It’s been quite a journey

Chris Drew, Gardener and Groundskeeper

Just over 3 years ago I left my office job and started a new career at Clayhill Arts. I had no experience of looking after acres of land and gardens, but the appeal of working outside in such amazing surroundings has always been there for me. Gardening and land management is new to me, so is writing a blog, so I’m going to ease myself slowly into this new world with an entry that brings you up to date with what I have done over the last few years. I won’t be going into great detail as it will take quite a while but here is the story so far….

When I started

The main buildings at Clayhill were almost complete, but the land around it had a lot of work to be done on it. There were several large areas that needed the most attention. These were the pond, woodland and space closest to the Granary and studio.

Around the Studio and Granary were sections of bare soil that needed to be sown with grass seed so this was one of the first big jobs. “Learning by doing” is definitely a phrase that applied to this, and pretty much all the jobs I have done at Clayhill for that matter!

It was a very hot August bank holiday weekend, and as you can see from some of the photos it was a very large area to walk around spreading grass seed! It turned out very well though. We even sowed some wildflowers which have turned out ok too. Although these need a bit more work to get them established as much as we would like, it’s made a very good start.

The Pond

This is one of my favourite areas at Clayhill. To have a large body of water on your property is amazing for wildlife.  The space around the pond and the edge had become very overgrown so a lot of clearing had to be done as well as removing some very large branches that had fallen into the pond.

There were a couple of very mucky days (as you can see from the video of me and Deborah getting stuck in the mud around the edges of the pond below!) One of the main objectives with the grounds is to keep it more natural, we don’t want it to be too manicured and formal, we don’t think it would look right in the location.  It was very satisfying clearing around the pond. Very tiring but great fun!

The Woodland

Tidying the woodland has been the other very tough job. This was very overgrown. I clearly remember the first time I looked around the grounds at Clayhill. Deborah and I went for a walk from one end of the woodland to the other. This turned into a bit of an expedition where we should of had machetes and rations to get through it!


It was fair to say I had a lot of work to do here. Clearing the woodland was definitely the biggest job I’ve had to do. Creating a path through so that it could be enjoyed, with the added benefit of bringing light back to some areas of the floors.

So, what’s next?

Well, that’s a quick run through of the first few years for me at Clayhill. There have been many other jobs in between this and I will go into some of these in future posts. This doesn’t seem like much now that I’ve written it down but hopefully you get a sense of the space and the size of the areas that needed work and how many there are to work through in an ongoing basis.

Of all the lessons I have learnt while doing this work is that these jobs always take longer than I expected. But I have loved every minute of it so far.

As this year comes to a close, we are planning for our winter jobs and sowing for spring. There are blubs to plant and wildlife areas to develop, ready for our course programme next year.

See what’s been happening recently over on instagram


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