Experiences with WRAGS

Message from Christine Walkden, Horticulturalist

“The WRAGS scheme is one which I strongly support. This scheme identifies people who would like some experience within a garden – to gain not only experience, but also some training and guidance from the garden owner or Head gardener. The fact that this placement is monitored and has a requirement for the trainee in terms of documentation production as a way of gathering evidence of the work undertaken is admirable, and also useful to the trainee in the years to come. It shows a commitment to the training and the gardens in which they are working.

Numerous WRAGS scheme garden trainees now contribute to the management of many important gardens and the experience gained in their trainee gardens carried with them and onto others.

This is a scheme that encourages one of the greatest gifts in gardening, that of sharing skills, knowledge and experience with others.”

Christine Walkden

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. ”

Jack Parkinson, former WRAGS trainee, Docking Lodge Farm, Norfolk

My year placement has just come to an end. Such a rewarding and unique experience to be involved with the creation of a new build double walled garden. I am extremely grateful to the WFGA and Head Gardener for their guidance and support these past 12 months. The regional managers put so much hard work into finding placement gardens and mentoring trainees.
If you’re considering a change in career then I highly recommend you join the WFGA and register your interest in the WRAG Scheme.



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