Sussex Life - - Front Page -

Head gar­dener at Michel­ham Priory in Up­per Dicker, James Neal, came to hor­ti­cul­ture as a ca­reer change from the fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try. “I was in­creas­ingly mired in bu­reau­cracy and the joy of con­flict­ing busi­ness tar­gets,” he says. “Af­ter those 20 years, I was a dif­fer­ent per­son and crav­ing re­ju­ve­na­tion.

“While work­ing in fi­nan­cial ser­vices I had taken on an al­lot­ment in Brighton, which I cul­ti­vated over ten years. I de­cided to for­malise my knowl­edge and get a qual­i­fi­ca­tion in hor­ti­cul­ture at Plump­ton Col­lege. Hav­ing fam­ily and fi­nan­cial com­mit­ments, meant I re­ally needed to make it work for me as soon as pos­si­ble. While I was study­ing I ap­plied for a part-time job as­sist­ing the owner gar­den­ers of the Sus­sex Prairie Gar­dens in Hen­field, Paul and Pauline Mcbride. Study­ing and work­ing at the same time turbo-charged my learn­ing, ev­ery­thing was di­rectly and im­me­di­ately rel­e­vant and ap­pli­ca­ble.”

James man­ages seven acres of for­mal gar­dens. The job not only cov­ers the gar­den­ing, but also in­volves prop­a­ga­tion, ad­min­is­tra­tion, look­ing af­ter tools and ma­chin­ery, li­ais­ing with con­trac­tors, plan­ning, con­duct­ing gar­den tours and ad­dress­ing groups.

“The best part of the job is be­ing out­side most of the time, through the dif­fer­ent sea­sons, in a beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tion,” he says. “It does make you feel pride, when you see vis­i­tors tak­ing pho­tos of the plant­ings I have cre­ated. The peo­ple I work with are great. We work to­ward the en­hance­ment of the rel­a­tively small her­itage char­ity, the Sus­sex Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal So­ci­ety, whose mis­sion is to give vis­i­tor’s ac­cess to and ed­u­ca­tion about lo­cal Sus­sex His­tory and use their sites as a ve­hi­cle for that mis­sion.”

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