Shuttleworth College student following in grandad’s footsteps

PUBLISHED: 08:31 27 October 2018

Shuttleworth College student Charley Giddings is enjoy his Greensand Country apprenticeship at the Swiss Garden. Picture: Swiss Garden

Shuttleworth College student Charley Giddings is enjoy his Greensand Country apprenticeship at the Swiss Garden. Picture: Swiss Garden


A Shuttleworth College student has been speaking about how an apprenticeship scheme is helping him to follow in his grandad’s footsteps after struggling at school.

Apprentice Charley Giddings from Broom on sculpture cleaning duties with garden volunteer John Ayres. Picture: Swiss GardenApprentice Charley Giddings from Broom on sculpture cleaning duties with garden volunteer John Ayres. Picture: Swiss Garden

Charley Giddings from Broom is one of three apprentices to take part in a scheme which has been established by Greensand Country Landscape Partnership.

Backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the programme enables young people who have experienced barriers to education to develop vital skills in landscape conservation, heritage and management.

In 18-year-old Charley’s case, he has been working in the Swiss Garden at the Old Walden site alongside his academic studies at nearby Shuttleworth College.

“I was never very good at learning through lessons in the classroom and finished school without any GCSEs,” said Charley.

“I know that my strengths are in more practical activities and with influences from my grandad, who was a gardener, I was keen to find out more about horticulture and conservation.

“After school, I applied for the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership Study Programme and undertook a BTEC Level 1 in Land Based Studies at Shuttleworth College, and passed units in horticulture, agriculture and animal care. I then went onto study the Level 2 in Countryside & Environment and it was during this course that I first visited the Swiss Garden.

“While I was doing some work experience, I found out about an apprenticeship opportunity and quickly decided that I wanted to apply. We did a few taster days both at the Swiss Garden and at The Clophill Heritage Trust, and I was lucky enough to secure a place on the scheme.”

Clearly very bright and full of enthusiasm, Charley says he is enjoying the variety of work and the trust that his mentor Sissel Dahl, head gardener at the Swiss Garden, and all of the team has in him.

“I’ve been doing lots of different jobs since I started in August, from preserving sculptures and grounds maintenance, to felling small trees and putting in new fence posts,” said Charley.

“I really enjoy working alongside the team and like that, once I’m shown how to do a job, I’m trusted to get on and do it.”

When asked what he’s looking forward to learning next, Charley says he is keen to get to grips with all of the garden tools and equipment, before adding: “Since I started my course I’ve become really interested in the history of the gardens and I’m keen to find out more about the local heritage and that of the wider landscape of Greensand Country.”

He’s also been offering his preservation ideas to the conservation team from Crick Smith, visiting to carry out its five-yearly inspections of the rustic decoration of the Swiss Cottage.

Over the next 12 to 18 months he will have the opportunity to find out more about the history of the gardens, as well as take part in talks and demonstrations with the general public.

Looking further ahead, Charley is keeping his options open.

“I haven’t got a specific job in mind once I’ve completed my apprenticeship, but I’m really keen to learn as much as I can now, so that I give myself the best opportunities for a rewarding future career,” he said.

“At the moment I’m really enjoying the conservation side of things. The history of the landscape is fascinating and I’m excited to be able to share the things that I am learning with other people.”

The Greensand Country Landscape Partnership is led by the Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity and the Greensand Trust and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

To find out more about Greensand Country – an island of distinctive, beautiful and loved countryside, based on a band of higher ground stretching from Leighton Buzzard to Gamlingay – visit

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