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A Royal Parks' apprentice has had his contribution to horticulture within Richmond Park, which he helped to prepare for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee tour visit, recognised at an award ceremony.

Royal Parks Apprentice and Fountains employee Robert Kirkham, 19 years and from Twickenham, was awarded The Royal Parks Guild First Year Apprentice Award. A natural horticulturalist and brilliant ambassador for The Royal Parks Apprenticeship Scheme, Robert ensured that the union flag flower bed at Poet's Corner and the cyclist bed at Pembroke Lodge were planted up in time for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Road Race, which passed through the park this summer.

During his first year, Robert has more than honoured his commitments, taking on extra responsibilities like helping to stage exhibits at this summer's British Iris Society Summer Show, where Pembroke Lodge Gardens in Richmond Park, which has more than 60 varieties of Bearded Iris, brought home seven firsts, seven seconds, three thirds and Best Tall Bearded Iris in Show, awarded to the variety 'Olympiad'. Robert made sure the plants were delicately delivered and delightfully displayed.

Robert Kirkham, and the other graduating apprentices whose three year programme combines work place training in one of London's eight Royal Parks with study at Capel Manor Horticultural College, were presented with their awards on Friday 28 September at the Garden Museum by The Royal Parks' Chief Executive Linda Lennon CBE.

The judges were impressed with Robert's botanical knowledge and conscientious approach to preserving the environment in a Royal Park which is visited by more than 2 million people every year, for the enjoyment of future generations.

Linda Lennon CBE, Chief Executive of The Royal Parks, said:

"I am extremely impressed with the calibre of all The Royal Parks' apprentices who are shining ambassadors for the horticulture industry and do such excellent work protecting, preserving and enhancing our 5,000 acres of historic parkland, right here in the heart of London."

The Royal Parks Apprenticeship Scheme, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, has been running since 1962 and in 2008 won the Horticulture Week award for the Most Outstanding Commitment to Training. More than 20 apprentices past and present, The Royal Parks, The Royal Parks Guild, Capel Manor and Landscape Maintenance Contractors attended the graduation event.

The scheme - a partnership between The Royal Parks, its landscape maintenance contractors (Enterprise, Fountains, Turfsoil and Veolia) and Capel Manor College - is designed to provide industry led training, equipping apprentices for a wide range of careers in horticulture and open space management, which may include: park management, supervision, contract management, consultancy and local authority positions.

From this autumn apprentices will be able to benefit from the new style flexible apprenticeship which gives them up to five years in which to complete the programme at their own pace. The programme is run by The Royal Parks in conjunction with Capel Manor College and The Royal Parks landscape maintenance contractors and is supported by The Royal Parks Guild.

How it works

Apprentices are employed by one of The Royal Parks' landscape maintenance contractors - currently Fountains, Veolia plc, Enterprise plc and Turfsoil Ltd - in one of the Royal Parks.

The apprentices will:

o Spend 4 days per week working and learning landscape and horticultural techniques.
o Spend 1 day per week in the classroom.
o Be trained on all aspects of plant maintenance, cultivation and landscape development.
o Learn about pest control through chemical, biological and cultural methods, operation and maintenance of a wide range of machinery, and soil science.

How to apply

To apply, candidates should visit The Royal Parks' website where they will find details of The Royal Parks' landscape maintenance contractors.

Candidates should apply direct to the contractors providing their CV and a covering letter.

Royal Parks Apprentice, Robert, said:

"When I first applied to The Royal Parks Apprenticeship Scheme I was a bit daunted about how much there would be to learn. My tutors at Capel Manor and in Richmond Park are really supportive though and the other apprentices are always willing to share their support and experience.

"Getting the bedding displays planted up for the Diamond Jubilee and Olympics ready to wow visitors this summer has really built up my confidence and I've learned I'm a dab hand at fixing the lawn mower too!"

Ruth Holmes, The Royal Parks' Head of Landscape, said:

"At a time when the employment market is fiercely competitive, The Royal Parks is extremely proud to be offering young people high quality horticultural training, which will enable them to enter a wide range of careers and be future experts in their field.

"The Royal Parks has a long and proud history of horticulture, which was on show to the world during the Diamond Jubilee and London 2012 Games when our specially commissioned floral crown sat in St James's Park to mark Her Majesty The Queen's sixty year reign. The apprenticeship scheme is enabling a new generation to carry the mantle of this beautiful tradition."

About The Royal Parks:
Almost 40 million Londoners and tourists visit the eight Royal Parks each year. The 5,000 acres of historic parkland provide unparalleled opportunities for enjoyment, exploration and healthy living in the heart of London. The Royal Parks played a key role in Great Britain's busy summer, hosting a number of Diamond Jubilee celebratory events as well as eleven London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic events.

The Royal Parks are: Bushy Park, The Green Park, Greenwich Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, The Regent's Park and Primrose Hill, Richmond Park and St James's Park. The Royal Parks also manages Victoria Tower Gardens, Brompton Cemetery, Grosvenor Square Gardens and the gardens of 10, 11 and 12 Downing Street.

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