By Flora Blissett
A perfect combination for a lunch-break! Thanks to our resident French chef/decorator, Amélie, we had a leftover cheese soufflé from yesterday’s team dinner. This was, to everyone’s surprise, a perfect side to Garbanzo bean stew made by Aussie bloke Dylan. Even more of a surprise: next-day soufflé makes an excellent sandwich filling.
It was following this lunch (itself following sanding & varnishing shelves and signs, clearing ditches, painting the kitchen, and lending a hand to polytunnel weeding) that we found ourselves lobbing single-hand axes at an ad hoc target on a rotten tree stump. “It’s a team building activity”, we were assured.
It turns out Dylan can do more than make a mean bean stew: he’s a real pro at teaching, and chucking, the axe throw. More laughs than accidents happened, and each of us – eventually – got one or two blades convincingly in the stump. So all in all, it was a successful team building (not whittling) event.
The volunteer work itself has also proved to be effective for team building. Amélie and I shared our start to the day carrying a hay bale up to the horses and giving them a “good morning” pat. The world grew into dawn, from grey to pink to gold and blue, and the horses stomped and steamed.
When we got back to the bunkhouse the others had risen, and we were ready to set to work in teams. Dylan joined Amélie in the kitchen: filling, sanding and painting. Outside, Meike, Ella and I set off with wheelbarrow and strimmer in hand to tackle the Nature Trail.
This Trail runs for about two kilometres over the island, through fields and woodland, and makes for a very pleasant and accessible walk for visitors during the season. At the moment, however, it is perhaps a bit too much ‘nature’ and not enough ‘trail’. During these winter months, us volunteers set to strimming, lopping, dragging, and all out generally clearing the pathway to enable those summertime sojourns. Occasionally, my teammates had some extra work on their hands as they untangled me from the bramble vines, which I had somehow got in the middle of.
A particularly satisfying section was, for Meike and me, digging out the ditch. Walking along the path, you’d be justified in thinking that safe ground lies either side of you. But, step that way, and you’d fall foot first through a tangle of grass into a waterlogged ditch. Thanks to our efficient German engineer and happy-to-be-muddy Brit, however, you can now walk that path clearly seeing, and steering clear of, a fully flowing drainage ditch.
Work done and axes thrown, we regrouped in the last of the light to take a stroll around the woods behind the castle. Of course, this couldn’t be done without peaking inside said castle. Lurid sights loomed through the murky rooms and dusty window panes. Lion skin carpets with heads posed in muted roar; stuffed eagles permanently at the point of snatching petrified prey; luxurious silk sofas turn dull and rot, and dainty teacups fill with dust. We threw about some very interesting ideas as to what to do with this ruin. Full-scale-ball-pit-adventure-playground was the resounding winner, and as the daylight turned to dusk, we made our way back, happy entrepreneurs, to a homemade pizza supper and fireside chats.