Colin Davies and his wife Marion have been members of the Friends since 2005 after Colin’s work at the BMW group in Swindon brought him an unexpected new interest at Lydiard Park. Colin recalls:
I worked for BMW Group for most of my working career and was head of the Quality department sitting on the board of directors of the Swindon plant when in 2004 we took the decision to help support the Lydiard Park Landscape Restoration Project – a £5.3 million programme to rescue and restore the historic parkland. This was one of the many projects we could have supported, however this one met all of our criteria to be able to financially and physically support a very worthwhile project for the community.
This was an exciting time for me as I was asked to head up our involvement in the project. My excitement was understandable as I was born in Swindon and had spent many a happy hour in Lydiard Park. I vividly remember when my son was a member of the Cubs, sleeping over in the stables next to the walled garden on a father and son weekend. Thirty years later I found myself leading a team of volunteers from BMW to clear beds from the very same room I slept in, which was being converted into offices for Lydiard staff. Image of BMW volunteers taking a break
There was a lot of enthusiasm in BMW for the Lydiard Park Project with some of our German bosses taking the time to visit Lydiard Park and understand our involvement. In 2005 with the restoration project well on course, I took early retirement and had the pleasure of taking up a part time position as a volunteer and training co-ordinator for the project. This was so different from my role with BMW, however I found it to be an absolute delight working with people who had so much passion for this project.
There were two main elements to my role at Lydiard, the first was to ensure there were volunteers from local companies, the second was to ensure the contractors working on the project had apprentices and training plans in place. Obtaining volunteers from local companies was easy enough, but I also had to make sure they had a specific plan to work to, and a plan B in case the weather changed!
I spent many happy hours working alongside the volunteers and enjoyed it so much that when my one year contract came to an end I spent a second year doing my co-ordinating role on a voluntary basis. One notable volunteer event was when BMW had a lull in production so they allowed six of their employees to work for seven weeks on the landscape project. They did an extraordinary amount of work including digging out the plunge pool, painting railings, gardening and many other tasks. At the end of the project six of them asked if they could stay with the project but alas, BMW need them back.
In the years I was involved with the project we had hundreds of volunteers giving their time to a host of activities around the park. One of the main achievements was the restoration of the walled garden, laying the paths and stone edging tiles, creating the structure of the garden which archaeology had revealed.
The other part of my role, as I have said, was ensuring contractors had either apprentices and/or training plans for their employees working on the project. Once again I found this a delight to see apprentices repairing the dam wall, having to make new stones and set them in place, using their developing skills with such obvious pride.
The contractors working on restoring the lake I found amazing. They worked in wet and muddy conditions being prepared for any eventuality such as when a JDB got sunk in the mud and building log causeways to get equipment into the correct position, using skills which I didn’t appreciate until I was involved in their monitoring and training.
I will always maintain an affinity with Lydiard Park and remember the many people I have met during my visits to the park, some of whom are now valued friends for life.