National Trust

The National Trust in Northern Ireland recently acquired 900 acres of land at the internationally celebrated Mount Stewart, in addition to the 100 acres it already owned.  The Trust repeatedly found it difficult to recruit  people with heritage gardening skills who could help with their significant conservation work. The Pilgrim Trust grant of £44,845 covers the cost of employing and training two heritage garden apprentices.


The two apprentices, like many others, had struggled to find employment. The apprenticeship offers them the opportunity to learn all aspects of heritage gardening; from propagating the historic and unique collection of rhododendron and southern hemisphere plants, to the manicure of topiary within the Shamrock garden, which forms an integral part in explaining the history of the house and family. Working primarily at Mount Stewart, one of the top ten gardens of the world, as well as other gardens owned by the Trust, local authorities or private individuals, The RHS accredited training has been provided through college based study at South Eastern Regional College, supplemented by the completion of a personal evidence folders; all of which combine to a formal accreditation in RHS level 2 in Horticulture.

The apprenticeship has not only transformed the lives of these two young people, but has also allowed the Trust to engage with new audiences, increasing awareness of heritage gardening with the general public and offering taster sessions to potential new students through volunteering opportunities.

Images kindly taken by Gary McNally with the permission of Mount Stewart