Last week I had the pleasure of chatting to 19-year old Nathan Biggs from Shaftesbury. He’s a shining example of positive energy at a time when it would be easy to drag your feet and give up hope.
Nathan felt quietly overlooked at school. He left formal education at the earliest opportunity to become a labourer but, slightly lost, he returned to the Sixth Form.
“That was a waste of time,” he told me, “because they wanted me to specialise in computers and that has never really interested me. ” Nathan left again a year later and could have drifted. he told me that at this stage he didn’t have a clue what he wanted to be or do. He did a bit of jobbing gardening because he “needed the money” and gradually something inside him clicked.
Nathan said, “When I was 11 or 12 I used to mow the grass for my nan’s next door neighbour. I also helped my Uncle Daniel do things like hedge-cutting. And when I was labouring, doing a job at Holbrook House near Wincanton, the head Gardener there asked me to join him. I didn’t, but he seemed to like me and my attitude. I also saw older people around the town gardening who obviously loved their work and they inspired me. Then two of my mates started gardening and one of them, James, got me into it. I did some jobs with him and really liked being outdoors. That’s when I realised I wanted to be a gardener.”
Nathan enrolled to do a National Certificate in Horticulture at Kingston Maurward College. His course starts in the New Year.
It’ll take one to three years to complete depending on his commitment, and by the time he starts he’ll have racked up six months of practical experience. This is all part of his education. He’s been an apprentice with Phil Buttress, a local landscape gardener, since June.
I met up with Nathan after he’d spent the morning and early afternoon clearing a summer bedding display and planting winter-flowering Bronze Age Yellow pansies for his nan’s neighbour. I asked him what his ambitions were.
“I’m hungry for knowledge,” he said, “so I want to become as qualified as possible, become a professional, then maybe move somewhere and have a team of gardeners working for me.”
For now, Nathan enjoys the variety and travel which his work provides. he could be anywhere from Chard in Somerset to Kilmington in Wiltshire on any given day, doing mowing, strimming, hedge-cutting or planting in the borders. “It’s very hard to get bored,” he commented.
One of his most enjoyable jobs was at a National Trust property near Chard. His boss had made a nature observation hide but, as Nathan says, “Some kids got in and burnt it down. We had to go back and rebuild it as decking and benches with a hand-rail so people could sit and watch the birds.”
There’s a sparkle in his eyes as he talks. “I like hard work. It makes you feel like you’ve done something with the day. Coming home and feeling absolutely knackered is good.”
And what about when it’s raining, I wondered?
“I don’t mind getting really wet and finishing early. But on a sunny day it’s kind of hard to believe you’re getting paid because being outside is so amazing.”
Copyright, Joe Hashman www.dirtynails.co.uk