Gardening training available

Jackie Harrison, current WRAGS trainee, winter pruning cordon apple trees at Fairlight Hall
Jackie Harrison, current WRAGS trainee, winter pruning cordon apple trees at Fairlight Hall

A scheme is offering training for budding gardeners and those thinking of changing their careers.

The Work and Retrain As a Gardener Scheme (or WRAGS) provides women and men of all ages with the opportunity to work with supervision for two days a week for a year in a carefully sourced garden.

It’s a win-win situation as garden owners benefit from the help they receive from enthusiastic and committed trainees who in turn gain practical experience to go on to various careers in horticulture

Liddy Davidson

Fees are currently £400 for trainees but a non-taxable training allowance of £5 per hour is paid direct to the trainee by the garden owner.

The scheme is national, but coordinated locally by Liddy Davidson. She said: “It’s a win-win situation as garden owners benefit from the help they receive from enthusiastic and committed trainees who in turn gain practical experience to go on to various careers in horticulture.”

Trainees come from all walks of life and include mums wanting a change after having a family, early retirees, as well as former cleaners, engineers, nurses, social workers and teachers, as well as managers from a range of settings. Some individuals want to trial a part-time career in gardening before giving up their current jobs and many build on their skills and do further training.

Opportunities available now include the gardens at Fairlight Hall, which features semi-tropical woodland avenues, a huge contemporary walled garden with amphitheatre and two massive herbaceous borders with a ha-ha wall below with its glorious views across to Rye.

Head gardener, Peter Godwin said he has greatly valued the support of two WRAGS trainees since he started at Fairlight Hall in 2013 and with their help, the garden is seeing some impressive changes.

Also available now is the Butler’s Farm House in Herstmonceux which boasts a rainbow garden, secret jungle and poison garden which is partnered with a private garden packed with salvias in Hankham, near Stone Cross.

Liddy added: “It is always worth enquiring as placements may come up suddenly for a variety of reasons, new gardens come on stream and there are many more opportunities available if trainees are prepared to travel further afield.”

The scheme is just one project offered by the Women’s Farm and Garden Association. Anyone interested in a placement in one of these gardens or for more information see www.wfga.org.uk, call the WFGA on 01285 658339 or email Liddywfga@gmail.com.