Devon Brooks, Chief instructor at Nene Outdoors 

2020 began in the normal way, catching up on maintenance and planning for the year's season but soon there was news of a respiratory disease that was sweeping the world. It arrived in the UK and we had three new words that became part of every sentence: 'Coronavirus', 'Covid' and 'Furlough'.

The staff of Nene Outdoors stayed home to stay safe; all furloughed. Each worked on projects at home and many a home and garden got a complete makeover! During 'lockdown' (another new word), we were in regular contact with the rest of the team from Nene Park Trust. 

The day finally came when we got the green light to operate again - but with a difference. Hand sanitisers were installed, customers were met outside and we went to 'online bookings' only. The swans became the stars of the water. The weather was great and after so many weeks confined to our homes and gardens we had loads of bookings for the swan pedalos and bikes.

Each swan and bike were deep cleaned between hires, the staff wore masks and gloves and hand sanitiser was used by the bucket load. The team of Anna, James, Devon, Phil, Gordy, Vicky, Melanie, Richard and Tiegan worked tirelessly to keep the hires moving, sometimes clearing the lake of mountains of blanket weed in the process. The customers enjoyed the easier booking and cashless system and it saved many a brain from mental arithmetic!

The swan pedalos were so successful that we moved the desk outside, and the rest of the hire fleet were added to the water. The lake again became full of kayaks, rowboats, canoes - and of course the swans. 

A different season for certain but through working together as a team and with great support from our customers, we rose to 'The Challenge of 2020'.

Craig Taylor, Senior Instructor picks up the story in 2021, as he starts this new role at Nene Outdoors.

A nice easy start to a new job is what everybody hopes for and this is what I was hoping for too.

After sitting around at home for ten months during the pandemic and then losing my previous job,  I was itching to get started in a new role and start having a normal(ish) routine again. Having arrived at Nene outdoors in the new year, I was greeted by Devon who handed me my keys and invited me to go for a wander around to start working out which key opens which door. I started looking around seeing what needed to be done  - the Centre had been extensively flooded over the Christmas period. This was not going to be a small task.

Once James and Phil arrived, I introduced myself to the team and we had a mini staff meeting keeping 2 metres apart. This felt very odd as usually it would be a 'hand shake/nice to meet you' sort of greeting...but not during this pandemic. 

So we all took a different area of the Centre and started to get an idea of how bad the flooding had been.

The list of places that were flooded included workshops 1,2,3 & 4, the club house, Nene Outdoors main office, Sailability stores, fuel store, classroom, two bike stores and the boat yard... the list went on. I took workshop 4 as I was told this would be the easiest. It was also a very good way of finding out where all the kit is stored.

Once I rolled the powerboat out of the store, we could see that this was going to be a much bigger job than we had thought, as everything below the waist was covered in 3-4 mm of silt. For the next 2 weeks, we worked our way around the site getting bits of equipment out and ether throwing them away, as they were ruined, or scrubbing & jet washing them clean.

Once we had broken the back of the work, and the lake water level had dropped, Phil and I took a look at the beach which was covered in drift wood and lots of lake plants and rubbish. We cleared it up all up and the rubbish filled the back of the Hilux. 

Once we had dealt with the clean-up, we started looking to see that we were ready to go once the national restrictions were lifted. We were hoping to be open for February half term but that idea quickly disappeared.  Preparations included jet washing the fleet of sailing boats, all of the hire kit and the decking around the building. We are also replacing our water front doors to nice shiny metal doors.

Now we wait with eager anticipation to welcome back all the user groups that use Nene Outdoors throughout the year. Let's hope restrictions are eased soon.