Gardener who lacked qualifications is turfed out
National Trust says it needs its own staff to tend the gardens at Devonshire pile Shute Barton
A GARDENER who had worked on a property for decades was let go when it was taken over by the National Trust because he did not have the necessary qualifications. The gardener worked for the previous occupants of Shute Barton, a house in Devon which has been owned by the Trust since the 1950s, for around 30 years, until 2009.
The medieval house is the ancestral home of the Pole family, and was last home to Christopher Pole-carew, a former newspaper executive, and his wife Gillian.
But when the couple, who are now in their 80s, gave up their right to live there in 2009, the gardener, who did not want to be named, lost his job. His friend, Ann Heath, said: “He was doing it for a long, long time before it went over to the National Trust and as soon as they took over they said he couldn’t do it because he didn’t have any degrees or anything.
“He had a ride-on mower that he used to cut the grass and he used to cut back the brambles around the lawn as well, to keep it all tidy. Perhaps it was health and safety, but what could you do with a ride-on mower?”
The issue was raised by Daily Telegraph reader Mark Solon, who wrote to the paper, saying: “My gardener, with over 50 years’ experience, has been told by the National Trust he can no longer cut their grass as he doesn’t have the right qualifications.
“Perhaps he should have taken a degree.”
Mr Solon added: “Experience is more important than a certificate. My gardener has a profound knowledge of the land gained over 50 years. He can mow a lawn without further study.
“The National Trust has lost an exceptional practitioner.” A spokesman for the Trust said: “The National Trust has owned Shute Barton since the 1950s and, until 2009, it was leased back to the historic family, who employed their own gardener.
“Since 2009, after the family decided to give up their right to live in the property, the Trust has managed Shute Barton directly.
“When the Trust took the property on it needed extensive renovations before becoming a holiday cottage in 2010. The Trust decided to use its own garden contractors and gardeners to look after the grounds as the management needs of the garden are different to when it was a family home.”
Many of the jobs advertised on the National Trust website require gardeners to have formal qualifications such as health and safety certificates or an RHS horticultural qualification.
The spokesman added: “As with many jobs, different roles require different levels of skill and experience, shown on application by appropriate qualifications or equivalent levels of vocational experience.”