An agricultural college since 1946, Lackham is now a unique part of Wiltshire College & University Centre. From the courgettes in the walled garden to the lemurs and racoon dogs, the herd of cows on Home Farm to Phil the Pheasant, Lackham is full of life. And unlike its fellow campuses in Trowbridge, Chippenham and Salisbury, Lackham never sleeps.
Alongside the teaching staff, the house, grounds, farm and diverse facilities are constantly tended by a team of hard-working, dedicated people who love Lackham – some of them even living on site.
This summer, we will be showcasing the people who keep Lackham going through rain and shine, in the cold winter months and in the long, quiet summer when (almost) all the students are gone.
First up are two members of the gardens team - Terry and Ollie. From totally different backgrounds, Terry and Ollie both work at Lackham year-round. Their team are responsible for everything from the sports turfs to the ornamental lawns in front of Lackham House, the trees in the woodland area to the walled gardens and greenhouses.
Terry is the leader of the Gardens team. A Londoner born and bred, he has a wealth of experience working in high-profile gardens.
Starting out as an apprentice at Dulwich College, Terry has since worked for the National Trust, Hampton Court Palace and most recently at the Trinity Hospice in North London where he was the head gardener.
At Trinity Hospice, Terry designed and managed an ornamental therapy garden for patients, helping to generate funding and raise the profile of the hospice.
Leaving London for the country life in Wiltshire, Terry says he was drawn back to his roots at Lackham.
“It’s important that horticultural colleges are supported”, he told us.
With 20 years of privatisation hitting hard on the gardening profession, a rise of cowboy-gardeners needs combatting and Terry believes increasing the knowledge and standards of training in the horticultural profession is vital.
Lackham is the perfect place for this; its richly diverse resources and environments provide students with the opportunity to identify what they are drawn to, and develop a strong, varied skillset for employment.
Ollie, on the other hand, is an apprentice. Both the learning and working aspects of his apprenticeship are being fulfilled by Wiltshire College & University Centre. He lives in a house at Lackham and works there full-time.
Unlike Terry, Ollie does not come from a horticultural background.
Starting out as an art student at Bournemouth University, Ollie then worked as a self-employed artist specialising in sculpture. This is a talent and passion he hasn’t left behind, and most recently Ollie was a judge in the Chippenham Borough Lands Charity drawing competition, choosing between 255 entries from 11 schools in the area to be transformed into a wooden sculpture by himself.
“I had to Google what ‘horticulture’ meant when I saw the job ad”, Ollie confesses. However, drawn by the people and the incredible environment, Ollie said: “I’m lucky to be here. This job has been life-changing, and helped me to appreciate the finer details of horticulture.
“Everything is connected, and horticulture isn’t just about high-impact work but about the ‘nitty-gritty’”, as he puts it.
“It’s about considering how the environment is kept in ‘balance’, and how wildlife are affected as well as how the plants look.”
We asked them both what their favourite plant was. Ollie said it changes seasonally, but at the moment it would have to be the Catalpa bignoniodes, or ‘Indian bean tree’, a beautiful flowering tree that sits on the Yew path at Lackham.
Terry, on the other hand, went for the Solanum lycopersicum, known to you and I as the tomato plant. "It has a special place in my heart", Terry tells us. Introduced to gardening as a child, Terry’s mother grew tomatoes and showed him how to plant, care for and harvest them.
By Fran D'Argenio