Meet the first recruits in the 'dream team' helping to deliver the Stanmer Park Restoration Project.
The £5.1 million project is being funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Community Fund, Brighton & Hove City Council, Plumpton College and South Downs National Park Authority.
Work, being carried out by Buxton Building Contractors Ltd, began in June last year and is due to be completed by August.
Brighton & Hove City Council has appointed the Estate Manager Rob Dumbrill and Estate Ranger Will Furze.
The pair will be responsible for delivering the Stanmer activity plan with its volunteering opportunities, managing the estate and park areas, delivering the woodland management plan and setting the future direction of the park with the city’s councillors.
Estate Manager Rob, who started as an apprentice gardener with Lewes District Council, has worked on horticultural and heritage projects for the last 28 years.
Rob said: “I’m looking forward to seeing Stanmer Estate evolve over the coming months to look even more beautiful and cared for.
"We’re excited about encouraging more people to visit the park and discover what an interesting and important place Stanmer is, both locally and nationally.”
Estate Ranger Will has worked for Brighton & Hove City Council for more than ten years managing a wide variety of sites, from chalk downland through to urban parks.
He said: “I enjoy the woodland management work we carry out with volunteers, particularly the hazel coppicing work. I’m really excited about encouraging more volunteers to join us and actively engage with the estate.”
The next few weeks will see Will working with volunteers to clear overgrown vegetation within Stanmer Churchyard to enhance the view of the Church from the drive and the green.
He’ll also be attending community meetings in Moulsecoomb and Coldean to promote Stanmer and encourage people to join the Friends of Stanmer Park group.
Walled garden takes shape
The Walled Garden, which is being leased to Plumpton College, was formerly Stanmer House’s kitchen garden and more recently used as the city council’s plant nursery.
The project will see the area transformed into an attractive expertly designed garden with a new café, retail space and opportunities for horticultural teaching, learning and volunteering.
Peter Wood, Senior Gardener and Lydia Samuel, Learning Outreach Officer have been appointed by Plumpton College. Peter will be responsible for managing the preparation of the garden to be reopened to the public later this summer.
Previously working as an estate gardener at Borde Hill Garden in West Sussex, he brings a passion and extensive knowledge of working in a historic garden setting.
Peter said: “Having studied horticulture at the Plumpton College Stanmer Campus, this feels like a home-coming for me. I have followed the walled garden restoration project closely since it was first proposed and known from the outset that I wanted to be a part of it.
“I am passionate about breathing life back into a forgotten part of Brighton’s history. The garden promises to bring something for everyone; a place for plant lovers, a place to inspire, a space for families, one garden for all.”
Lydia will be helping to connect more of the local community with Stanmer Park, and in particular the Walled Garden, hosting community groups, school visits and tours.
She said: “I am very excited to be part of this project which combines my passion for dynamic, hands on learning and engaging people of all ages with my love of gardening, nature and history.
“I have two decades of experience in primary education. I have taught children about the wonders of nature, wildlife, diversity and biology, alongside every other aspect of primary science teaching and other areas of the curriculum.
"In addition, I co-founded and ran a successful children’s science company which offered school shows and workshops plus corporate events. I’m excited to engage and inspire volunteers and visitors from the local community, within the beautiful setting of the restored Walled Garden.”
Apprentices Hannah Maplesden and Kate Nannery will be a core part of the garden team with Peter, demonstrating the strong connection between education and career development within horticulture.
Kate said: “After a five year career in marketing and writing specialising in the interior design and architecture industry, I was in search of a career change to encompass my love for green spaces and the outdoors. I’m looking forward to working in a public garden where I can continue to develop my career, working to a very high standard.”
Hannah said: “I made a bit of a career jump into horticulture. Up until now, I had been working in molecular biology in Southampton. During my time in Southampton, I was part
of a local community farm.
"Working on the farm growing vegetables for all the stakeholders made me decide that working outdoors looking after plants is not only fun, but very rewarding. I am originally from Brighton and have spent many a summer afternoon wandering around the park or cycling in the Great Wood above.
"I am incredibly happy to see that the walled garden is having an extreme makeover. I cannot wait to finish the planting for the new garden, I am especially looking forward to seeing the 'plot to plate' area finished and inspiring more people to grow their own.”
These roles are critical to ensure that the park and walled garden are restored in a way that protects and celebrates the heritage of the park as a space for the local community and visitors to the area can enjoy, while showcasing the local nature landscape and promoting opportunities for people to share in its wider future and protection.