Apprentice from Shuttleworth enjoys learning about conservation in partnership scheme

John and Charley cleaning a sculpture
John and Charley cleaning a sculpture

A Shuttleworth student is taking part in an apprenticeship scheme which enables young people who have experienced barriers to education to develop vital skills in landscape conservation, heritage and management.

Charley Giddings, 18, 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.

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

Charley said: “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, I applied for the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership Study Programme and undertook a BTEC Level 1 in Land Based Studies at Shuttleworth College, and passed units in horticulture, agriculture and animal care. I then went onto study the Level 2 in Countryside & Environment and it was during this course that I first visited The Swiss Gardens.

“Whilst I was doing some work-experience, I found out about an apprenticeship opportunity and 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.”

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.

Charley added: “I’ve 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 I’m shown how to do a job, I am trusted to get on and do it.

“Since I started my course I’ve 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 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.

He added: “I haven’t got a specific job in mind once I’ve completed my apprenticeship, but I’m 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’m 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.”