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Seddon Construction Ltd. sponsor this year’s RHS Tatton show garden

Sandside Lodge is a special school catering for pupils aged between two and nineteen who have a statement of Special Educational Needs or an Education Health and Care Plan. All pupils have learning difficulties and many have additional and complex needs such as autism, physical disabilities and sensory impairments.

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Meet the design team for RHS Tatton 2017

Members of this year’s team are currently either completing their Foundation Degree in Garden and Landscape Design or in their 2nd year of BSc (Hons) Landscape Management Degree.

Each team member has brought individual talents to the team and has worked on different elements of the show garden, which will be displayed at RHS Flower Show, Tatton Park which is running from Wednesday 19th July to Sunday 23rd July 2017.

Level 3 Students and Secondary Business trainees.

Level 3 students get enterprising

Level 3 Horticulture, Floristry and Environmental Art students join with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) trainee business teachers to start up mini enterprise businesses to raise money for RAG week.

Level 3 Students and Secondary Business trainees.

Level 3 Students and Secondary Business trainees.

Three PGCE Business trainees from the MMU Cheshire campus recently organised Enterprise workshops for 30 of our Level 3 Horticulture, Environmental Art and Floristry students.

The sessions were delivered over three days focusing on marketing, setting up a mini enterprise business, how to ‘pitch’ an idea to investors and finance. The students were split into five groups with business enterprise themes based around a college dating agency, selling plants, stone decorating, stationery and selling sweets.

In true ‘Apprentice’ style themes were judged by a panel of university and college staff and prizes awarded for best display stand, overall profit made and overall business idea.

Now in its third year, this joint project aims to provide students with valuable skills in team working, problem solving and enterprise skills.  Benefits to the students include the chance gain additional experience to discuss at job interviews and the opportunity to work and teach alongside colleagues.

Pauline Mallison, Subject Coordinator for PGCE Secondary Business Education, said “Working collaboratively with Reaseheath helps to enhance the employability of our trainees.”

Reaseheath RAG also gained from the enterprise profits with £173.36 going towards our nominated charity, British Heart Foundation.  A good experience all round!

Landscape gardening

Talented students prove they are among the best

Chris Shore preparing for his WorldSkills UK final build (photo thanks to Steve Burden Photography)

Chris Shore preparing for his WorldSkills UK national final build (photo thanks to Steve Burden Photography)

Three talented Reaseheath students proved they were among the best in the country by successfully competing in the WorldSkills UK national finals.

Garden landscaper Chris Shore and florists Fiona Davies and Robyn Longden battled it out in front of record crowds last week at The Skills Show, the nation’s largest skills and careers event.

Fiona Davies' final pieces from the competition

Fiona Davies’ final pieces from the competition

Although none brought back a medal, all three classed the show ‘an amazing experience’ and Robyn has been selected to join the potential squad for the next WorldSkills GB team. She and the other young people on the long list will be offered further training opportunities before final selection nearer the 2017 world finals, which will be held in Abu Dhabi.

Robyn will be encouraged to follow in the footsteps of Matt Beesley, a former Level 3 Diploma in Horticulture student who, with fellow team member Jonathan Gill from Northern Ireland, won GB’s first ever medal in landscape gardening at the WorldSkills final in Sao Paulo, Brazil this summer.

Robyn is a Level 3 Diploma in Floristry student while Fiona, who manages our Level 2 Diploma in Floristry course, is studying for her Level 5 Master Diploma in Professional Floristry. Chris has gained his Level 3 Diploma in Horticulture with us and has now progressed onto his Foundation Degree in Garden and Landscape Design. He was one of just six students or apprentices nationwide to qualify for the finals.

Our florists had to create five designs – a hand tied bouquet, a wreath, a bridal bouquet, a decorated lampshade and a pair of customised high heeled shoes – while Chris built a garden to plan which included hard and soft landscaping.

