Caroline Simms, former WRAGS trainee. Well Barn House:
“Becoming a WRAGs trainee made me a less-stressed, more contented, happier person. I gave up a demanding publishing career to retrain as… well, something outdoorsy. Gardening was a thing I’d only lightly dabbled in before, but it seemed to fit the bill. I read about the WRAGs trainee scheme and engaged with the idea of getting some practical experience in a structured way over the whole four seasons. The best bit was that it was open to people like me who had no experience just a willingness to learn.
“I applied and very quickly got a placement on a beautiful private estate in Oxfordshire. It didn’t feel like work at all – even the cold days when I first started in January were bearable, because I was outside, learning something new and interesting. The head gardener was extremely knowledgeable – we shared a passion for vegetable growing and he was keen to impart knowledge – there really is no better way to learn than by doing.
“I was supported the whole way through by Vivienne, my WRAGS Regional Manager, who has also been a trainee herself, so full of good advice and encouragement. After my 12 months, I left the placement with a wealth of skills and knowledge, a belly full of passion, and a clear desire to make gardening my career. I am now studying towards my RHS level 2 in horticulture and recently got a full-time job as a Kitchen Gardener”
Graeme Watts, Head Gardener, Belmont House, Kent:
“The WRAG Scheme works very well at Belmont House, in Kent. Trainees fit in with a small gardening team of three, bringing enthusiasm, commitment and dedication to learning. It is a pleasure to work with people who really want to change to a career in horticulture. The scheme requires sacrifice and hard work from trainees, but seeing them flourish, and develop into confident, knowledgeable gardeners is very rewarding.
“Past trainees have gone on to work with the National Trust, join the team at Belmont and win silver medals at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.”
Nicola Sweeney, former WRAGS trainee, Dun Dubh, Stirlingshire, Scotland
“My WRAGS training placement has been an immensely rewarding experience. The opportunity to gain knowledge and learn essential gardening skills in a hands-on and practical way has been an invaluable start to my career in horticulture. ”
Lise and Chris White, Hook House Pottery, Gloucestershire
“We are now working with our third WRAGS trainee and have found it an excellent scheme. Our training input has been matched by a high level of commitment from each of the trainees, whose hard work has enabled us to maintain the garden to a higher standard than we could have attained without them. The whole experience of helping to raise the trainees’ level of knowledge and expertise has been most rewarding, and has added a new dimension to our gardening enjoyment!”