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“I thought, what do I enjoy most? I love doing physical things and being outdoors, so I put those together, and thought gardening would be perfect.”
Michael, apprentice gardener
Maintaining and caring for 7-hectares of land is no easy task, but it’s one that York Minster’s apprentice gardener, Michael Davis, enjoys the challenge of.
We find out more about what Michael gets up to as an apprentice gardener at York Minster, his favourite projects and what he’s most excited for in the future.
How did you end up becoming an apprentice gardener at the Minster?
“Like many people, the pandemic gave me a lot of perspective and made me think about what I wanted to do as a career. I thought, what do I enjoy most? I love doing physical things and being outdoors, so I put those together, and thought gardening would be perfect. I had a look around, saw a role at the Minster had come up and decided to go for it.”
Can you tell us about your role and what you get up to?
“No day is the same, as gardening jobs are very much determined by the seasons and the weather, meaning what I do can vary dramatically depending on what the land needs. Primarily, I look after mowing the lawns, planting, but another way of viewing my role is that we’re grounds keepers. We do everything relating to the grounds, whether that’s sweeping, developing, mowing or planting.
“What many people don’t realise is how substantial the land around York Minster and its Precinct is. I help maintain and care for the Dean’s Park and College Green sections, but also for The Deanery, all the Precinct land around the city walls and the old school grounds – the list goes on!”
“I really enjoyed being part of the whole process, from planning, doing the job and then getting to see it grow and flourish, and visitors enjoying it.”
What’s your favourite project that you’ve worked on so far?
“Dean’s Park is one of my favourite areas to work on. We’ve been busy undertaking extensive replanting and setting out new areas of interest and it’s been a project I have been heavily involved in. I put forward quite a few suggestions to the Precinct Management Team and the majority got approved, for example introducing National Trust style interpretation on the plants (essentially having metal tags which provide descriptions of each plant). It was a great feeling!
“I was then involved in planting wildflower areas and changing some beds so that the plants will flower all year round. I really enjoyed being part of the whole process, from planning, doing the job and then getting to see it grow and flourish, and visitors enjoying it.”
What projects are you most looking forward to in the future?
“The Centre of Excellence, which is the Minster’s plans to becoming a world-class campus facility for ancient craft skills, is going to be really significant. The plans include new buildings, and development on existing ones, so there will be a lot of work needed to transform the grounds and I look forward to playing a part within this.”
Can you tell us a little bit about York Minster’s plans for driving forward sustainability?
“Sustainability and biodiversity are main goals for York Minster and they sit at the heart of its 15-year Neighbourhood Plan, which sets out to maintain the York Minster Precinct for generations to come.
“We’re looking at what we can do to support this in our work, for example, we’re in the process of sourcing suitable mowers and tools so we can change from petrol to electric in 2024, as well as turning general waste bins into recycling points. We’re also considerate when choosing what plants and trees to introduce, for example, we’re planting a lot of lime trees, as they are a really good source of food for pollinators, like bees.”
“If it’s a career you like the sound of, then there is no better place for it. The facilities are great and the scenery is amazing – there are very few places like it.”
What’s your favourite thing about working at the Minster?
“The team – we all get on really well and it’s great working closely with the other apprentices and understanding how our roles all fit in together.”
What’s the most challenging thing?
“The amount of ground we cover as a small team is pretty astonishing! We cover 7-hectares, so there’s a lot of work on a continuous basis, especially as the seasons keep changing.
“Also, it can be tricky to work when a lot of the grounds are open to the public. For example, Dean’s Park’s main area is open 7am – 7pm, so it means we have to time our jobs effectively. I enjoy the challenges though; they definitely make it fun!”
What would your advice be to someone wanting to become an apprentice at the Minster?
“Go for it, it’s never too late! If it’s a career you like the sound of, then there is no better place for it. The facilities are great and the scenery is amazing – there are very few places like it. Learning through a combination of college classes and on-site practical experience is also a brilliant way to learn a trade. It definitely makes the college elements, such as exams and coursework, easier, because you’re actually doing the work first-hand.”
Find out more about other members of the team here.
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