Making the Grade with RHS Courses

Registered charity the Sheltered Work Opportunities Project (SWOP) delivers Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) accredited training in partnership with Kingston Maurward College and Cherry Tree Nursery – a charity based on horticulture providing meaningful occupation in a supportive environment, aiming to restore wellbeing to people with mental illness.

Cherry Tree Nursery is hosting the first intake of students for the RHS Level 1 Award in Practical Horticulture. Since March, six volunteers have been meeting once a week to work on a range of gardening tasks. As well as developing their horticultural knowledge, the course is helping to increase their self-confidence in a familiar, comfortable and fun environment.

Course tutor Helen Marshall said: “There’s a very strong bond within the group, everyone is so supportive and there are a lot of laughs along the way.”

The course will be delivered over 15 months finishing in May 2019. It covers topics including plant identification, propagation, soil testing and plant establishment and all aspects of the training are formally assessed.

Helen said: “The assessments are a real test for everyone; it can be an anxious time at the start but afterwards there is always a feeling of relief and a great sense of achievement.”

SWOP is delighted to have teamed up with Kingston Maurward College to become their first satellite centre for RHS training. The RHS Level 1 is offering an accredited qualification that can give real opportunity for further study and future employment.

“I am so pleased we have been able to introduce the course to Cherry Tree,” said Helen, “this is a recognised qualification within the industry – a tangible achievement that can help people move forward.”

The course is open to volunteers from both Chestnut and Cherry Tree nurseries. A second intake is planned from the beginning of September.

What the students say …

“Highlight of my week”

“Gives me the belief that I can still learn”

“Has helped a lot to improve my mental health”

“Gives me a sense of belonging and new friendships made”

“I’ve learned a lot”

“It’s a positive distraction!”

For further information on horticultural training, visit or

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