
‘I am delighted that I am now back at Furzey, one day a week, during normal hours but keeping my distance – do say hello if you spot me.’
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