My experience was unique, rewarding and fun. I am so glad I pushed myself to do it.

Second year undergraduate Laurie Pugh (centre) with Head Gardener Mark Dixon (left)
Laurie Pugh
Undergraduate Student
Landscape Architecture, BA
Three weeks volunteering at Sullington Old Rectory immersed Laurie in the experiences of a working gardener and helped her to appreciate the time and persistence it takes to plant the beds she is learning to design.
Check out more of Laurie's images from Sullington Rectory on her Instagram account @landscape.laurie
Check out more of Laurie's images from Sullington Rectory on her Instagram account @landscape.laurie

What attracted you to complete a placement at Sullington Old Rectory?

One of our course tutors circulated an email about the opportunity and I was keen to take part in a unique and exciting experience during summer.

Initially, the potential cost of volunteering put me off, however once I found out that accommodation and a food allowance was included, I had no excuse.

I was particularly attracted to Sullington Old Rectory because it appeared to be so different to anything I'd experienced and to my life back home in a busy city.

How did you organise your placement?

University Teacher Sally O’Halloran supported my interest in the placement and helped me consider a suitable month to visit and volunteer.

We sent a series of emails and cover letter to the Head Gardener and he arranged a Zoom call to talk through questions and outline what I would be doing day to day.

Did you receive any funding to help with your placement?

Yes, a £50 per week food allowance and free accommodation made it possible for me to take this exciting opportunity.

What did a typical day consist of?

A day in the life volunteering at Sullington Old Rectory:

  • 7am - wake up, eat a big breakfast (need lots of fuel for the long day!)
  • 7.50am - walk down the lane to the Old Rectory and meet Mark (Head Gardener) and Rio (his dog)
  • 8am - discuss what we will be doing today, start weeding, whilst looking out for plants on the plant ID test.
  • 11am - coffee break (with a slice of cake that Mark had made the previous night) Plant ID test - go through names, pronunciation, spelling and appearance
  • 11.30am - continue weeding
  • 1pm - lunch
  • 1.30pm - start planting new boarder. Lay down mulch, have a tug of war with Rio the dog (as she's stolen your gardening glove again!), begin sowing seeds.
  • 4pm - take the scraps to the compost heap (on the tractor!)
  • 5pm - working day is over, walk back up the lane towards the cottages.

How do you think your placement has helped you develop as a Landscape Architecture student?

It has fully immersed me into the experiences of a working gardener and has made me appreciate the time and persistence that goes into actually planting the beds we design.

I have learned how important it is to have an open dialogue and mutual respect between Landscape Architect and Gardener, as well as an understanding of each others roles.

Getting to see planting at various stages has been particularly useful and the weekly plant identification tests were an engaging and interactive way of learning plants, trees, shrubs and flowers.

Did you have any worries about the experience? What do you wish that you had known beforehand?

I remember being quite worried about what an average day would look like - and how engaging it would be - so a breakdown of the whole placement, like the day in the life above, would have been really useful to have had.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your experience on placement?

My experience volunteering at Sullington Old Rectory was unique, rewarding, fun, challenging and eye-opening. I am so glad that I pushed myself to just go and do it.

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