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Leeds Castle News01 May 2020

Grounds Team Q&A – National Gardening Week

As part of #NationalGardeningWeek we asked the Leeds Castle Grounds Team some questions about their experiences and memories of working in the grounds and gardens of ‘the loveliest Castle in the world’.

Name: Martin Leach
Job Title: Grounds Supervisor
Which year did you start working at Leeds Castle? 1990

Name: James Smith
Job Title: Head Greenkeeper
Which year did you start working at Leeds Castle? 2008

Name: Mark Fewtrell
Job Title: Greenkeeper
Which year did you start working at Leeds Castle? 2007

What were your first impression about the grounds and gardens when you first visited Leeds Castle?

Martin: “Whether I could do the job justice as I started with lots of senior staff who were part of Lady Baillie’s original team. I learnt a lot about the estate from them. At that time there was just the Culpeper Garden, the Lady Baillie Garden had not been built yet. I was involved in the regeneration of the old Duckery to the Cascade Garden and then now to the Princess Alexandra Garden.”

Mark: “What a magical place with stunning views full of colour, with lots of quiet peaceful places to sit and relax and watch the wildlife.”

James: “The very first time I visited the golf course, it needed a lot of work doing and it was a challenge, I was happy to take on the challenge and looked forward to making a difference.”

Describe your day-to-day role at Leeds Castle?

Martin: “My role is to collate and assign jobs to the team making sure the grounds look as good as they can be for our visitors for their first or a return visit. Lots of variety, could be doing hard or soft landscaping or in the waterways, or arboriculture work with the trees.”

Mark & James: “Lots of variety involved in maintaining the golf course. This could involve cutting the greens, cutting the fairways and golf tees, maintaining the bunkers and carrying out repairs. When we’re not busy on the golf course we help other teams including the Ranger team, cutting trees down, damaged in the wind, helping the Events team set up for Events, such as the Christmas Market.”

In recent weeks how has your role changed? What are you doing across the Estate to help maintain the grounds and gardens for when Leeds Castle reopens to the public?

Martin: “I am now working as part of a small team involved in all aspects of estate work, from cutting the grass to general weeding and maintenance. We moved all the benches and pots for safe keeping and we are working to maintain the standard of the grounds so our visitors can come and see the lovely estate when we are ready to open again. All the teams are working hard together towards one goal, managers and staff alike.”

Mark & James: “Instead of being on the golf course full time, helping in other areas such as the Culpeper Gardens where we have been involved in pruning and weeding. We have also set up an irrigation system to help with watering during the dry spell. Helping with other areas with anything that needs to be done, taking the glamping tents down.”

Where is your favourite part of the Leeds Castle estate?

Martin: “This has to be the pavilion lawn looking from the end of the wood garden path, now the new cladding and balustrade has been completed, the pavilion looks stunning. The lawn freshly mowed in a semi-circle sets off the view.”

Mark: “The views from the 5th and 9th Tees are both stunning, its a shame they only get seen by the golfers, especially the 9th because when the leaves are on the trees they almost create a picture frame to look through.”

James: “The golf course in general and the views of the Castle.”

Describe one of your fondest memories of a particular day or moment that happened whilst working at Leeds Castle?

Martin: “It has to be when a former manager fell off the back of the Black Swan Ferry while looking at the outboard motor. It was a classic British comedy moment, which shows that a big part of our job is having fun!”

Mark: “Whilst working in the wood garden on an autumn morning, watching a kingfisher diving into the water and listening to the birds, it was so peaceful. And getting to the South East Regional finals for the ‘Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year’ award. I felt very proud”

James: “When I met Princess Alexandra (our patron), when attending a long service dinner. She is a charming lady. Also, overcoming challenges, I particularly remember at the Leeds Castle Concert when it rained until 4pm and we managed to turn it all around and give everyone a good time!”

Do you have any gardening tips for people to use in their own gardens?

Martin: “No formal tips, but trust in your own interpretation of what you want in your garden. You don’t have to have a cottage garden or a set style. If it looks nice to you, then enjoy it.”

Mark: “For a healthy lawn, cut as often as you can, as low as you can. Collect the cuttings. If possible fertilise three or four times each year. The healthier the grass the less chance of weeds.”

How would you describe Leeds Castle to someone who has never visited in no more than ten words?

Martin: “Full of vistas and views with year-round colour and change.”

James & Mark: “A day out well spent in lovely surroundings.”

Find out more about Leeds Castle’s Grounds and Gardens.