How busy builder Paul Cook is keeping his Doncaster village entertained through lockdown

Builder Paul Cook didn’t know what he was going to do with himself when social isolating came in.

Wednesday, 29th April 2020, 3:22 pm
Updated Friday, 1st May 2020, 11:59 am

Paul, from Armthorpe, suddently found that he couldn’t go into people’s houses with his business, House and Home Property Maintanence Services.

And on top of that, it suddenly put a stop to his big hobby – running Armthorpe Rovers under 16s junior football team.

But he’s found another project – and it’s raised over £1,500 for the Doncaster cancer charity Firefly.

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Paul Cook making some of the items he is creating in his front garden in Doncaster

With nothing to do on his usual job, he dug out some wooden offcuts that he had been unable to use previously.

Initally, he used some of them to turn out a few bug hotels – simple wooden structures which provide a space for insects to crawl in, which then attract the birds.

He thought it would then provide something for children to do while they’re off school, giving them the chance to do some bird spotting.

He also created some wooden cubes – the idea was that children could write all sorts of activities on them, roll the cube as and see what acrivity it landed on, before then having a go at that task.

Bird houses created by Paul Cook using offcuts of wood.

He put them at the end of his front garden fence on Barton Lane, with an honesty box.

Word started to get out around Armthorpe about what Paul was doing.

“That’s when it went ballistic,” he said.

“Hundreds of the bug hotels got snapped up, as I was making these in the front garden at the edge of the street.

Paul Cook with some of the items he is creating in his front garden in Doncaster

“I’d just been saying I don’t want anything for these things I was making. It was just something to keep the kids happy. Then a lot of people started saying they wanted to make a donation for what I was making.

“Well, one of my neighbours is a volunteer driver for Firefly, so I thought I would be happy to give donations to them.”

Firefly is a well known local charity set up by former nurse Denise Dunn in 2006, which runs a fleet of minibuses which transport cancer patients between Doncaster and Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield, where they received treatment.

“I’ve been doing this every day since lockdown started,” he said. “The last total was around £1,500, which I gather is around a week’s worth of petrol to Firefly, as they run five or six vehicles, and it’s hard for them to raise money at the moment, because they can’t really do events right now.”

Nieva Webster with the cubes that her family have painted to create a game

He’s now creating even more items, having turned his tools to wine racks, tablet holders, hedgehog house, bird tables, and event squirrel benches – model picnic benches that can be fixed to a fence and attract squirrels to sit on the bench to eat food that is placed on the table.

“I can’t sit down for long and do nothing,” said Paul. “If someone tells me I can’t go to work, I need something to do. I miss work and I miss the football coaching, but I’m happy to give some time to a good cause, and it keeps my mind active and my tools running.”

Leanne Webster made a donation for two of the cubes that Paul has made, one for each of her daughters, Nieva, aged six, and Phoebe, aged four.

Nieva wrote lots of task on her dice, like skips, and hops, and even tickling someone. Phoebes has numbers on it.

Leanne, husband Andy, and two children play games with them so that they have to do the task that they roll on Nieva’s cube, with Phoebe’s cube deciding the number of times they have to do it.

Leanne said: “Nieva decided on her own activities after we got the cube blank. We play it together in the garden. What Paul has done has been a great help, he’s helped people all over Armthorpe. He’s really helped a lot of us who had run out of ideas to keep the children entertained.

“The ideas are really old-school, the sort of things we did when we were children.”

Another Armthorpe resident, LIz Taylor added: “I know in these difficult times, some people are at a loose end, but Paul selflessly decided to spend his time raising funds. He is so kind hearted and generous that he makes me feel truly humbled.”