The Duke of Devonshire appealed for more young people to pick up their trowels and get into gardening when he opened a Shirebrook school’s new horticulture and Sixth Form centre.
The Duke told an invited crowd of around 50 people how gardening was not only an enjoyable way to learn more about the world around us, but that it was a gateway to dozens of different careers.
He made his speech at a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on Tuesday (April 28) at Shirebrook Academy’s Pine Cone Development, which is a purpose-built complex of four wood-clad buildings built on the school’s former site following its relocation to a new £27m building close by.
It is used by students who attend the Aspire Sixth Form College and also acts as a horticulture centre for younger pupils, who will go there to plant, harvest and cook vegetables in order to learn about where the food on our plate comes from.
During his visit, the Duke was given a guided tour of the development, including a number of raised beds, an on-site observatory, study rooms and the Devonshire Gardens, where students have planted around 80 trees and sowed grass seed.
He was also called upon to do some planting himself, helping students to transfer a banana plant into a bigger pot.
Fittingly, the plant was a Cavendish banana plant, which was named after the William Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, whose gardener, Sir Joseph Paxton, cultivated them in the greenhouses at Chatsworth House from 1834 onwards.
The Duke said: “This project is something very special and it is very appropriate that it is up on a hill, where people can look up at horticulture and gardening.
“Gardening is not as highly respected as it should be these days, although things are better than they used to be and are getting better. It can give you an entry point into so many skills and so many careers start through gardening, simply by putting something into the earth and studying it as it grows.
“Those of you who use the centre will learn what grows best where and you should use this opportunity to learn as much as you can. That way, you will probably never forget the interest in gardening that started here with studying horticulture.”
Andy Gilbert, vice principal at Shirebrook Academy, said that creating the centre had involved a lot of hard work, as well as a number of generous donations from companies including Lloyds TSB and Gordon Lamb Toyota in Chesterfield.
He said: “There are many people for us to thank, especially the site team and our pupils who have worked so hard to create something that looks absolutely fantastic and will serve us well for many years to come.”