The Buzz of the Tea Break

On world mental health day Johnny reflects on the value of volunteering and the importance of the tea break

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At the point of writing this article it’s #worldmentalhealthday and having been stood today by the roaring Redbrae’s weir with a corporate group of volunteers from JP Morgan eating biscuits. It struck me just how much has changed since I ran my first volunteer tasks for the Trust at Redbraes back in Jan 2020, when 23 volunteers turned up to see the new guy.

After the initial months finding my feet, the covid lockdowns hit and everything ground to a halt before we slowly resumed work on the walkway, initially with just 2 volunteers per session.

Fast forward to the present day and at the halfway point of the financial year, we have already run 129 tasks equating to 3517 hours of volunteering worth £33,000 . With volunteer groups now ranging from anywhere from 8 up to our monthly Leith clean up that attracted 35 volunteers this month, there is a real buzz and noise once again at the tea breaks. For me the tea break is still the most important part of the day allowing volunteers to connect with the world around them and others within. Whether that’s the moment of pause when you notice the bird song in the trees, when you make a connection with someone else about a shared grumble like dog pooh bags hanging from tree branches, discuss what’s the best biscuit in the tin or just smile about a shared memory from the river.

JP Morgan staff at Redbraes Weir

From that buzz it’s energised the volunteers to wade the length of walkway several times removing rubbish, fighting invasive species ( 5,000 Giant Hogweed plants sprayed, thousands of Himalayan balsam pulled and hundreds of Japanese Knotweeds injected), building willow spilling to protect river banks from erosion, surveying/scything wildflower meadows and eat their body weight in biscuits.

As the nights draw in, the temperature drops and the river levels rise. Soon our conservation volunteers will be packing the waders away and picking up the rakes and brushes in preparation to deal with the carpet of leaves falling on the walkway. No doubt during autumn and winter there will be days when the rain will be lashing at the windows and it’ll be easier to sit on the couch and wait for a fairer day. However as many will know there is no buzz to be found on the couch that can compare to cuppa on the Water of Leith walkway

So see you all with your waterproofs on soon, Burton biscuits I’ll be coming for supplies tomorrow

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