A career launched at Cotehele

Garden volunteer pushing a wheelbarrow at Cotehele, Cornwall

Long-term volunteers are vital to the garden at Cotehele. They're able to tackle garden projects and add a different dimension to the team. We caught up with last year’s volunteer, who has landed a job as a gardener in Italy.

It was a lucky day for all concerned when Nicolas Pueppke answered an advert to join our gardening team as a long-term volunteer.

Last autumn the 28-year-old from the US came to us passionate about gardening and eager to learn more.

Change of heart

Nicolas had trained as a civil engineer but says he had a change of heart and realised if he wanted to get a job as a gardener he would need more experience.

He’s now gainfully employed as a gardener in Italy, having learned everything from pruning apple trees to creating manicured hedges from Head Gardener Dave Bouch and his team.

He’s also succeeded in passing his Royal Horticultural Society exams with flying colours.

‘At Cotehele I was a full-time volunteer,' explains Nicolas.

‘What’s  unique about that is that you are there every day, so there’s that continuity and they teach you masses of things as you go along.’

Nicolas, far left, in the orchard at Cotehele
Gang of garden volunteers with bags of apples on a wagon at Cotehele, Cornwall
Nicolas, far left, in the orchard at Cotehele

Coming to Cotehele

When he arrived here, one of the first things Nicolas got involved with was Apple Weekend in the orchards.

‘I was surprised by how much I enjoyed working with the public, because I didn’t have that much experience of that,’ he says. ‘It was nice, though, because you can show people what you are doing and that means you want to do a good job.’

Exploring after hours

He stayed in Vacation Point, a cottage reserved for long-term volunteers close to the Tudor house nestled above the river Tamar.

‘It was nice being able to walk around the estate when nobody else was around,’ he says.

‘You get to know the secret places that members of the public perhaps don’t know about.’

Nicolas, second from left, carries garland flowers with the team at Cotehele
Garden team carrying boxes of garland flowers at Cotehele, Cornwall
Nicolas, second from left, carries garland flowers with the team at Cotehele

A path into a career

Now working as a gardener near Turin in northern Italy, Nicolas says his time at Cotehele confirmed that horticulture was the career for him.

‘It was better, in fact, than I expected it to be,’ he says. ‘I was able to do a bit of everything.

I was often given responsibility to show volunteers how to do things. I really enjoyed that.’

A benefit for Cotehele

Head Gardener Dave Bouch says his team gets as much from the person as the person gets from Cotehele.

‘Nicolas was a huge asset. He was a fast learner and a really hard worker, plus it’s always good to have some new energy in the team,’ he says. ‘We get a real buzz out of teaching someone how to prune an apple tree or a rose, so it improves the job satisfaction from our point of view too.’