So, after 18 months of set backs, we sat in the office at Wigfield Farm, Lindsey and I, waiting to sign the contract for the land that would become our nursery. My hands were shaking by the time the contract arrived at ten past!
As we walked back to the car our emotions changed from anticipation to excitement to sheer panic – we actually had to do this now … and we didn’t have much time, if we were to open in September, as planned!
As we were setting up on a minimal budget and doing most of the work ourselves, it was time to speak very nicely to our family and friends and get cracking – we only had a few weekends between now and September …
I remember standing there, completely overwhelmed, not having a clue where to start!
Our space included a large poly-tunnel, and two areas of garden, waste high in grass and weeds. We spent the first few weekends just mowing, chopping and digging, to give us a blank canvas. We moved paving stones (cheers Rich), collected pallets and tyres and all sorts of other stuff that came for free. Part of what we wanted to show was that setting up a nursery didn’t have to cost the earth. We wanted to reuse, upcycle and repurpose as much as we could, to save money, but also to be as environmentally friendly as we could, in keeping with our ethos.
We ordered tonnes of sand, gravel and wood chip and started to divide the area to create opportunities for sand, water, mud and large construction; quiet hidden corners, rest areas as well as open spaces to run.
In the background we were chasing our Ofsted registration and insurance quotes, applying for a small loan and all those other necessary procedures, whilst doing the day job.
A friend of Lindsey’s had a woodland wedding and kindly let us have the straw bales afterwards. We kept two huge old potting benches to partition the reception area. Some pretty nifty work with a selection of power tools (thanks Claire), transformed the pallets in to a parents’ seating area, a mud kitchen and work-bench, toilet cubicles and a stage. My daughter Laura and her buddy Amelia gave up days of their summer holiday, doing all kinds of tedious jobs and making some lovely hand-painted signs.
Things were starting to take shape!
Amazon, Ebay and IKEA had pretty much all the remaining resources and equipment we needed, as September ticked ever closer. With an open day planned for 1st September, it was a real push to the finish line, but we made it, bar a few minor tweaks.
Sixty families came through the doors on the open day. We stood back as parents walked around and children played. Suddenly it seemed that all the hard work had paid off and our long awaited dream was becoming a reality.
All we needed now was for Ofsted to say yes, and we were all set to open at the end of September. Our initial visit was on 14th and our certificate arrived in due course – dated 23rd, exactly four months on from signing the contract!
We did it … time to take a breath …