The first lockdown and now the second have given me the chance to appreciate all the volunteering that goes on; quite often quietly in the background, although with more publicity this year because of Covid-19.

Helping others in the community of Didcot has always been part of our lives.

“Old photographs add an exciting new element to our local history” was the title of my article on August 26. Well, since then I have been able to find out more about Les Howlett and his interest in helping others.

The Meadows, Britwell Road is an OSJCT (Order of St. John Care Trust) facility for local residents and Les found his vocation in volunteering there.

During both lockdowns I have had many conversations with Les and was able to walk to his house to return documents and photographs (socially distanced of course) that he let me borrow to make copies to keep and use for this column.

He has an exemplary record of volunteering for The Meadows and was nominated for an award for his volunteering.

A quote from the awards ceremony programme 2017 was, “He was a committed and professional ambassador for both OSJCT and The Meadows. He has been on a mission from day one to raise funds for the homes minibus and has so far reached £5,000. It has taken a long 12 months for Les to agree to work for us as a volunteer but it was worth all the effort. You are one of a kind and we appreciate everything you do for us.”

The criteria for volunteer of the year is:”How the individual has shown commitment to their role and what they have done over and above their normal role for the good of others.”

Enough money was raised for the minibus and in memory of his wife Isabel the minibus has her name printed on the front.

Among the certificates and photographs copied for this article were many congratulatory cards. A very proud time for him and for what he had helped to achieve.

The home is very close to Manor Primary School and I was reminded by an ex pupil of what the area was like in the 1940’s before the care home was built.

He mentioned walking home from school along Ryman’s Lane through the recreation ground and along a footpath which had a hedgerow that was “really good for playing hide and seek.”

I’ve written about the local shops (January 2020) and one of them, Smallbones, had a tennis court behind it which was near the recreation ground which is now the Memorial Garden. Smallbones sold sweets, tobacco and gifts and was where we bought our sweets for Saturday morning pictures. I had 6d to spend each week. That cinema is now the Bingo Hall.

At that time the recreation ground had a sandpit, swings, slides and a football field which was used by the school for sports days.

l To find out more about Didcot & District Historical & Archaeological Society, see