National Student Volunteering Week

22nd – 28th February 2010

Backyard 'Before'

“Inspiring Futures: Connecting Communities”

The main project for National Student Volunteering Week was a ‘ground force’ style, garden makeover for the benefit of the residents at the Eden Rural Foyer in Penrith. The Foyer offers housing with support to young people between the ages of 16 to 25. The intention was to promote healthy eating and garden management to the young residents and they will be encouraged to grow fruit and vegetables to be used to create home-grown and home-made dishes to sell in their café.

As a secondary activity the North West Regional Volunteering Event took place on the Wednesday offering a variety of conservation based tasks.

Here’s a diary of the week’s work…

Day One (Monday) – Eden Rural Foyer, Garden Project

The week started with a beautiful Monday morning; blue skies & sunshine, after a heavy overnight frost. Driving from Lancaster to Penrith via Ambleside to collect UCSU Volunteer Claire, was an absolute joy, taking in the views of rolling countryside, fields, mountains, rivers, and Lake Windermere. Claire was waiting for me at the Ambleside campus reception so we immediately got back on the road for Penrith, driving past frozen Rydal water, Grasmere and Thirlmere en route!

On arrival at the Eden Rural Foyer, we met Sarah, the Foyer manager and Jennifer, the landscape designer for this garden project discussing the plans for the next few days. We then met Simon, Jonathon & Jen outside in the backyard and received our instructions for the day.

UCSU Volunteer, Claire
UCSU Volunteer, Claire Breaking up the Tarmac

The first task was to measure and mark out where the tarmac needed cutting. Claire & Simon worked together following Jennifer’s design for the garden and chalked out the layout. Then all we had to do was cut up and move the tarmac and hard core from the backyard to the side of the building, ready for collection first thing the next day – easy!!?

As all the waste from the back yard was being recycled, arrangements had been made with local firm Metcalfes, to collect, transport and break up the tarmac & hard core, ready for use as aggregate on other projects. Armed with pick-axes, shovels & wheelbarrows, we got stuck in. The staff in the cyber café at the Foyer very kindly provided us with their homemade soup, homemade bread and chips for lunch – delicious! By the end of the afternoon, 3 tonnes of tarmac and hard-core was ready for collection and we had aches & pains as a result of all our efforts!

Day Two (Tuesday) – Eden Rural Foyer, Garden ProjectWe arranged to meet at the Foyer at 10am on

UCSU Volunteer, Steve Loading Metcalfe's Truck

Tuesday morning. Metcalfes arrived just after we did! UCSU Volunteer, Steve, threw himself into the work. The first 3-ton load of tarmac & hard core was shovelled onto the truck and taken away. We then set about getting the next load ready – Metcalfes were coming back at 2.30pm so there was no time to waste. We had the next 4-tonnes ready for collection just in time for lunch; homemade soup, bread & chips – lovely!

It was all hands on deck again as soon as Metcalfe’s truck arrived and we got it loaded again.

There were just two more areas of tarmac to cut up and remove – we made a start but the rest of it would have to wait till tomorrow.

Day Three (Wednesday) – NW Regional Volunteering Event

On Wednesday 24th February, volunteers and their coordinators from Universities across the North West; Manchester University, Manchester Metropolitan, Chester, Uclan & University of Cumbria met at Meresands Wood Nature Reserve, to engage in a variety of conservation tasks. Lancashire Wildlife Trust had set up different tasks/activities for us to choose from; fire building & lighting, shelter building, wood crafts, lopping birch trees and funghi & lichen surveys. It was a very informative, interesting and practical ‘hands-on’ day, which particularly appealed to conservation students from all the universities. Others said they wanted to try something different and one student added, “It was a great opportunity for a free day out to get away from all her Uni work!”

Day Four (Thursday) – Eden Rural Foyer, Garden Project

UCSU Volunteers, John, Frank & Seb

As I wasn’t at the Foyer on Wednesday, it was fantastic to see the progress that had been made when I arrived there on Thursday morning. All the tarmac and hardcore that needed removing had gone!

UCSU Volunteers, John, Frank & Seb were already there and had introduced themselves to Simon & Jonathon, the construction landscapers. The first delivery of soil had arrived and everyone was busy shovelling and transporting it, in wheelbarrows, round to the back of the building and filling in the garden beds. Neil was measuring and cutting decking to use as a border for the beds and Simon was fixing it all in place.

John, Frank, Seb, Jonathon & Jen were kept busy until lunchtime, moving a total of 9 tonnes of soil and filling in the beds.

They were rewarded with homemade mushroom soup, homemade bread & chips – lovely!

Homemade soup, Homemade Bread & Chips for lunch!

After lunch Frank, John & Seb had to get away for lectures so the rest of the team continued with the decking and started to line the decking ready for a new delivery of soil!

Day Five (Friday) – Eden Rural Foyer, Garden Project

Simon advised that as we were ahead of schedule, they would finish off the lining on the Friday and gave our hardworking volunteers a well-deserved break!

Day Seven (Tuesday) – Eden Rural Foyer, Garden Project

The following Tuesday we were back there, taking delivery of the final 6 tonnes of soil and moving it to the garden to fill the beds. We also needed to paint the decking with a preservative to help protect it from the elements. It looked fab!  Sarah, the Foyer Manager, was delighted with the results!

The planting will take place later in March. Thank you to all our volunteers who participated in volunteering activities for National Student Volunteering Week!

'After' Picture - Ready for Planting. Sarah, Foyer Manager with Jonathon