Wildflower Turf in Lockdown – A personal perspective (Part 2)

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.

Claire Hewetson-Brown, Financial Director


The last 3 months have been quite challenging from a personal and business perspective.

At the start of the lockdown, I had so many concerns on both fronts and tackling these took a lot of my time and energy.  Making sure that family members were safe and keeping our parents going with food supplies, along with some social contact at a safe distance as they live on their own, was a priority.  But also everyone at Wildflower Turf Ltd; making sure those that needed to work on the farm were in a safe environment and ensure those who were in the office had the necessary kit to enable them to work from home.  Would there be enough enquiries and orders to keep everyone working rather than furloughed and what would we do if several members of the production team became ill at the same time?  Each of these concerns were assessed and plans put in place.  The office was a very quiet place and I found it hard to keep enthused as each week felt like the last.  However our weekly Zoom meetings when we reviewed the previous weeks’ sales and general customer contact helped to reassure my fears and enabled me to plan our cash flow accordingly.

Everyone has adapted well to the changes, we have been lucky that no one has contracted the virus and now that restrictions are easing it is good to see people coming back into the office although only on a part-time basis at the moment.

Covid-19 has made me appreciate even more than I did, where we live in the countryside.  After a long day I can take the dogs out for a walk around the fields, admire the wildflowers, wildlife and de-stress.  It’s hard to imagine life going back to how it was six months ago but I hope that we can slowly return to normal and avoid any set-backs with a second wave of the virus.

Trevor Bendall – Production Manager

Lockdown seemed to bring out the worst and best in people, seeing people fighting over toilet rolls (what was that about!) to communities coming together to help those unable to get out of the house for groceries or medical supplies.

I really appreciated the garden and being able to go outside for a walk, the air felt clearer and the environment cleaner, there was no litter, hooray. I really feel for anyone who had to shield for the duration of the lockdown and for those who don’t have access to a garden.

Driving down the M4 to come into work it felt strange not seeing any other vehicle for miles until you saw a reassuring convoy of supermarket lorries laden with groceries and toilet rolls!

I hope when we look back on this tragedy some good will come from it, the way we treat each other and the environment but only time will tell…….

Helen Gillespie-Brown, Business Development Manager

I was sitting on my boyfriend’s sofa in Kent when we heard lockdown was being imposed and very quickly we had to make a decision as to where we would both be, either together or apart and in which location as I live in Surrey – bit of a relationship test but I decided to move to his in Kent and work full-time from there, and it worked out really well. I returned to my place after 2 months due to other family circumstances and have been working full time from here ever since.

As we have set up good VOIP systems at Wildflower Turf and remote access to our online facilities, working from home (which I have been doing one day a week anyway), has been seamless. I used to work from home full-time for previous job roles for 8 years so this situation is very familiar to me and one I relish – I find being in an office environment quite distracting and hard to concentrate, and I am very self-motivated! As Business Development Manager, I am usually quite often on the road seeing customers, delivering workshops or attending trade shows or doing site visits, I spend a lot of time travelling and staying overnight. In addition I was commuting 2 hours a day every day – so not having to spend so much of my life driving has been a total blessing. I now benefit from the best part of a whole day extra in my personal life!

We did have a full calendar of face to face events and a roadshow planned this year as well as trade shows and other training sessions, which are not all happening now which is disappointing, but we quickly switched our training strategy and have been delivering a series of online webinars free of charge to both existing and new customers, which has been incredibly well received.

So overall I am very grateful to have remained employed, busy, my loved ones have remained healthy to date and I continue to work on future business opportunities without any interruptions. I guess the only downside is trying to plan a future Business Development strategy when there are so many unknowns, and the temptation to work longer hours when working from home – I have been starting earlier and working later as I don’t have that commute to make – but I would rather that than wasting time sat in a car, and at least that makes me more productive which keeps my boss happy!

I hope everyone continues to be sensible and cautious as lockdown lifts so we can permanently see the back of Covid-19, but also that we remain positive about the future despite the potential challenging times to come. Keep safe and well, all

Kat Ensser, Sales & Project Co-ordinator

I am very fortunate to live in the middle of nowhere in my “little bubble”, as my friends like to call it. It might not be everyone’s dream to live along a gravel farm track with the next-door neighbours a mile away but I have always loved the peace and quiet. I have never been one to go to town for a wander or sit in cafes for hours. Grocery shopping has always been left last minute until the fridge is literally empty, because it is my least favorite chore of adult life. I have always enjoyed walking my dogs in the beautiful countryside I live in and avoided town and places with lots of people the best I could.

