Garden course is first of its kind

The first foundation degree in historic gardens and heritage horticulture is being launched at one of the UK's most iconic gardens in an effort to fill an alarming skills gap.

Students will learn about walled kitchen gardens, historic garden styles and ecology.

Hestercombe Gardens in Taunton, Somerset, is an Edwardian formal garden designed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and planted by Gertrude Jekyll.

The 24-student course is targeting volunteers already working for groups such as the National Trust, the RHS and historic private gardens open to the public.

Course director John Horsey said: "In my many years of experience in this sector, I have realised there is a lack of appropriately trained staff in this area.

"I've got a list as long as my arm of interested people. We've negotiated the course with the National Trust and heritage gardens owners, and it's exactly what they want: it's spot on."

The University of the West of England is running the course with Yeovil College in Somerset and the first intake will enrol in January.

The part-time foundation degree will run in modules, one day a week for three years. Students will carry out a large research project and work experience.

Hestercombe Garden Trust chief executive Philip White said: "This degree will fill a gap in this area of horticultural education and provide an invaluable background."

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