What is in it for me?

Claire McAllen talks about volunteering on the community orchard

It was back in April 2010 that I first heard about the community orchard when an email arrived out of the blue inviting me to come and help. It later transpired that my details were obtained from the allotment waiting list. I had put my name down the previous autumn. After having my 3rd baby I decided I needed to do something for ‘me’. I wanted to get involved with something that I enjoyed doing and that would get me away from the kids for a little while. I gave up work to take care of the kids and although I love spending time with them I needed to spend some time not being mum just being me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I had never volunteered for anything before and my actual gardening knowledge was limited. The first work day that I attended in May involved lots of digging, it was hard work but I thoroughly enjoyed myself and couldn’t wait for another session so I would pitch up when I had a bit of spare time and needed to get away from nappies and snotty noses. The people I met were great too, really friendly and like minded it was nice to have adult conversations.

Despite the idea being to get away from the kids my teenage daughter, Ayla came along for one of the work days. Ayla is a girl whose idea of exercise is playing Pokemon on her Nintendo DS. I was quite surprised when she asked to join in, but even more surprised when she told me how much she had enjoyed herself! Saying that, ‘It was good exercise and really quite fun’.

Volunteering is very enjoyable and rewarding, getting away from it all for an afternoon, getting some exercise and making lots of new friends in the process. I have been lucky enough to get an allotment plot. Helping at the orchard has meant that I had a realistic expectation of the level of work involved initially with a new allotment.

The sight of a plot waist deep in weeds and various bits of debris can be very disheartening to any new ‘allotmenteer’ but not me! It was a case of here’s my spade let’s get dug in! I will still be helping out at the community orchard and can't wait to get planting, pruning and pleaching, and of course eventually eating scrummy apples!

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