Steve of the tall trees

Thursday, 25 June 2015
Steve of the tall trees

Year 13 student, Alex Brammer talks to Steve Turner, Grounds Manager, about taking care of Worth’s amazing estate and amenities…

At Worth, our grounds are the focus of many of the School magazines’ front covers, but we should spare a thought for the hard work that goes into their maintenance. This is the important duty of dedicated Grounds Manager, Steve Turner, who has worked at the School since 1995.

His is a dedication largely born of a lifelong love for trees; “They’re not just like any other plant,” he muses, “It’s the way they react to wounds, fungi and general damage that really interests me. When I go out to a public park and see a dead tree, I’m usually at the bottom of it trying to work out how it died, so I suppose you could say that I bring my work home with me!” This love finds a focus in Worth’s tall trees, such as a vast Austrian pine by Gervase House which is his pride and joy. “In 1998 it was a county champion; the last time it was measured accurately was in 2004 and it was 33 metres tall. It’s in extremely good shape.”

However, in recent years Steve has moved away a little from the outside and into the office. “One of my main duties is managing contractors but I’m also the contact person for anyone with an issue about the grounds and gardens. In a typical day, I could go from dealing with a mole problem to landscaping to ordering Christmas trees. The work is a little more physical in the winter, especially with salting and snow clearing.”

The School uses external contractors Nurture Landscapes, to help with grass cutting, gardening, hedges, hard surfaces, roadways and some pitch preparation. Contractors may also occasionally be used for specialist jobs as well, such as scanning the inside of trees for signs of decay. “We couldn’t do without the contractors,” says Steve, “but sometimes it feels like I’m running a small business rather than being a grounds manager!”

One of the things Steve is most proud of in recent years is the planting he designed and executed around St Bede’s and St Mary’s. Next in the pipeline is a planting scheme to finish off the gardens around Gervase House, introducing a few smaller trees “to provide a gradient, feathering it in so that the building feels a little more naturally placed”.

However, the job doesn’t always provide immediate gratification, because the greatest satisfaction comes from patience and seeing plants grow over a period of years. “St Bede’s is going to look at its best in another three years,” reckons Steve.

“The bio-diversity in just the small area around St Bede’s is amazing. There are bluebells, primroses, wood anemones, green woodpeckers, deer and rabbits, just for starters, and we think we’ve found another natural spring.”

Other than his main duties, Steve also has a couple of personal projects. He takes great pride in looking after the 1st XI cricket pitch and also in looking after some wild green winged orchids at the side of Mallus Avenue that appeared one year when the snow couldn’t be cleared in time. “These beautiful purple orchids flowered that year only because they weren’t mown as they usually were, so they had the opportunity to bloom. Ever since then, they’ve been my own little pet project. It’s good that I’m able to leave my mark on the School.” I’m sure we’d all agree with that.

This feature appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of Insight magazine.

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