Gar­dener who lacked qual­i­fi­ca­tions is turfed out

Na­tional Trust says it needs its own staff to tend the gar­dens at Devon­shire pile Shute Bar­ton

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Olivia Rudgard SO­CIAL AF­FAIRS COR­RE­SPON­DENT

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.”

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