What do you do when your team hasn’t seen one another for 18 months? You go volunteering, naturally.
When the Close Brothers Asset Finance Marketing team recently decided to get together to spend a day volunteering, we were presented with two choices - helping out in the genteel surroundings of the RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands reserve to the background of bird song – or spend the day jet washing graffiti under bridges.
You’d think it would be a fairly straightforward choice – but no, one individual (who will remain unnamed…) called shotgun on the jet wash, effectively leaving the rest of us left to litter pick.
Fortunately, level heads prevailed, and we gathered instead at the bottom of the quintessentially English named Puddington Lane on the morning of a typical October day – cool and slightly breezy with a hint of rain in the air.
On arrival, it was clear some of us were more prepared than others – and I don’t include myself in that. The majority had waterproofs, suitable headgear, proper footwear, windproof jackets, and so on – the rest of us had cotton or woollen jumpers and jeans and no jackets – perfect for wet weather.
I could feel the eye rolls as we made our way to the gift shop / viewing area where we were briefed - I didn’t even need to look…
The key words we all heard were ‘pitchforks’ and ‘wheelbarrows’ before we understood what it was we were going to do, which was to collect and remove long grass cuttings from a patchwork – or mosaic – of grassland. The reason for the cutting is to encourage wildflower growth and prevent the grass from competing with the wildflowers.
As always with these sorts of things, we got stuck into the task before really establishing an effective process for the removal of the grass. Over a relatively short space of time; however, we established a highly efficient way of working that included roping in a pair of wheelie bins. The wardens mentioned that it usually takes six days to do what we did in a day as they generally have two or three volunteers at a time – and we worked so efficiently that they were clearing more grass for us to collect while we were there!
Despite being a bunch of marketeers who don’t labour for a living, there were no injuries apart from a few blisters. The world’s smallest violin was played for that individual.
Volunteering is strongly encouraged at Close Brothers, culminating in Volunteering Week, which encourages employees to make use of their ‘Gift of Time Volunteering Leave’ by committing a few hours during the week to volunteer for a cause that matters most to them.
With many of us never having met face-to-face, it was the perfect environment to find out more about each other – including who’s handy with a pitchfork and who not to partner with in a wheelbarrow race.
The RSPB staff were incredibly capable – providing instruction without being too heavy on detail. They trusted us to do a good job and certainly didn’t take it easy on us, getting full value from the team and making us work the full allotted hours despite some of us flagging after a good lunch. A nap would have suited me better, but no, it was back to making hay – kind of.
A big thank you must go to the RSPB who do such critical work to protect these reserves and the many species that call them home.