Welsh college and railway partnership is on track for awards success

THE partnership between Coleg Cambria and a world-famous heritage railway is on track for awards success.

Learners from the college were studying for a Level 2 City and Guilds Work-Based Diploma in Horticulture on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways Heritage Skills Training Programme before the Coronavirus pandemic cut short their placements.

Katherine Martin and Kieran Chell hope to return later this year to complete the qualification – supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund – but in the meantime are celebrating the project being shortlisted in the Museums and Heritage Awards category of the prestigious Learning Programme of the Year Award.

The collaboration between the railway and the north east Wales institution has seen the trainees learning traditional gardening methods to design, plan, landscape and plant-out gardens, seasonal displays and maintain an extensive variety of beds.

Their efforts have contributed enormously to the upkeep of the beautiful station gardens, much to the delight of visitors.

Nigel Smith, a Horticulture Assessor for Cambria and Technical External Verifier for City and Guilds, said the initiative is focused on rekindling these crafts for future generations.

“Stations in this region and across the UK used to be well known for beautiful floral displays that would welcome visitors and give communities great pride,” he said.

“This partnership is about bringing back some of the techniques used in the past, but also about ownership and learning skills they can take forward into future careers in the gardening and landscaping industry.”

Nigel added: “They have a glass house they can work from and have learnt to grow the plants themselves from seeds and from cuttings, to introduce them to the gardens.

“It’s made a real difference, they have really come alive and will begin a legacy that will help transform the area, as well as seeing this nationally-recognised qualification go from strength to strength.

“The award nomination reflects that; it came out of the blue and is absolutely fantastic, so well done to the learners and all of the team at Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways.”

The Ffestiniog section of the network is the world’s oldest narrow-gauge railway, stretching more than 13 miles from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Altogether, Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways covers more than 40 miles and 22 stations.

Heritage Training Programme Manager Kaz Spring said the foundations are now in place for further partnership working in the years ahead.

“Kieran and Katherine did a terrific job, and although we had to cut short the placement due to COVID-19 I’m confident they will be able to come back and finish what they started,” she said.

“Due to the differing landscapes of all the stations across the railway, the training has required a great deal of planning and coordinating and the trainees have played a big part in this.

“We have all manner of gardens, flowers and plants depending on the station’s environment, so it has been great experience for them and developed their skills for the future.

“This has been a challenging year, but news of being shortlisted for the award has given everyone a boost.

“We have put our hearts and souls into this project – which on a wider scale also includes engineering, joinery and interpretation – and the company is very passionate about making a difference, so it’s heartening to have reached this stage in the proceedings.”

The Museums and Heritage Awards will take place virtually this September.

Visit www.cambria.ac.uk for the latest on the wide range of courses and qualifications available at Coleg Cambria.

For more on Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, visit www.festrail.co.uk