The history of the landscape is fascinating’: Apprenticeship focuses on conservation

Oct 27, 2018

The scheme has been established by the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership, as part of its Heritage Lottery Funded programme.

18-year-old Charley Giddings pictured is one of three apprentices to take part in this year’s programme and has been working at The Swiss Gardens, alongside his academic studies at Shuttleworth College.

We caught up with Charley to find out a bit more about his experience so far and what his ambitions are for the future…

“I was never very good at learning through lessons in the classroom and finished school without any GCSEs. I know that my strengths are in more practical activities and with influences from my grandad, who was a gardener, I was keen to find out more about horticulture and conservation."

After school, he applied for the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership Study Programme and undertook a BTEC Level 1 in Land Based Studies at Shuttleworth College.

Charley passed units in horticulture, agriculture and animal care and went on to study Level 2 in Countryside & Environment.

"It was during this course that I first visited The Swiss Gardens.

While doing some work experience, Charley found out about an apprenticeship opportunity.

“I quickly decided that I wanted to apply. We did a few taster days both at The Swiss Gardens and at The Clophill Heritage Trust and I was lucky enough to secure a place on the scheme.”

Clearly very bright and full of enthusiasm, Charley says he is enjoying the variety of work and the trust that his mentor Sissel Dahl, head gardener at The Swiss Gardens, and all of the team has in him.

“I have been doing lots of different jobs since I started in August, from preserving sculptures and grounds maintenance, to felling small trees and putting in new fence posts.

"I really enjoy working alongside the team here and like that once II am shown how to do a job, I am trusted to get on and do it.”

We ask what he is looking forward to learning next. Charley tells us he wants to get to grips with all of the garden tools and equipment. He goes on to say that he is looking forward to learning more about horticulture and wants to get as much as he can out of his experience at The Swiss Gardens.

“Since I started my course I have become really interested in the history of the gardens and I’m keen to find out more about the local heritage and that of the wider landscape of Greensand Country.” 

Charley recently met with the conservation team from Crick Smith, who were visiting to carry out their five-yearly inspections of the rustic decoration of the Swiss Cottage, and contributed some interesting ideas on how to prevent damage to the building.

Charley will have many opportunities to find out more about the history of the gardens, and The Swiss Gardens team is keen for him to engage with visitors over the coming 12-18 months, including taking part in talks and demonstrations.

So what does the future hold for Charley? And how will the work he’s doing at The Swiss Gardens support the Landscape Partnership?

“I have not got a specific job in mind once I have completed my apprenticeship but I am really keen to learn as much as I can now so that I give myself the best opportunities for a rewarding future career.

“At the moment I am really enjoying the conservation side of things. The history of the landscape is fascinating and I’m excited to be able to share the things that I am learning with other people.”

For further information about the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership visit www.greensandcountry.com

  • The Greensand Country Landscape Partnership is led by the Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity and the Greensand Trust and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.  It is made possible by National Lottery players. 
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