Learning to grow

In honour of the great work that apprentices are doing across the County Council, we’re handing our March blog over to our apprentice assistant horticulturalist, Sophie Macleod, 27, from Titchfield, to hear about her fascinating role at Staunton

Mar 4 2019


Over to Sophie....

My route to becoming a horticulturalist apprentice at Staunton is quite a surprising one to some.

I was a volunteer at Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve, working and becoming friends with the other volunteers as we identified birds, bees, butterflies and wildflowers common to the area. Combined with this, my mum is a keen gardener and I began helping her to garden, and picking up her green-fingered enthusiasm.

I had graduated from university with an English degree, and was working in the PR and communications arena, when I realised that type of job wasn’t for me. I wanted to be outside and in nature. So when I spotted the apprenticeship advert online, I applied for it.

That was five months ago.

Ever since then my passion for what I’m learning and doing has grown and grown.

I’m based at Staunton for four days a week, working closely with Matt and Mark the two gardeners and the volunteers. Then I study at Sparsholt College one day week.

I have to say that I genuinely come to work excited. My work will naturally change with what the seasons bring. This winter I've been carrying out tasks including cleaning the Glass House, cutting down vegetation in the walled garden, and weeding where needed. I’ve even learnt how to use a pressure washer!


While college is importantly giving me the theoretical knowledge, we have been doing practical work on seed sowing, leaf cutting and testing soil PH (acidity) levels.

But it’s my days at Staunton which are giving me the bulk of my hands-on experience.

Chris, Staunton’s Head Gardener, has years of experience and knowledge. He’s really supportive and is helping me to learn plant groups, such as weeds, trees and shrubs, as well as learning the common and botanical names.

Staunton is a special place with what its Regency landscape offers to visitors, and I feel really lucky to work there and to be helping the parkland, particularly in its bicentenary year. 

Everyone around me – staff, tutors and volunteers – have made me feel really welcome and I can honestly say that it’s so nice to finally find my niche.

(Sophie’s apprenticeship is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund).