Wildflower Turf in Lockdown – A personal perspective (Part 1)

As Lockdown starts to ease and some form of normality returns we have asked our staff to let us know what living and working in ‘lockdown’ has been like for them.

Mike Leflay, Farm Manager

March is always a busy time of year for us and having had the wettest winter in living memory the backlog of work on the farm and turf was fairly substantial to say the least, just as the weather began to improve and we were starting to make some dents into the backlog we were faced with lockdown. So how would we manage with the farm workload and turf maintenance if half or a third of our staff had to self isolate or shield? We quickly formulated some plans so that if the worst happened we would be prepared and able to complete all the essential daily maintenance tasks that we need to do such as running our irrigation systems. As the outbreak progressed we then began to think about what we would need to do if the orders for turf started to fizzle out.

In the end none of the things we thought would be a problem really were, turf orders continued to come in at a good rate, a couple of staff had to isolate for a week due to illness but we think mostly these were the normal cold/bugs that we all get from time to time. Even the weather started to behave itself with possibly the most glorious spring weather we have seen in years again demonstrating that mother nature is great at creating balance,  so within a few weeks the seeming massive spring workload was reduced to a manageable level with the farm and the on going turf work back under control. Having spent months through the winter wishing and praying for the rain to stop we very quickly started to wish for some rain.

With many companies being forced to close or reduce their operations all the things we take for granted started to become difficult, spare parts for machinery, raw materials, getting technicians onto site to perform maintenance and repairs all took a lot more planning and thought than we had expected.

So in the end the lockdown was not what we thought it would be, we are very fortunate to work and live in an isolated area and some stunning countryside which has insulated us from the worst of the pandemic. However the loss of a friend that I have known since my school days this weekend to Coronavirus has made me realise that while for us the outbreak has been a challenge and has made life more difficult for many thousands of family’s around the world it has been a real tragedy.

Janine Robinson, Head of Research & Development

Janine’s dog Sprocket

When lockdown started, there was a lot to adjust to. Work has been one of the few things for me that changed very little. For my role in research and development, the lockdown coincided with the wildflower growing season and we have an area on site where we are testing new products, trialling new ideas and all this needs monitoring. To enable me to do this I switched from one day working at home to two days on site and three days working from home to complete the work that can be done from home. Access to all the systems I need is easy with remote access, so working at home for a greater number of days has been a simple adjustment to make. On the days that I am on site, I need to pre-plan in a bit more detail to ensure that everything is available in the limited time. I am also having to be fairly flexible with coming in for extra days when there is a lot to do on site. The biggest change has been the reduction in time I am spending in my car on the commute to and from work, and the amount of traffic on the roads, and spending lots more time with my dogs.

Life outside of work required a bit more of an adjustment with not seeing friends and family, and no regular weekly netball matches and training. Fortnightly quizzes have become the norm! Many friends and family were furloughed, and while I have been lucky enough to have my work continue there was always a worry of how long would it last? I think there has been an assumption from some people that because they weren’t working no one else was, except key workers, so it has occasionally been frustrating to not be able to go for socially distanced walks during the day with them, or that “no I haven’t been able to binge watch such and such program” or “no I have not been doing six different exercise programmes a day”!

I have a number of friends who are doctors or nurses, working in busy hospitals, and I have seen through them the difficult tasks they have had over the last few months. So, I have been really lucky to be working where I do, which has allowed me to continue working and stay healthy. Because of this, for me, very little has changed in day to day life, and only a little adjustment needed.

Becs Newman, Office & Marketing Manager

March 23rd 2020 Boris Johnson announced Lockdown for the UK, the very next day I drove to work in somewhat of a panic, as I was unsure if that was OK for me to do so, packed up my desk to begin working from home.  I have never worked from home before and as my husband had been sent home from his office the previous week he was already ensconced in the spare room/office space.  I set up in the lounge on my swiss ball in front of the coffee table and there I stayed for 8 weeks.  The first 6 weeks I didn’t leave the confines of the village I live in except for a daily walk or bike ride or roller skate (a new hobby I took up with my daughter) with my husband doing all the trips out to do the essential food shopping.

Work continued apace and I felt very fortunate to be part of an industry that could keep working.  Many of my friends and family have been hugely affected with businesses having to close etc so I was very grateful to still be working and keeping busy.  I have a 10 year old daughter, so home schooling also became a way of everyday life with my husband and I splitting this between us as to who was the least busy.  I started to go back into our office on a Wednesday on the 20th of May one day a week and my husband went back to his office 4 days a week on the 1st of June and with no childcare available, and no school, one of us has to be at home with our daughter.  As lockdown eases it has been lovely to see family and friends again.  I for one won’t be rushing out to the shops and will continue to support small local businesses instead.  One thing I will keep up is a new found love for bike riding with 26km being my furthest so far.

This period has taught me to slow down and appreciate what I have and be grateful for our good health.  So many people have lost their loved ones and I am thankful every day that my 80 year father has followed the rules and stayed out of harms way.

Nigel Smith, Turf Lifting Supervisor

It has been very strange times, not being able to see any family, struggling to get shopping all things you take for granted. The upside coming to work with only about two more cars on the road reminds me of my youth.

Sam Monaghan, Production Trainee Manager

For me lockdown has been strange, I’m usually flat out with work and extracurricular activities with friends and family.  So the change to what felt like house arrest was pretty stark.  Thankfully due to the nature of our job the team have been able to continue working and the turf has been a very welcome distraction.  With this being the busiest few months for us it has been useful to be able to focus on it.  I’m pretty sure I’d have gone mad cooped up with the five other members of my family.

It has, however been quite a worthwhile task to refill my free time.  I have reinvested in skills and hobbies I used to love which had taken a backseat over the last few years.  In particular running, playing guitar and reading.  I’ve also heard from and reached out to so many people I haven’t seen or spoken to in some cases for several years, and rekindled those friendships reminiscing about past antics.  My post lockdown calendar is potentially looking more crammed than before.  It was certainly a great weight off the proverbial shoulders to be able to meet up with close friends in the past few weeks, as the lack of interaction with people my own age was the main thing troubling me.  We’d set up a weekly quiz on the HouseParty app but its not the same as just hanging out for an afternoon and making each other laugh.

Moving forward I’m optimistic but cautious of both the virus and the economy.  It’s a tough balance and one which doesn’t have a mutually beneficial solution in my humble opinion.  That being said it’s great to see business picking up at Wildflower Turf again and I’m very much looking forward to easing back into a more fulfilling and diverse social calendar.


Hear from more of our team next week…