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Horticultural apprenticeship scheme thrives at Beaulieu

13th February 2020

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Beaulieu is more than just a place people love to call home. It’s also a place where young horticultural apprentices are forging their future careers.

Professional landscaping company Plant Style is currently delivering an apprenticeship scheme on the development which takes on apprentices for a period of approximately 20-24 months.

The programme, which offers young students from Writtle College the opportunity to train and become educated in horticulture, also employs local staff to deliver the training and development.

Colin McDowell, the Managing Director of Plant Style, says: “We try and make the apprenticeship scheme as diverse as possible, giving students the horticultural skills they need in a wide variety of disciplines. The practical experience we deliver combines with their formal education so that once they’ve finished their studies, they can aspire to reach a supervisory role more quickly.”

Jon Chistopher (26 years old) is an apprentice on a two year scheme with Plant Style and attends Writtle College once a week on Tuesdays, from 9 am to 5 pm. The rest of his week is spent at Beaulieu working with the Plant Style landscape team who are responsible for the installation and on-going maintenance of the many parks and landscaped open spaces that are being created at Beaulieu. The work is varied and provides the perfect learning opportunity for Jon.

One of the key projects that Jon is currently involved with is the creation of the new Community Gardens at Beaulieu, which will span over 11 acres once complete. This new area will include a woodland, creating an important corridor in which wildlife can flourish. A community fruit orchard and planting area will also be provided, along with formal landscaped areas and an avenue connecting to the Estate Parkland. The new Community Gardens will also include a large open space for outdoor recreation and play.

Giving his thoughts on the apprenticeship scheme and the value it has, Jon highlights: “It’s been a truly encouraging programme to be a part of and the experience I get is very relevant for my future. The supervisors training me are experienced and know their craft inside out, so it’s been fantastic to learn from them.”

Jon adds: “I would definitely recommend this programme to other students. I feel like I’m getting the best of both worlds in terms of gaining a formal education but also learning the practical element as well. I do eventually want to go into horticulture management and being a part of this scheme feels like a step in the right direction.”

Jon began the apprenticeship scheme in June 2019 and is set to obtain his qualification by 2021.

Just like the apprentice, Colin also recieved his education at Writtle College between 1993-1996. He says: “Having studied there myself, I know the College is world-class, well-equipped and takes on students who are very keen to learn. In a way, delivering this apprenticeship scheme has been like coming full-circle for me. And it couldn’t have happened in a better place. Beaulieu has a beautiful natural landscape that offers the perfect backdrop for learning.”

As Colin says, it’s the truly unique landscape that establishes the development’s identity and makes it a perfect fit for the apprenticeship programme. Beaulieu’s rich history dates back to its setting as the former hunting grounds of King Henry VIII. Design cues are taken from the existing surroundings, including the Grade I listed New Hall School and its formal parkland, nearby farmsteads and Essex countryside. A network of existing mature hedgerows, meadows and woodlands provide the setting for the development. Overlaid onto this is a network of interconnected neighbourhoods and new green spaces such as tree-lined avenues, parks, recreational and play areas.

In total, there are 176 acres of green open space being created at Beaulieu for sport and recreation, including:

  • 118 acres of public open space and parkland, including 26 acres of new football pitches and ‘kick about areas’
  • 47 acres of private parkland to the south of New Hall School
  • 11 acres of land designated for allotments

The landscaping on the development also includes extensive tree planting to enhance the existing landscape, with approximately 1,600 new standard trees and approximately 30 acres of new woodland planting. Among the wide variety of trees found at Beaulieu are Oak, Elm, Walnut, Lime, Hawthorn, Hornbeam, Cherry, Willow, Cedar, Birch, Redwood, Plane, Pine and Alder.