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Kickstarting the Community Garden: Toby’s Story

21-year-old Toby Ridsdale from Swaby in the Lincolnshire Wolds took time out from working the land to talk about his new Kickstart role as Community Vegetable Gardener at South Ormsby Estate.

“I moved to Swaby in 2012 from Marham in Norfolk,” said Toby. “I’m from an RAF family and I was born in Viersen, Germany, when my parents worked at RAF Brüggen. Some of my work experience was linked to aviation. I learned some first aid at RAF Coningsby’s medical centre. I was also a teaching assistant at Humberside Airport, helping foreign maintenance staff to improve their English.

“A few years ago, I started a zoology degree at the University of Lincoln but I left early due to Covid. I wasn’t keen to get further into debt just to stay at home and watch lectures remotely. I’m still figuring out what I want to do in the long-term. I originally wanted to get into entomology as a career but this last year has made me reconsider my options.

“In my spare time, I’m very into perfumes and fragrances. I have a good nose; I can discern all the subtle notes and I post reviews online. Perfumiers will sometimes send you expensive scents in exchange for a review. If money were no object, I’d treat myself to ‘The Moon’ by Frederick Malle, which retails at £275 for 100ml. Its defining note is raspberry hookah. It’s extravagant and strong and makes me a bit self-conscious when I wear it.

Toby gardening

“The Community Vegetable Gardener role really appealed to me. I’m interested in entomology and I’ve also got green fingers. Gardening is my other hobby and I’m particularly interested in growing chili peppers, particularly the extremely hot Carolina Reaper and an obscure rarity from the Galápagos Islands. Unfortunately, I like spicy food more than it likes me. I’m good at growing these peppers but I’m never sure what to do with them!

“I’ve been doing my new job for about three weeks. I work around the village and across the whole estate. So far, we’ve got two plots ready to go and we’re aiming for 20. We intend to grow potatoes, herbs, fruit trees and much more. The community is fully involved and will bring their own ideas for what we should plant. I’m coordinating our group of volunteers and they’re all hard-working and ready to dig in.

“There’s a lot to learn but the benefit of having a range of volunteers is that you can generally find someone with a bit of specialist knowledge. Some of our volunteers have got fencing skills, while one with a background in design will make our sign. It makes the project self-sufficient. We’ve also got lawn-mowing sorted and I’ve made a herb planter.

“Swaby is a five-minute drive or a 45-minute walk away from the estate. I generally prefer to walk, especially when the sun’s out. I’m enjoying the job and it will be a great way to spend the summer. I consider myself fortunate to have a job right now, particularly when so many skilled and experienced people are looking for work.

“It’s early days yet, but I’d recommend working on the estate. Jobcentre Plus initially told me about the job and I didn’t expect to get it. It was my first proper job interview and I expected the third degree. It turned out to be quite relaxed and laid-back and I got the chance to be myself.”


* Banner image courtesy of Erich Ferdinand via Flickr CC


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