A gardening job to grow into

TENDING to 200 acres of land is not your average gardening job - especially for a trainee.

But a new scheme is giving young people in the Lothians the chance to do exactly that.

Volunteers are being sought to help maintain and carry out renovation projects in Inveresk Lodge Garden near Musselburgh and the House of the Binns in Linlithgow.

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The scheme has been launched by the National Trust for Scotland, which runs both properties, in a bid to transform the dreary image of gardening among young people.

At the huge House of the Binns estate, volunteers are set to be recruited to begin work on a massive renovation project throughout the estate under the auspices of its resident, former MP Tam Dalyell.

The veteran politician wants the estate's walled garden, which has been left derelict for decades, restored to the glory of his childhood.

And overgrown nettles desperately need to be cleared from the otherwise spectacular woodland walks.

His wife Kathleen, property manager of the estate, said that a new network of paths is planned to improve access.

She added: "We would be very grateful for any help since there is a lot needing done in the garden.

"It is far too much for our one gardener to attend to, just in terms of the general upkeep of the estate, so there would be plenty for any volunteer to do. It would also be great for the youngster both in terms of getting a job and also having training."

The placements are aimed at 16-25-year-olds who will be paid a weekly allowance of 55.

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They can last up to a year and will include a wide variety of training.

Bennedict Lyte, gardening expert at the National Trust for Scotland, said: "The volunteers can expect to benefit from a vast improvement of their knowledge.

"These gardens are among the finest in the country and you could certainly do a lot worse than start your career at one of them."

At Inveresk, near Musselburgh, volunteers will tend to a colourful collection of plants not held anywhere else in Scotland.

Inveresk holds the national collection of tropaeolum, a species of intensely bright flowers.

The native of South America is notoriously difficult to maintain and gardeners require special training to look after it properly.

They will also be given the chance to prune the extremely rare Carpenteria, an evergreen shrub from California.

Organisers say that if the volunteers show promise, they will be given entire areas of the gardens to look after themselves.

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Violet Dalton, head of volunteering at the National Trust for Scotland, said: "They'll be learning all aspects of working in a historic garden. Gardening is something that young people simply aren't drawn to. There is an image of gardening as boring, hard work but these placements aim to dispel that myth"

The National Trust has teamed up with community work agency ProjectScotland in a bid to overcome a severe skills gap in gardening throughout the country.

Kate Mavor of ProjectScotland said: "The opportunities provided by NTS offer young people the chance to enhance their skills whilst giving something back to their local community."