Volunteers tell of uplifting work at Windmill Hill City Farm
Volunteers at Windmill Hill City Farm tell David Clensy how the Bedminster "oasis" has transformed their lives
WHEN 26-year-old Steph Hares suffered a nervous breakdown after a long period of deep depression, she needed to take some time out of her day to day life. But she didn’t expect to find her recovery by working in the unlikely setting of a farm in the middle of the city.
For Steph, from Henbury, volunteering at Windmill Hill City Farm has given her a new lease of life.
“It’s lifted me out of the mental health problems I was suffering before,” she said. “Spending time on the farm is so relaxing – being around all the animals, doing something active and productive out in the open has helped me enormously.”
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Steph has become a regular at the farm over the past two years – volunteering her time and energy every Wednesday and Friday.
“It’s made an enormous difference,” she said. “My depression has stabilised since coming here, and it’s helped me to focus on the future – it’s also helped me to see that I would love to work with animals.”
The farm is to celebrate the work of its volunteers by holding a special celebration event this weekend.
Staff at the Bedminster urban petting farm hope the event will serve as a way of thanking its community of 120 active volunteers, while also encouraging more would-be volunteers to come forward.
Jules Allan, community development and volunteering manager said the farm was founded in 1976 with volunteering in mind.
“We simply couldn’t run the farm without our volunteers,” she said. “They do a tremendous job. It’s a chance for them to give something back, but they all get a lot from it individually too.
“It’s a real community, and to be part of a community is important for people.”
Professional clown Amy Webber said she started volunteering at the farm because city life meant she did not feel connected to the community.
“As a clown I wanted to bring some of my experience of performance to the farm,” the 34-year-old, from Redcliffe, explained. “I have developed a performance about the death of my grandmother, and I’ve been working on a project to encourage some of the other volunteers to tell their own stories through performance. We all have our stories to tell.”
Amy will be performing her tribute to her grandmother, “If Things Must Change”, as part of Saturday’s day of special volunteer-related events.
Siobhan Woodhouse, from Horfield, also started volunteering at the farm after suffering a series of troubles in her personal life.
“I’d been through a difficult time, and for me coming here and volunteering was a way of making new friends and building up my confidence again after a difficult time in my life,” she said.
“I’d worked in catering before, so I felt quite comfortable coming here and helping out in the cafe. I just love being here.
“Even if I get another job in the future, I would always keep volunteering here too. I would never leave this place behind – it’s very special.”
It’s an enthusiasm that is echoed by Tony Palmer, 60, of Southville, who started volunteering at the farm five years ago.
“I just love coming here for a couple of days each week,” he said. “I’m interested in practical building conservation, so I’ve learnt all sorts of things here from dry stone walling to cleaning up old brickwork.
“But for me one of the great pleasures I get from coming here is seeing the young children coming in and enjoying themselves.
“They get so excited when they see the animals. That’s why there is such a nice atmosphere here all the time. It’s a friendly place to be.”
Windmill Hill City Farm will be holding its volunteers celebration event on Saturday (March 9) from 10am-3pm. Admission is free. For more details visit www.windmillhillcityfarm.org.uk.