Thursday, May 3, 2007

Scholarship to develop woodland craftsmanship

AN organic smallholder has won a £2,500 scholarship which will help him develop his hurdle making, hedge laying and woodland management skills

Simon Saggers (pictured, right), from Bassingbourn, near Royston, Cambridgeshire, will receive the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship from The Lord Chamberlain, Earl Peel, at the Royal Warrant Holders’ annual lunch in London in June.

With the award, Simon will be able to offer customers a traditional range of winter woodland services from his Guilden Gate smallholding.

The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) was endowed by the Royal Warrant Holders Association to advance education in modern and traditional crafts and trades in the UK.

Scholarships, open to men and women of all ages, are awarded twice a year.

Since 1991, the trust has made cash awards worth over £1million to 167 craftsmen and women to develop their skills. This spring, seven awards were made totalling £42,500.

Simon, 38, grew up in Bassingbourn, where his family have farmed since the 1600s. When his father retired, Simon set up the Guilden Gate smallholding on five acres of the farm.

“Since 1999 I have created a mixture of vegetable and herb fields, new hedges, an orchard, wildflower meadow, and coppice woodland,” he said.

“I have built greenhouses, soft fruit cages, multi-use barns and an environmentally-sensitive cottage.

“Our wind turbine and solar panel ensure we generate more energy on site than we consume. The holding is off mains water and sewerage, so bills are reduced.

“Generally we have been working to re-establish the type of smallholding that used to be a part of life in every village, but that has sadly all but disappeared in south Cambridgeshire.”

Guilden Gate’s main business is producing a range of products for their popular vegetable box scheme. The farm produces fruit, vegetables, herbs, eggs, honey and woodland products, including willow hurdles.

“Each day is different and I have to try and be a horticulturalist, woodsman, retailer and marketer, landscape gardener, builder, plumber, food packer, electric and water services engineer all rolled into one,” he said.

Winning a QEST Scholarship means Simon can take courses to give him a grounding in the ancient craft of hurdle making and provide new winter skills to complement his ‘summer’ smallholding and horticultural skills. Hurdles are increasingly popular alternatives to mass-produced fencing and screening.

Also, after completing a basic chainsaw course, Simon will have three weeks ‘on the job’ hedge laying tuition with experts so he can embark on his own hedge-laying work.

He is convinced that interest in hedge-laying and hurdle-making will continue to grow.

He hopes to be able to explore other woodland management opportunities as Guilden Gate woodland matures.

QEST trustees look projects which contribute to the pool of talent in the UK and reflect the excellence of British craftsmanship as symbolised by the Royal Warrant of Appointment.

Application forms for scholarships (closing date for summer 2007 scholarships: June 8, 2007; for spring 2008 scholarships: January 18, 2008) may be obtained by sending an SAE (50p) to: The Secretary, The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust, No.1 Buckingham Place, London SW1E 6HR. They can also be downloaded from

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