27 December 2012 By Billy Hawkins
It was a deep dark December morning when a hardy and intrepid bunch of Alitex people from sales, the design office, factory and finance arrived at the National Trust's Uppark, just up the road, for a spot of volunteering.
Essentially the team were to be helping Andy Lewis and his team plus regular volunteers with tidying up the hazel around the right hand side of the car park. Dave Trevena and Sarah wore bright luminous jackets which certainly meant they were visible in the bleak half-light. Andy Shadey wore shorts which at first seemed like a fool hardy idea but as the rain began to pour down, it was only Andy who stood any chance of drying out.
The rain poured continually which made the trimming of the hazel challenging – even the hardiest of outdoor gear became completely saturated, but the Alitex team pressed on. Andy taught the team how to saw the hazel in such a way that by cutting into the bark twice the branch was able to bend and break but not rip, thereby splitting and possibly damaging the tree. Everyone wanted to do the cutting – no surprises! Straight hazel was gathered and cut into even lengths, in the hope that a bit of traditional wood craft could replace outdoor activity. The team eventually surrendered to the weather, and wet through, they went inside for a warming bacon buttie. The new Christmas grotto in the stables has been put together by the Uppark Team and everyone huddled down to make willow stars in a nativity-style environment.
By midday the volunteers were wet but in good spirits and headed back to the Alitex office at Torberry, feeling good to have contributed something to Uppark and to Andy and his team.