When the opportunity for a twelve-month Market Garden Development Officer work placement at the Ecology Centre became available through the New to Nature programme, Ben, 20, jumped at the opportunity. Ben finished school during the Covid-19 pandemic while the UK was in lockdown. Feeling like he had wasted important time in developing his career due to the restrictions in place, he was keen to get going with work experience rather than going back into education. Ben has a keen interest in gardening and lives locally to the Ecology Centre, having visited the site many times since he was a child.
Photo of Ben in a garden centre kneeling down holding a shovel.

Ben aspires to go to university in the future but is happy to be spending time outdoors, learning transferable and practical skills in the green sector, while he figures out what he’d like to study.

Being able to see the impact he is making on the built and natural environment at the Ecology Centre has been really rewarding, as has the sheer variety of the tasks he’s set. Learning to grow food has been of particular interest to him as it will allow him to be self-sustaining and healthier.

Speaking about his placement, Ben said:

“It was unfortunate that lockdown started just as I was about to do my exams. At the start it was like a break but as time went on, I was wanting to get out there and do something. It’s a big change for me – going from being inside to being outside nearly all the time. Not to make a pun, but it’s a breath of fresh air, generally. I’ve noticed my health and fitness is getting better.

“Hopefully by the time that I’m finished, I’ll be able to start my own garden without needing to Google! My end goal is to be able to have a self-sustaining garden so I’m not having to rely so much on the shops and can be eating a lot healthier, knowing where my food comes from.

“I do reckon if the New to Nature placements hadn’t been there, it might have been a lot more difficult just to get a job opening.”

What I’m enjoying most is I’ve not been doing the same thing at any point! Even if I’m planting seeds, it’s been literally a different type of vegetable every single time so far. We made a bean frame from one side of the garden to the other. It’s just putting bits of wood together but even still, it’s satisfying to see every time I come into the garden and go ‘I’ve built that’.

New to Nature is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the celebrations to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the King’s Coronation, delivered through a partnership of Groundwork, The Prince’s Trust, Disability Rights UK, Mission Diverse and the Youth Environmental Service.

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