Snapshot of life working as Holkham’s head gardener
PUBLISHED: 14:27 15 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:36 15 March 2019
Holkham Hall’s head gardener has shared his memories of working at the Norfolk stately home as he prepares to move on.
Dene Wood, 39, is in charge of a team of nine faced with the mammoth task of overseeing 3,000 acres of parkland and formal gardens at the magnificent visitor attraction.
His real passion is growing produce in the six-acre walled garden – and apparently the Jerusalem artichokes are a firm favourite with the hall’s owner, Thomas Coke. the 8th Earl of Leicester.
“I’m a veg man, I love growing food,” said Dene, who comes from Rotherham. “I have loved growing food and taking it up to the hall. Lord Leicester really likes Jerusalem artichokes, and I’m sure he’s happy to feed esteemed guests with the produce I have grown. He also likes the tops of broad beans, the leaf part.”
Married with a son, Dene is leaving Holkham to go to a Clumber Park, a National Trust country park in Nottinghamshire to be closer to relatives.
But while working at Holkham Hall, he’s captured images throughout the seasons.
He actually came into gardening later in life, aged 30, originally studying IT. “I got disillusioned with working behind a desk all the time and like many other people, wanted a simpler life,” he said.
So in his spare time he studied to take his RHS, Royal Horticultural Society, diplomas and was lucky to get on to a Lottery funded scheme to train at Chatsworth House, a stately home in Derbyshire.
“It was a real baptism of fire, I’d only managed an allotment and done some grass cutting for the council,” he said. From there he was lucky to be asked to apply for the job at Holkham Hall.
“I did think ‘wow it’s big’ when I arrived at Holkham,” he said. He believes organisation has been the key and a good team, boosted by volunteers, which he has helped increase in numbers to more than 60.
And he really does mow the lawns. “We have a ride on mower which is 2.5ms wide, it’s our biggest but we also have really small ones for edgings. We mow 20 linear miles on the ride-on mower and then have 28.5 square miles of big lawns and 6.5 square miles of lawns which need a pedestrian mower.
“We also need to look at lawn care so we have scarifiers, aerators, rollers, rotivators and even a mini digger.”
He’s also been instrumental in a ‘mass planting’ of 1,000 blue geraniums at the hall and involved in plans to refurbish a historic building to link the current vinery and walled garden. “I’m proud of what I’ve set in motion,” he said.