Me & My job: Martin Dykstra, horticultural instructor, HMP & YOI Parc prison

What is your typical day?

The HMP & YOI Parc gardens department's overall objective is to educate prisoners through the medium of horticulture. My typical day involves teaching both adult and young offenders basic horticulture principles. Security and health and safety must also be taken into consideration at all times - my job is a balancing act.

What takes up most of your time?

I mostly deal directly with prisoners, some of whom have never had the chance to experience any form of vocational learning. We are currently working on Parc's first-ever solo entry into an RHS show at the RHS Spring Flower Show in Cardiff on 18-20 April, so a lot of time is spent preparing for this. Prisoners in the woodwork and metalwork shops are helping us prepare.

Do you get out of the office enough?

I rarely spend any time in the actual office - a wooden shed set in a large secure garden compound, which is the central hub of horticultural activities, with several large polytunnels, a propagation unit and vegetable beds.

What is the best part of your job?

I get the greatest satisfaction from teaching prisoners, especially those who have never had the opportunity to experience horticulture before. To see them gain not just an understanding but a genuine interest in plants, colour schemes and design makes the job extremely worthwhile.

And the worst?

I would not say worst but the most frustrating part of the job is the security restrictions. Certain plants are not permissible within a prison environment so sometimes a planting scheme can be scuppered.

What piece of kit can't you do without?

Our propagation house is vital as it allows us to demonstrate all types of propagation to prisoners.

What does the future hold?

I would like to be more involved in the pure design aspect of horticulture, and would like to gain a landscape design qualification.


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