Robyn Longden competing at The Skills Show 2015

Robyn Longden competing at The Skills Show 2015

As well as supporting our competing students, we also took an impressive stand showcasing horticulture, floristry, countryside and environmental archaeology. The Skills Show, at the NEC Birmingham, attracted 80,000 visitors. Many colleagues who helped to staff the stand over the three days said that in their opinion it was the best event they had ever attended.


WorldSkills UK

Silver for Reaseheath landscaper in world finals

Talented Reaseheath College trained landscape gardener Matt Beesley has proved he is among the world’s best by taking silver at the WorldSkills finals in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Matt, from Winsford, and fellow team member Jonathan Gill, from Northern Ireland, achieved Britain’s first ever medal in landscape gardening at the global, Olympics style final last week (finished Sun 16). The pair had to prove their skills and stamina in hard landscaping, plant knowledge and management by building a garden from scratch in four days under the gaze of 259,000 spectators.

WorldSkills runs the competition bi-annually for students aged 23 and under to showcase the skills and value of young professionals in industries ranging from construction, engineering technology and transportation to IT, communications and social and personal services. The GB team recorded its best ever performance with 33 medals.

WorldSkills Sao Paulo closing Ceremony Team UK Matt Beesley with Rianne Chester

WorldSkills Sao Paulo closing Ceremony Team UK Matt Beesley with Rianne Chester

Matt, 21, completed his Level 3 Extended Diploma in Horticulture at Reaseheath College in Nantwich in 2012. He now runs his own successful business, Beesley’s Landscapes in Winsford, and employs two apprentices. He first competed in the British selection rounds for WorldSkills while a Reaseheath student and has continued to train intensively as a potential squad member.

The former Hartford High School pupil said: “Winning silver in the world finals has been the best experience of my life. The whole WorldSkills programme has been awesome. I have learned so much and gained such a lot of confidence. I’d particularly like to thank my hard landscape instructor at Reaseheath, Jason Hinks, and my parents for their support.”

Said Jason: “I’m really proud of Matt and how he’s developed as a professional landscaper through WorldSkills. This programme is all about benefiting the students through training and helping them to realise their potential.”

Another former Level 3 Reaseheath horticulture student is a potential member of the GB squad for WorldSkills 2017, to be held in Abu Dhabi.  Christopher Shore, who is about to start his Foundation Degree in Garden and Landscape Design, has successfully  qualified for this year’s WorldSkills UK national finals. The competition is run by the Association of Professional Landscapers for WorldSkills UK.


Team photography for design portfolios and lectures! 200 by 200

Horticulture study tour 2015

41 students from across the horticulture department have just returned from a  study tour of Holland and Belgium, visiting a host of gardens and nurseries. Each group was armed with a team Mr Potato Head to support them with tweeting about their adventures in Holland, accompanied by lecturers Craig Bailey and Carol Adams.

Students with their Mr Potato Head!

Students with their Mr Potato Head!

‘May the Forth be with you’ (4th May) saw us travelling across France and Belgium to our destination in Noordwijk aan Zee, a coastal resort near Amsterdam. To keep us entertained on route we set Star Wars themed quizzes and a costume challenge for each group (much to many people’s relief the costume challenge was…for their Mr Potato heads!)

Our first visit, having travelled through the bulb fields of Lisse was 4 hours in the international tourist attraction Keukenhof, boasting with 32 hectares including over 70 million bulbs, over 300 varieties of tulips, orchid exhibitions, plant exhibitions and show gardens.

FdSc students and Craig walking on water!

FdSc students and Craig walking on water!


Many of the group sheltered in an exhibition hall during our first downpour of the tour and exuberantly joined in the singing and dancing with the dutch band Kleintje Pils who played at the Sochi Olympics!

Then we set off to visit the Thijsse’s Hof, a 2 hectare garden home to the native plants of Kennemerland in natural vegetation groups, a pioneer of the naturalistic conservation style of planting.pic 6



The following day was an early start (6.30am in Holland) taking a trip to the  Aalsmeer Flower Auction (Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer), the largest commercial building in the world selling approximately 20 million flowers each day.

horticulture students shelter from the rain

horticulture students shelter from the rain



We travelled along an aerial walkway looking down on the bustle (and near misses) of the warehouses and looked into the auction and testing rooms. We then travelled on to the Nursery Museum in Aalsmeer and were guided through their working exhibitions on rose breeding, Lilac and Viburnum cut flower production, Fruit, Conifer and perennial production systems as well as having a go at bidding on one of the retired auction hose price clocks.

