I’ve been asked by Susan Leeding to say a few words to introduce myself, so here I am.

I have been gardening for over 30 years, since I left school and became an apprentice for the Greater London Council. I always wanted to work with animals but growing up in London there were not many opportunities to do so, and gardening seemed the next best thing. I worked at most of the major parks in London, but when the GLC was abolished in 1986 I worked for a few years with Islington Council. My husband also worked for Islington Council as a gardener, which was how we met, but we have not had the same employer since 1989 until now as he is working part-time at the College as well.   My next job was as a gardener at London Zoo and although I thought it would be a great place because of my love of animals it didn’t suit me at all. I decided to move onwards and upwards and applied for a place on the Kew Diploma in Horticulture Course. Only 16 people are selected each year out of about 2-300 applicants so I was very fortunate to get a place. The course is a full time degree equivalent and very tough as you have to work in the gardens for 9 out of 12 months, but because of this you get 90% of the lowest grade pay. I used to commute from the opposite side of London, cycling 12 miles each way. In my final year I won the C P Raffil Prize for best student lecture.

After three wonderful years at Kew I got a job teaching horticulture, which I did for about three and a half years. I was working part time so for one day a week I returned to London Zoo as a volunteer in the Invertebrate House. I should explain that I have a passion for snails and was Secretary of the Conchological Society of Great Britain for 6 years. At the Zoo I was actively involved in the work with the Partula snails, which are a Polynesian family of gastropods and in evolutionary terms are the molluscan equivalent to Darwin’s finches with different species evolving in almost every valley of the Tahitian islands. They are critically endangered due to the introduction of a carnivorous species from South America.

Eventually a better job came up and I became Head Gardener at The Holme, a private house in Regent’s Park. The house was designed by Decimus Burton whose most famous design is probably the Palm House at Kew. The garden was three and a half acres and only open to the public on two weekends a year under the National Gardens Scheme. It was a real plantsman’s paradise and I stayed there for seven and a half years; in that time the garden won the principal British Association of Landscape Industries award for garden maintenance

My husband and I decided to take a break from work in 2004 so we sold our house and bought a narrow boat, travelling the length and breadth of the country for 18 months. Our return to land was driven by my job, and I ended up as Head Gardener at Doddington Hall in Lincoln, where I stayed for 18 months. My next post was at Kisimul, a special needs school, also in Lincoln, maintaining the grounds of the school and the 5 care homes that it ran. I also stayed there for 18 months.

Immediately prior to coming to Bishop Burton I worked for Rotherham Borough Council for just under 3 years. I worked at Clifton Park, Rotherham’s ‘Jewel in the Crown’, which had undergone Heritage Lottery Funded restoration. This 52 acre park had had years of neglect and I organised a small team to bring it back to a high horticultural standard.   This included 4 crown bowling greens, a rock garden and about 12,000 bedding plants as well as all the usual borders, shrub beds and over 1000 trees. I also organised volunteers and community groups growing vegetables in the walled garden. Everything was started from scratch and I had to purchase all the equipment from trowels to tractors and write a ten year management plan. As Clifton Park has won the Green Flag Award twice now I would say my work was successful. I was very sad to leave but becoming Head Gardener at Bishop Burton College was too good an opportunity to miss!

 

I hope to be here for many years and to get to know the village and villagers better in the coming months.

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