So, when lockdown was announced not much changed in my day to day routine, apart from going back home after walking the dogs in the morning instead of driving to work. Although working from home has made a lot of things easier for me, it has also been strange. The usual office banter and chit-chat has been replaced by the sound of snoring dogs. I get up every morning to eat, work and relax in the same space. Everything has faded into one and I am looking forward to the days I can draw a clear line between home life and work life again. Drive to work every morning. Drive back home after work.

Lockdown has been difficult at times. While most of my friends have moved back home to be with their families during lockdown, mine has been 1000km away in Germany. I am a family person and although I don’t make it back home often enough since moving abroad, I have always been able to book a flight and see them the following day whenever I wanted to. I have not seen my family since Christmas 2019 and with the quarantine restrictions and limited flights I probably won’t for another few months. It has been the longest time without seeing them in person. Facetime, zoom and WhatsApp calls are all great, but it’s not the same.

Lockdown has given me the opportunity to reflect on a lot of things. We are yet to experience more changes and whether we will ever go back to what life was like before this all happened… who knows? All I know is that we should never take anything or anyone for granted. Life is too short.

Toby James, Operations Manager

Living in Basingstoke with German girlfriend of 20 years, 10 year old daughter and 4 year old black lab.

Picture taken in February 2020 Switzerland just before lockdown in the UK

Well we’ve certainly noticed a significant change in the way we shop, socialise, work and travel.

Working has been possibly the biggest challenge. Adapting our workplace to enable us to continue to trade and maintain social distancing and adhere to all the government’s guidelines, however often they change, has definitely been a challenge. Lifting and delivering Wildflower Turf across the country and still into European destinations, has also had it’s challenges. Extended delivery times due to self isolating drivers and furloughed office staff in depots over the country, has caused delays that, fortunately, most of our customers can sympathise with.

The inspired change over a year ago, to an internet based telephony arrangement, has enabled those office staff here, to work from home easily without any obvious change from our customers perspective, which means we are still offering and providing the best customer service levels possible. This hasn’t been without it’s challenges, with variations in home office equipment and broadband speeds. But with expert assistance from our I.T specialist, we have been able to operate seamlessly from our homes when required, keeping our customers happy.  The introduction of platforms like Zoom have enabled us to not only continue to communicate at our usual high standards regarding training, with online CPD and Webinars now being the option over on site Open Days and Accreditation Training, but also to continue with the much needed office meeting get togethers. We’ve even held a group bi-annual strategy meeting, adhering to social distancing guidelines of course!

At home, everything has changed. Schools have been closed since March, which means home schooling for my daughter! And this is going to be carried out by whom? Having a household with two working parents with full time jobs has caused untold upset at home and across the entire nation, upsetting parents, children and employers with one sweep of a pen. Unfortunately, my girlfriend has been furloughed for a long period, having a field sales role there isn’t really an option. So the role of parent/teacher, naturally fell into her lap. Even with a break in her furlough arrangement, it did not change the home schooling burden.

Summer holiday plans have been scuppered with the restrictions imposed on travel. My German in-laws are upset we can’t see them this year. Still, there’s always next year……

Shopping was initially a joke with toilet rolls and pasta disappearing off the shelves.  Now all seems a little more sensible with safe distancing only really counting when queuing at the tills. If someone stands for a second too long at the tins of soup, the rules are swiftly forgotten and personal space is definitely invaded!

Anyway, things seem now to be returning to a semi sensible normal, we’re almost out of the woods….

Paula Carpenter, Accounts Assistant

Lockdown has not dramatically changed my world, thankfully, a few small changes and adjustment is all. But definitely mainly for the better. In fact it has provided some welcome diversity to my life in the form of the flexibility of working from home for two days a week, and having the great company of my adult daughter home early from university. Far better connection with friends via good old zoom. Even a couple of old army buddies found me which was an amazing blast from the past.

One of my favourite things about working for Wildflower Turf, as well as the great people and enjoyment of my work of course, has always been the beautiful stunning surroundings I get to walk in over lunchtime most days. It just blows me away and gives me a great sense of awe of nature. I do miss seeing it everyday, but certainly my 2nd best place is where I live, so to be able to go out walking in my lunchtime there too is a real blessing. The wildflowers around where I live are almost as beautiful as the ones at the farm.  Along with the great view I have from my window of my garden which has a small covering of our wildflower turf which my cat Arty adores and is totally king of the jungle out there, it really has been no hardship most the time.

Obviously this extraordinary time and situation we find ourselves in has not been with out its difficulties, sadness and tragedies for which my heart goes out to those who have truly suffered. Several people come to mind, but it is the positives we must hold on to and take away. I believe it is so important to learn and grow from struggles and difficulties and I think there is much evidence of this all around despite the constant barrage of negative reports on the news. Less said about that the better.

I hold on to one of my favourite quotes – “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” – Martin Luther King J