Christine Barry
The villagers of Beech Hill near our Reading centre have stepped in to rescue our gardens during the lockdown period. This is Christine's experience of volunteering to keep our gardens maintained.

We have had strong stormy winds for two days and it's not easy to go to the gardens. But today, the winds have dropped, the sky is a wonderfully clear blue and best of all the sun is shining. Stepping out of my house I could see wind damage everywhere, branches strewn around the garden, pots blown over and wisteria blossom everywhere. What a mess.

Cycling up to Thrive, I knew my task today would be to tidy up the gardens, clear the debris and water. Turning into the drive it is a delight to see meadows awash with spring flowers and the grass is deep green. It really is a gorgeous meadow and no better when it is bathed in bright sun light. I stop to watch a woodpecker creeping up a tree and start to hammer on the bark.

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But no time to stand and gaze for too long. Gardens to be tended. Oh gosh, what a mess - branches broken off the big oak tree and pots had rolled around. Some plants were broken but generally not too bad. I set to work clearing up and did a spot of watering, everything looking as if it needed a good drink.

I could hear voices in the distance and turned to see baby George. George’s parents are volunteers too. George is grinning at me and we exchange some baby babble. This is a lovely time for him. Like all of us we are locked down so going to Thrive to work a bit means he has interaction with others, and I have enjoyed the company of a new village member. George is a smashing little chap and now I think of him as George the foreman as he waves at his new found volunteer friends.

Having cleared my area, I make a mental note that tomorrow I need to do some serious weeding. Lastly, on my way to my favourite spot, I pass the greenhouse and find that the plants look decidedly parched so give them all a good drench. Time is marching on and the sun beginning to set, but there is one last thing I like to finish with, so I walk up to the allotment site where Thrive meets the fields beyond.

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This is a beautiful spot with a fabulous view towards Mortimer. It is wonderfully peaceful here. Looking out across the field I spot three deer. They had already spotted me, standing still, ears pricked. I consider how lucky I am to be able to live in such a village. Life goes on but for some there is so much suffering and many people are struggling in lockdown. But here the village is tranquil and the birds are still singing, but mostly it is a place for reflection, security and peace.

We all hope this ghastly virus subsides quickly and we have done enough to keep these gardens alive for those who usually visit the gardens to work in them. We have enjoyed working here but when you return there is still lots of work to be done. But the gardens are alive.

By Christine Barry

A big thank you to Christine and the Beech Hill villagers, as well as those helping keep our gardens maintained in Birmingham and London's Battersea Park. We are very grateful for your help during these times.

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