RHS School Gardening Champion of the Year 2015

Martin Billett
Horticulture Lead at The Ridgeway Community School in Farnham, Surrey

About Martin

Formerly a print and design manager for many years, Martin discovered a new role as a Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) Therapist by combining his previous career in communications with his life-long passion for vegetable-growing and his family experienced of raising and caring for his autistic son with challenging behaviour. Previously the school had little involvement in gardening but through Martin’s work, STH has now been embraced across the whole school with fantastic results. The school has gained City and Guilds Approved Centre recognition and so far eight students have gained entry level horticultural qualifications.

Martin has worked tirelessly to deliver streamlined, structured and awe-inspiring activities for the students. He goes into school most weekends to water the plants and seedlings and maintains the garden throughout the school holidays. He is also dedicated to linking the garden with curriculum subjects for example leading sensory sessions that immerse students in the smells and textures of soil, gravel, moss and leaves, all to the accompaniment of a piano or singing voice provided by the school’s music specialist. Martin is the Chair of Farnham in Bloom and has led the school to achieving Level Five in the RHS School Gardening Awards scheme.

Judges’ comments

“Martin is a man who clearly loves every minute of his working life. The joy he brings to other as a result of this shone through. He tailored his lessons according to the needs of his pupil and thus allowed them all to get as much engagement and fulfilment as possible from their time spent with him. And to get a whole range of pupils, from primary age, right through to 19 year olds, engaged in horticulture is a commendable and very impressive achievement. A real bright star of the horticultural world.”

“Martin is an inspirational man who is completely dedicated to bringing excitement and awe to the students and ensuring that every single student has access to gardening in one way or another. His enthusiasm is wonderful and he has shown that there are some wonderfully unique ways to use horticulture as a form of therapy. He truly deserves to be a finalist.”

"I love how Martin started as a volunteer and now is the horticulture leader, making it accessible to all. Using the curriculum links to increase engagement should be an inspiration to other schools."

Martin's entry video

See the profiles of our other finalists:

Peter Edwards

Ann Huggans
Natalie Sacre

The Ridgeway Community School is an RHS Five Star Gardening School.

Work through levels 1 to 5 in our School Gardening Awards and you can gain some fantastic rewards and become an RHS Five Star Gardening School too.

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Winner of the Drum Marketing Awards 2017
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