Aside from its prominence in the news whenever there is national flooding, the Medieval town of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire is famous as the site of the 1471 Battle of the Roses, and for its mustard (which even warranted a mention in some of Shakespeare’s works). Of greater note though is that since 2010 Tewkesbury is the home of Kingsbridge’s HQ and the lion’s share of its 80+ employees.
It was fitting therefore that Tewkesbury town was the first beneficiary of Kingsbridge’s new volunteering programme which saw a team of workers spend the day supporting ‘Tewkesbury in Bloom’. A charity charged with preparing and maintaining the town for the annual RHS Britain in Bloom competition their work and that of previous volunteers has resulted in Tewkesbury winning eight gold medals in as many years – no pressure!
The morning started with a visit to the town hall where, once we’d elbowed our way through a craft and cake sale (more on that later), we were greeted by Karen and presented by a thorough list of instructions and guidance reminiscent of something produced by our compliance department.
Our first port of call was the Anglo American Garden of Remembrance at the back of the town hall where we were to be re-painting the benches (“please rub down thoroughly, dust off any cobwebs, and lay cardboard underneath to catch any drips, then cordon off and affix the ‘wet paint’ signs. If windy, hold the paint tin close to the bench so as to avoid spray”). Armed with four cans of paint, ten ‘wet paint’ signs, two balls of string, some sandpaper from Wilko, a soft brush and a screwdriver, we felt like we were about to appear on an episode of ‘Ground Force’ (although perhaps a lower-budget Channel 5 version). Sensibly avoiding the discussion around which of us were Alan, Tommy, or Charlie, we got to work.
Half an hour in and we were already discussing our tea break – the manual labour was thirsty work for us desk jockeys! Promises of caffeine helped us through another 30 minutes of sanding and then, with a small detour via the cake sale (“two chocolate, two coffee, and two Victoria sponge please”) we enjoyed a well deserved rest.
The rest of the morning saw the transformation of the six benches and, once our handiwork had passed the scrutiny of our broking and underwriting colleagues, lunchtime was in sight.
After a lengthly walk, navigating most of Tewkesbury’s ancient passageways, we emerged in a quaint riverside pub garden for a bite to eat. Upon closer inspection it was, alas, a J.D. Wetherspoons. However, unperturbed, a prepared colleague whipped out their iPhone and proudly demonstrated the new Wetherspoons ‘App’ allowing us to order our food from the sunshine and not have to venture within. After an enjoyable salad (with a side of chips) it was back to work, reinvigorated by the food – and the sighting of two of our CrossFit-mad colleagues bronzing their impressive physiques by the river basking in both the sunshine and in their mutual admiration of each other.
The afternoon’s work was to smarten up the bollards on Tewkesbury’s Quay bridge. A town with a strong pedigree in bridges we were excited about the prospect of contributing to King John’s (built late C12th) or Thomas Telford’s (built 1826) legacies.
This was only our first day though, so instead we were set to work on the footbridges linking the town the the Severn Ham, a 175 acre biological Site of Special Scientific Interest. We were delighted to discover that one of these bridges had in fact been built by one of our teammates’ grandfathers in the 1960s – albeit the lack of a Wikipedia page has caused issues in corroborating this fact.
Due to its abbey (founded in 715 by Oddo and Doddo, the sons of a Saxon nobleman), connections to the Crown (in addition to building a bridge, King John spent Christmas in Tewkesbury in 1204), and the 90 or so alleyways that criss cross this small town, Tewkesbury is quite a tourist destination and it was on this sunny July afternoon that every single one of the day’s tourists found time to cross our footbridge and crack the same joke (after we’d first convinced them that this was voluntary work and not mandated community service) – “You’ve missed a bit” they said – “Haha, good one” we said.
Work complete, cordons in place, and mandatory ‘wet paint’ signs affixed we stood back to admire our handiwork and pose, paintbrushes in hand, for a few more shots for Instagram – and for Stephen to share with his grandfather.
Thus ended the first of three local charity volunteering days in which the Kingsbridge team are encouraged to participate. In a couple of weeks we will be visiting the Cheltenham Animal Shelter for a day of caring and cleaning for stray cats and dogs and then next month a few members of the Kingsbridge family – including our COO – will be donning their pinafores to work in the Tewkesbury Abbey tearooms.