An apprentice gardener at Cholmondeley Castle Gardens near Malpas has become Reaseheath College’s ‘Horticulture Apprentice of the Year’.
Rebecca Dawson, 26, from Aldford, Chester, received her award at a college ceremony held during National Apprenticeships Week, a celebration of the benefits which apprentices bring to businesses and to the national economy by increasing productivity and providing workforce succession.
Rebecca was one of 150 apprentices who have gained their qualifications at the Nantwich, Cheshire, specialist college in the past year. She is one of a team of seven gardeners who look after the historic gardens and grounds at Cholmondeley, which attract thousands of visitors each year.
Reaseheath’s award was the second prestigious accolade which Rebecca has received since she became an apprentice just over a year ago. She also holds the national title of ‘New Gardener of the Year 2015’, presented by the Professional Gardeners Guild to the top new entrant to the industry.
Barry Grain, Head Gardener at Cholmondeley, who is mentoring Rebecca through her apprenticeship and who nominated her for her Professional Gardeners Guild Award, said: “Rebecca is exactly the sort of person we need to attract into the industry. She is young, committed and passionate and really wants to learn and get involved.
“Cholmondeley Castle Gardens are known as one of the best in the region and are part of our living history. We need young talent to help preserve and enhance historic gardens like ours for the future and are currently looking for another apprentice to join our team.”
Rebecca has completed her Level 2 apprenticeship and has progressed onto her Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship. She attends Reaseheath once a week to learn academic and practical skills and is also supported by college assessors at her workplace.
At Cholmondeley she has worked in all sections, including the popular terraces and temple garden. She also helped to build Cholmondeley’s award winning show garden at RHS Tatton Park Flower Show last year and will work on a similar project at RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year.
Rebecca said: ““An apprenticeship is a very versatile qualification which is becoming increasingly popular with employers. By choosing this route I have not only been able to enter the horticultural industry, but my future prospects have improved through the lifelong skills I’ve learnt and vital networking opportunities I’ve gained. I’m also very fortunate to work in such a beautiful and historic environment as Cholmondeley.”
Reaseheath currently has 355 apprentices studying agriculture, agricultural engineering, animal care, construction, construction plant, food industry skills, horse care, horticulture, motor vehicle and sports turf.
Rebecca’s assessor Lyndon Smith said: “Rebecca is an outstanding apprentice and we were delighted to choose her as our award winner this year. Her portfolio of work is exceptional and her enthusiasm is infectious. She has become a vital team member at Cholmondeley, taking garden tours and answering questions from the public.”
Cholmondeley Castle Gardens were a personal project of the late Lady Lavinia Cholmondeley, who began work on them in the 1950s. The gardens are currently going through a renaissance, with new landscaping and renovated borders. They have just reopened to the public for the new season.
For further details of Reaseheath apprenticeships visit www.reaseheath.ac.uk/apprenticeships or call 01270 613221
For further details of Cholmondeley Castle Gardens see www.cholmondeleycastle.com
Header caption: Rebecca is joined by Lyndon Smith (left) and Barry Grain at Cholmondeley Castle Gardens