Me & My Job: Mark Cook, head gardener, landscape and estates, Capel Manor

Mark Cook, head gardener, landscape and estates, Capel Manor. Image: HW
Mark Cook, head gardener, landscape and estates, Capel Manor. Image: HW

How did you get started? When I was about 10, my dad decided to become self-sufficient. We had three acres of land so that was my first beginnings in horticulture — growing fruit and veg. Then, rather than get a paper round as a kid, I started at a local plant nursery and I was there for three years. My first major job before Capel Manor was at the Grove Hotel in Chandlers Cross, where I was a general operative and then a pesticide technician.

What does your typical day involve? A typical day — is there such a thing? It is very different around the year. At the moment we are just getting the hedge-cutting finished. But it is normally a case of making sure all the little groups of volunteers, students and gardeners are getting on. I just try to make sure that all the daily gardening tasks are carried out.

What is the best part of your job? I think it is the opportunity for all the new projects we do at the college because we are doing new things all the time. I find that really interesting; that it is not the same all the time. It is nice to experiment, to be able to follow a project through from design to creation, and it keeps the place looking fresh and interesting.

And the worst? I think it's probably getting rid of all the leaves in the autumn. It takes me at least 10 weeks to do it all.

What piece of kit can't you do without? Our leaf blower would probably be the most important one at the moment. Maybe our little New Holland tractor overall, though. It is incredibly useful for us. It saves me a massive amount of man hours. It's small enough that you can take it on the lawns.

How do you relax? A good book and a pint of beer would be my choice. I read a wide range of stuff because I get bored reading the same kinds of books all the time. I will read anything and everything.

What does the future hold? To be honest, since I came here I really haven't thought about it too much. Maybe I could move into the lecturing side of it, doing practical demonstrations and that kind of thing. If I'm not doing this then I think that is what the future holds — particularly with all the government money being invested in apprenticeships and that kind of thing.


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