Me & my job - Peter Howells, trainee gardener, English Heritage, Down House

Peter Howells, trainee gardener, English Heritage, Down House - photo: HW
Peter Howells, trainee gardener, English Heritage, Down House - photo: HW

- What does your typical day involve?

I start at 8am in the greenhouse, watering the orchids and carnivorous plants - some of which are from Darwin's day, here at his old home. I take the weather report and maintain the kitchen garden. I also look after the 25 volunteers who work here, so some of my week is spent in the office, drawing up rotas and writing letters.

- What takes up most of your time?

The kitchen garden, which is a vast area - nearly an acre. We are currently removing the weeds, ready to rotovate. As there are only two permanent members of staff it's quite a lot of work.

- What is the best part of your job?

I have enjoyed everything I've done so far. It's a new start for me - I used to work as an organiser of events and conferences, and for charities. But because I had an interest in gardening I studied at Capel Manor. It's fantastic to be working at Down House - it's a wonderful environment and a prestigious garden. We repeat the interesting experiments that Darwin did such as observing bees and worms.

- And the worst?

I'm happy to do anything and be in a nice environment but when the weather's bad and I'm working on my own it's not great.

- What piece of kit can't you do without?

A hoe for all the weeds.

- How do you wind down after a day's work?

I play a lot of sport, especially tennis and golf.

- What does the future hold?

One of my projects next year will be identifying the plants in the area known as Emma's Garden, named after Darwin's wife. We are going to start keeping a database of our historic plants. Overall, I'd like to develop my skills, especially in kitchen gardening. Eventually I would like to become a head gardener. I know it will take a bit of time to get there, but Down House is a good start.


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