Half way through the Aslsmeer Flower Auction

Half way through the Aalsmeer Flower Auction



The group’s next stop was Amsterdam. Many of us toured the city by canal boat and took a trip to the Floating Flower Market to stock up on unusual seeds and bulbs.

Thursday we travelled through the orchard region in Holland to the 26 hectares of De Idee Tuinen (Idea Gardens) in Appleturn, home to over 260 display gardens including conceptual gardens, traditional gardens, water gardens, conservation and green engineering displays and natural play provision.

Our final day we visited the Nursery town of Boskoop, calling in at Esveld Nurseries, who are specialists in unusual trees, shrubs and perennials. Good job we all brought small suitcases… customs in Calais guessed which country we had been on tour to… as soon as they opened the boot of the bus and were met by a cascade of plants tumbling out!

On our return trip we called into the University of Gent’s Botanical Garden for a stretch of legs and a final top-up of horticultural novelty. The outdoor microclimate and massive glasshouses housed many rare and unusual plant species and we enjoyed looking at their extensive collection of tropical flytraps and exotic food crops, as well as playing with the Sensitive plants (their foliage snaps shut when you brush the leaf with your finger as a defensive mechanism against predators).

We arrived back in the UK on Saturday morning at 3.30am and proceeded to ram plants and cases into waiting parents cars…what a great study tour!

Carol Adams

Course Manager and Lecturer, Horticulture Department

All contestants seated ready to begin YHOY regional final

Grow Careers in Horticulture

All contestants seated ready to begin YHOY regional final

Professional horticulturists, careers advisors, students and prospective students packed into Reaseheath’s lecture theatre last Thursday for first North West Grow Careers event. The day commenced with an introduction to horticulture for career advisors by Chartered Institute of Horticulture Branch Chair, Sue Nicholas, followed by Reaseheath’s Curriculum Area Manager, Sarah Hopkinson, who provided an insight in to the horticulture department’s offering and the new Nation Centre for Food Futures at Reaseheath.

Garden designer Pip Probert from OutserSpaces discussing aspects of her practice.

The afternoon saw eight industry speakers from the design, landscaping, commercial production and management sectors of horticulture discuss their careers and businesses. Speakers included: multi RHS Gold Medalist designer Pip Probert; Phil Pearson from APS Salads (the largest supplier of tomatoes to Tesco); Faye Steer, Deputy Head Gardener for Chatsworth House; Lee Webster from The Landscape Group and former Reaseheath student Sue Beesley, who is also the owner of Blue Cottage Gardens and Nursery.

The speakers highlighted a wide range of career opportunities within the horticulture industry, with many urging the keen audience to pursue a career in horticulture and fill the gaps in specialist knowledge and skills. The Landscape Group actively promoted opportunities within their business including discussing their Greener Graduate programme – with many students registering their interest on the day!

The Grow Careers event was organised in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Horticulture (CIH) and was followed in the evening by the  CIH Regional Final of the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition, hosted by the horticulture department.

Curriculum Area Manager, Sarah Hopkinson presenting the winner with his certificate and prize money.

Curriculum Area Manager, Sarah Hopkinson presenting the winner with his certificate and prize money.

