West Horsley Place Trust – the charity created to conserve and repair Grade I listed West Horsley Place and its surrounding estate so that they can be enjoyed by the public – this month welcomes its first WRAGS (Work and Retrain As a Gardener Scheme) trainee.

The WRAG Scheme, launched in 1993 by charity WFGA (Working For Gardeners Association), provides paid part-time practical horticultural training through carefully sourced garden placements where trainees learn under the instruction of the Head Gardener.

Lizzie Bourke, from Reigate, will be the first WRAGS trainee at West Horsley Place. Lizzie will spend one year at West Horsley Place learning from Head Gardener, Nicky Webber. Lizzie’s placement will be generously supported by a bursary provided by the National Garden Scheme.

The provision of this placement is an important next step for the West Horsley Place Trust in becoming a centre for creativity and learning. The charity’s vision is that West Horsley Place will be a welcoming space for the community to enjoy with arts, culture, history and nature at its heart.

Head Gardener, Nicky Webber, said:

“We are delighted to welcome Lizzie to West Horsley Place, and are very grateful to Alison Hepworth from WFGA and also to the National Garden Scheme for kindly making this placement possible.”

“We have five acres of wonderful walled gardens at West Horsley Place, dating from the 18th century and now Grade II listed. Along with the manor house and wider estate, the gardens had fallen into disrepair and, as we move forward with their restoration, we are learning more and more about their fascinating history. A high point was the discovery earlier this year that our Serpentine Wall is the oldest surviving example in the country!”

“Understanding the history of the gardens is key to their restoration. In addition to opening to visitors, the gardens will provide further opportunities for local people to volunteer and learn through our future programme of arts, crafts, history and natural heritage activities. Over the coming year, we will also be working with the WFGA to deliver skills days at West Horsley Place for other WRAGS trainees.”

Commenting, Lizzie Bourke said:

“I am really looking forward to spending the next year at West Horsley Place, working alongside Head Gardener Nicky and all the wonderful volunteers who bring so much of their own experience to the gardens. I was secretly hoping to land somewhere special, but West Horsley Place goes beyond every expectation. It will be such a privilege to work in the gardens, showing them off to their full potential and planning for the future. It will be an exciting year of creativity, hard work and much learning!”

Ben Pearce, Director of West Horsley Place Trust, said:

“Our vision is that West Horsley Place will provide an inclusive place for people from a range of backgrounds to join in, be creative, and flourish, whether they are enjoying the quiet calm of the house or learning a new skill. From horticulture to crafts, we are committed to creating a new type of historic experience. We are delighted to welcome Lizzie to West Horsley Place and I want to give our collective thanks to WRAGS for this support.”

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