A former city slicker and a chef were among the 10 apprentices of this year's intake officially welcomed by Royal Parks chief executive Mark Camley, who said: "These are the future parks managers."
The apprentices, who began work in the Royal Parks in September, are the second year-group to be enrolled after the three-year apprentice programme was revived last autumn.
Royal Parks Guild chairman Mike Fitt told the apprentices that three awards would be provided by the guild: one for the first-year student deemed to have done the most outstanding work, either through teamwork or academically; the George Cook Award for the student who has achieved the most at the end of the course; and an award open to students and volunteers who work on conservation projects.
Fitt said: "George Cook, who managed Hampton Court and set up the original apprenticeship in 1959, always said you can achieve anything - so never give up."
The Royal Parks Guild puts the students in touch with former Royal Parks apprentices through the "expert advisers" section on the Capel Manor website. Ex-apprentices Bob Ivison, Paul Acres and Barry Haynes were at the event to offer the new generation guidance.
Former chef Rachael Bulmer said she saw the advert for the apprenticeship and that "it was exactly what I was looking for". Bulmer has worked on a vegetable stall at Borough Market for several years and felt the time had come to learn how to grow plants herself. She added: "If I had worked for a landscaper I would have just been another pair of hands, but on this course I am getting structured learning."
The apprentices work in one of the Royal Parks, including Hyde Park and Greenwich Park, while studying for one day a week at Capel Manor College.
- See p40 for Me & My Job interview with Bulmer.