A NATIONAL Trust ranger is preparing for a well-earned retirement after 33 years caring for three Warwickshire treasures.
Mark Watkins joined the National Trust at Baddesley Clinton in 1985 as a single handed craftsman, caring for the gardens of the 15th century estate.
He began his career with the charity at the age of 28 and later became gardener in charge, park and gardens manager and finally area ranger from 2015, working across Packwood and Coughton Court as well as Baddesley Clinton.
When Mark set out on his career, after studying an apprenticeship at a nursery in Shirley followed by a horticultural diploma, he was the only full time member of staff caring for the gardens at Baddesley.
Twenty years ago he recruited his first volunteer gardener and the team continued to grow to around 40 staff and volunteers by the time he took up his role as area ranger.
During Mark’s three decades at Baddesley he has been responsible for huge changes to the gardens, many of which visitors continue to enjoy today.
The lakeside walk was installed which included re-setting pathways and putting weirs and sluices in the lake. Flower beds were later introduced into the walled garden, including the stunning dahlia border, and the vegetable garden became a fruitful enterprise, providing the restaurant with home grown produce for years.
Mark’s proudest achievement is the partnership he developed with Natural England who have part funded many projects at both Baddesley and Packwood. Most notably the new land, bought in 2010, which doubled the estate surrounding Baddesley which has opened up new walking routes and ensured the care and development of the surrounding landscape.
In 2015, Mark took on a new challenge and became the first area ranger. He built up a team of eight volunteers who now work across the three historic houses helping with tree planting, hedge laying and putting natural play areas in the parkland.
The Treason Trail at Coughton and the new Woodland Animal Trail at Baddesley have both been built from scratch by Mark and his volunteer team and are enjoyed by families throughout the year.
General manager Stephen Spinks said: “In the years since 1985 Mark has overseen many changes in the gardens at Baddesley and the wider parkland at Coughton and Packwood.
“He has amassed a wealth of expertise, skills, and experience and has been a dedicated member of the team for over three decades.
“All the teams at Baddesley, Coughton and Packwood wish Mark every success for the future and want to thank him for all the years of dedication and care that he has put into the gardens and parkland of these beautiful properties.”