Nim’s story continues our volunteer stories series! This was originally featured in the Autumn 2022 edition of the Grazer.
Name: Naomi Boult (aka Nim)
Occupation: Water Operative for the Canal & River Trust, on Trent & Mersey, Caldon and Staffs & Worcester canals
Favourite things in life?
I love the outdoors, and all things active; walking, running, cycling and unicycling (when it doesn’t have a puncture), in the Staffordshire Moorlands, Peak District and further afield. I haven’t been able to get out as much as I would have liked over the past few years, with Covid/lockdown (despite working full time all through lockdown) and also being off sick from work for almost a year.
I ran the London Marathon in 2021, along with the Great North, South and Manchester runs, amongst others. I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie, or was before Covid etc., but I’ve not had much chance to do much snowboarding or skydiving (indoor) the past few years. I had a plan during 2020 to raise as much money as possible for Mind UK, by running and doing some new junkie things, like a tandem skydive, bungee jumping and knocking some big ideas off my bucket list, but that didn’t really happen. I did manage to raise £2700 for Mind in 2021, with my ‘Marathon’ Year of over 20 races ranging from 10km to a marathon, and collected a great selection of bling, which I am still collecting now; I have done three races so far this year: Boston Half, Birmingham Half and Tatton Park 10km, but have many more planned for the year ahead.
How did you hear about Fordhall?
My mum got Charlotte and Ben’s book from the library back in 2009, and suggested that I go to the farm to do some volunteering. I didn’t really take it seriously for a while as I had little to no confidence, due to the break-up of my long-term relationship/engagement, and didn’t think anything would make me feel any better about myself. Ben and some others also used to go to the local farmers’ market to sell their wares, and so my mum bought Fordhall meat from Rode Hall Farmers’ Market.
When and why did you become a volunteer?
I first came to a volunteer weekend in the February of 2010, and stayed in the yurts when they were in the car park, and the first people I met were Rob, Ellie, Beth and Ffion Lee, and they eased me into things around a fire. I remember it well. I was a nervous wreck, but they looked after me, and the following years they were the common denominator at volunteer weekends and also when I started volunteering at events from 2012. I always looked forward to volunteering at Fordhall as I always went home with a huge grin on my face, totally boosted mentally, and absolutely knackered!
Why is Fordhall important to you?
It is my happy place, it is the place that changed me for the better, who knew that getting covered from head to toe in mud/clay was so good for the soul? But it is! The combination of the Prince’s Trust programme and volunteering at Fordhall has kept me alive during times that I had really given up over the last 12 years. Last March, following a breakdown, I couldn’t even leave the house, but just knowing that Fordhall was there gave me hope. I went to the farm several times, just for a walk, and it brightened up my day. I also came and did some envelope stuffing a few times which gave me a big boost, like there was a light at the end of the very dark tunnel that I was in.
The AGM was too much, but I came to the May volunteer weekend at the end of Mental Health Awareness week, and the Fordhall magic worked again. It’s great to feel like a part of the Fordhall family, and that’s just what it is; the people really make it. Charlotte has been really supportive through my tough times over the last year; I couldn’t have got through it without her; and Mike keeping an eye on me at the last volunteer weekend. He put me to work, got me involved and made me feel so included, even during my low moments. It was great to be back with the family.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering here? Any stand-out moments?
Back in May 2014, I needed a boost of confidence following a difficult time volunteering (and a breakdown) with a charity in Scotland, and Fordhall offered the perfect solution… building a new clay oven. I loved that weekend with Becca, Bex and a few others; there is a lovely photo that I treasure of me and Becca with our ‘clay facepacks’ on! It always reminds me that if I need some therapy from far away, just look at that photo, and I remember times can be happy, even when things are really bad with my depression and crippling anxiety. I have needed that photo a lot over the last year. I used to be so confident, but over time that confidence has severely lapsed. I want it back, but it has been a really long process just getting back to work. My next step is properly getting back to volunteering on the farm. I have already booked the next volunteer weekend off from work in preparation!
Volunteering has always been my saviour, boosts the confidence and self-esteem, and just helping out where it is really needed. I get such a good feeling after volunteering; I can’t really put my finger on what it is that makes me feel so good, but it does. I have helped with so many projects over the years, including building boardwalks, bridges, paths, fences, tree protection and even did guided tours by tractor-trailer dressed as a red-tailed bumblebee!
What would you say to someone considering volunteering who hasn’t before?
DO IT!!! It’s absolutely amazing! You don’t need to worry if you think you don’t have the right skills, you will definitely learn a lot, eat lots of great food and have lots of fun! It was the best thing I ever did going to Fordhall to volunteer; they have built me back up so many times. All the different volunteers and staff I have met over the years have really helped me, and they will help you too.
To find out more about volunteering at Fordhall, contact Mike via email firstname.lastname@example.org