Craig Bailey, Lecturer in Horticulture, Course Manager to FdSc Garden & Landscape Design

Hydroponics Greenhouse 2

Horticultural Students get to grip with Climate Change Plants

What an amazing day! The Horticulture department was contacted last week by a local private gardening team keen to see the  amassed collection of subtropical plant material go to a good home if it was possible to salvage it before the frosts hit. The estate are reclaiming the border within a large walled fruit and vegetable garden for production of more diverse edible crops. This type of plant material is gaining popularity in the UK so it is vital our learners access them…normally through visits to Botanical Gardens or Study tours but not any more…

It was all hands on deck with teams of First and Second year Extended Diploma and Subsidiary Diploma level 3 Horticulture working with First Year Foundation Degree in Garden Design out on site in the Cheshire garden with guidance from teaching staff small student teams worked on areas of the 30 meter long border unearthing all sorts of exotic rare plant species, it was like letting us loose in a sweet shop!   Identifying the best methods of lifting and storing plants ranging from 3m tall banana palms and abutilons to a diverse range of aromatic salvias, fan palms, bird of paradise flowers and angels trumpets with plants from Australasia, Africa and South America it was jam packed full of learning new names and new forms!  In between squeezing the plants into trailers and ferrying them back to Glasshouse 2 as an impromptu  production space, we also managed to have grand tour of the gardens with beautiful structure and such a diverse range of features and plant specimens. Offers of work experience and specialised learning opportunities were also developed as well as experiencing working to high standards of workmanship in multidisciplinary teams.

Group of students sorting out the plants

Hydroponics Greenhouse

Once back at college we set about potting up the plant material using composted green waste produced here at Reaseheath. Work on this will continue for the next  few days and then the task of propagation lead by expert Neil Bebbington will start meeting many assessment outcomes as well as producing some really exciting plant material.  The plants will provide a valuable resource for developing propagation skills and much of the planting will be used to furnish the new horticultural ‘Food Futures and Environment Building’ to being ideally suited for the new microclimate that the courtyard will provide and providing sustainable interior planting  to help enhance the interior learning environment.

Male student potting a plant

Students potting the plants

We hope to  share and swap our college propagated plants with regional establishments and are keen to provide propagation support to regional gardens  as we develop our diversity of species on site to ensure Reaseheath students work with one of the broadest range of species outside of a  Botanical Garden setting in the UK.

Reaseheath homegrown raddish

Growing vegetables at Reaseheath

Home grown vegetables

John Lightfoot and Paul Beresford inspect food crops destined for catering

Throughout the academic year 2014-15, horticultural services staff have grown vegetables and salad crops on-site for catering to use in the kitchens. The Commercial Unit Assistant, John Lightfoot, has taken a lead on this project.

Reaseheath homegrown raddish

Reaseheath homegrown raddish

The Reaseheath produce, which has included Reaseheath grown bananas, has then been used in an assortment of dishes and salads for staff, students and visitors to enjoy. Fruits such as and rhubarb and blackcurrants have been turned into juice drinks and the Animal Management department have taken advantage of our home grown produce for utilisation in the zoo.

It is still early days in terms of refining the best crops to grow as well as the best ways in which to grow them. However, the seeds of success have been sown and the opportunity for the horticultural department to make a positive contribution is significant.  Nearly £1000 worth of produce has traded within the college so far, so watch this space for further developments!

By James Grundy

Student Jsss Collier works on the memorial bed

The Great War remembered

Dave Mason with Horticulture students

Dave Mason with Level 2 Horticulture students

Reaseheath’s longest serving staff member, gardener Dave Mason has installed a commemorative border next to the Reaseheath College flag pole to mark the centenary year of the beginning of World War One. Working with Level 2 Diploma in Horticulture students, Dave firstly sourced and installed local Jurassic sandstone around the edge of the border before laying  a weed suppressing membrane over the raised ground. He then helped the students mark out the message ‘1914 – 1918 THE GREAT WAR’ accurately before planting Pyrethrum in the gaps to form the letters.

Student Jsss Collier works on the memorial bed

Student Jess Collier works on the memorial bed

Said Dave, “it was something which I felt was important for us to commemorate as a way to help teach students of the sacrifices made by the soldiers. Many of whom were their age when they fought and died. It is a long time since we had an example of carpet bedding, which means the border also creates a new teaching facility for the horticulture department.”

The area only takes about half an hour a fortnight to cut and tidy around the letters during the growing season. Dave will continue to maintain the border with the support of students on work duties throughout the academic year.

By James Grundy