My Center Parcs history
I’ve worked at Center Parcs in Sherwood Forest since 1987, from the very beginning.
I began my career here as a kitchen porter. I was just looking for a way in – I left school and all the mines and pits nearby were already winding up and closing down. Center Parcs was a brand new company; it looked like a good place to work and a good career choice.
After the kitchen I worked behind the bar in Jardin des Sports, Chez Pierre and The Country Club. I moved to the Ground Services team in 1990; I started as a litter picker and golf ball collector and worked my way up the ranks.
To get to where I am today, I’ve had a lot of help. I left school having passed my credits in mechanical engineering and have since received all my training from Center Parcs – from chainsaw training to tree surgery, I’ve done every course going. My portfolio is massive! At the age of just 25 I got my NVQ Level 3; Center Parcs was one of the first to offer it in the country.
It feels good to know that I’m one of ‘the originals’. I hope to be here in another 25 years.
What my job involves
Since becoming Ground Services Manager I am more office based. I gather information and then send it to the team. Don’t get me wrong – I still get out when I need to. It proves to the guys that I’m not just sat at my desk. If you can show them that you know what you’re doing, they’ll respect and support you. I’d never ask one of them to do something I’ve never done before or not willing to do. You avoid a lot of banter and stick that way too!
I’ve always had an interest in the outdoors, I used to love fishing and going for walks. As a youngster I recognised that I just needed to find a way in to the Village – that’s why I started with washing dishes.
You have to have a real desire for this line of work. It’s a way of life. Sherwood Forest had its biodiversity benchmarking last week and I’ve just found out that we passed it with flying colours. It’s the best we’ve ever had – and the best result any Center Parcs Village has had before. I’m immensely proud of the team because it’s the pinnacle of accreditation in this industry.
My typical day at work
Me and the team plan our maintenance throughout the year; it’s not repetitive but we have jobs on a cycle that have to be done at the same time each season. We know what we’re doing on a daily basis, but it’s all weather dependent.
A priority for me is making sure health and safety is up to standard on the Village. Key areas are checked at 7am every day, such as play spaces, lakes, paths, walkways and steps, while paving is cleaned and bins are changed. Then it’s on to forestry works: waterway management in the winter, streaming and mowing in the summer.
I don’t miss being out there too much, I’m getting on a bit now and need to be kept indoors! But really I like a mix of both. I enjoy being out and about on occasion; tree climbing, using the chainsaw, habitat creation. I even enjoy picking litter – it’s good to be out in the fresh air, it’s relaxing and de-stresses you.
Biggest and best memory?
Well, I should probably mention my wife as I met her here years ago. But to be honest, I’d have to say the best memory was the Millennium celebrations! We had a big party, it was absolutely amazing – the entire Village, guests and staff were involved. We had the Philharmonic Orchestra, fountains, and fireworks. It was a big celebration and the best we’ve ever had.
Less exciting but memorable nonetheless, we’ve had some pretty big snow storms. In 1990 we had to close Sherwood Village for the first time ever. The snow was a metre-high and brought 3,000 trees down; they were snapping like carrots. That was hard work. I’d joined the Ground Services in October and the snow came in November – no coincidence I hope!
My Baywatch moment
This happened a few years ago, but I was outside and had a shout through the radio about a swan on the beach with a fishing line around his beak. The beach was full of guests – it was a beautiful, hot summer’s day. We got out on to the water, chasing it around the lake to try to tire it out and catch it. But the swan had other ideas. It ran across the water and on to the beach; it jumped right across all the guests, flapping about like mad, sand everywhere. It could have won a long-jump Olympic medal!
I was just behind it when – at the same time – the swan dived over the canoes and I dived up, stretched out into the air, when I fell into the water and just grabbed it by the neck and took the wire off. I got a big clap from everyone on the beach, it was just like Baywatch. I ended up waist-deep in water while the swan just swam off on its merry way.