When he was seventeen years old Paul started a course in horticulture at Capel Manor College, which changed his life. The lecturers were supportive and gave him the emotional space to grow and learn within an educational framework. Paul was surprised to find himself at the top of the class, but this made him realise that he was capable of almost anything if he worked hard.
Looking back at his school years Paul knows that he could have tried harder, but his successes were rarely recognised. He liked drama, woodwork and biology and he wanted to be an actor like his uncle. Prompted by his uncle’s question – ‘what are you going to do when you’re not acting?’ – his father’s suggestion to get a trade and his mother’s discovery of an article on Capel Manor College in the local paper; Paul found himself studying horticulture.
After college Paul went on to secure one degree, two Masters, and two diplomas in related subjects including amenity horticulture, landscape architecture and spatial design at UCL. He was able to maximise his work by ensuring he never stayed in academia for more than two consecutive years. This meant going back into employment after the second year of his first degree and graduating a year later than other students.
‘Whilst they finished their degree before me, I believe I became a more rounded and employable individual because of my work/study balance.’
Paul’s career has taken him to Israel, Morocco, Lithuania, China and Jamaica where he has lectured with academic institutes and local authorities. He worked for six years as a landscape and urban design advisor for London Mayors Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson and for almost a decade he has advised the National Trust regarding the development of their parks and gardens.
Recently Paul returned to Capel Manor College to become a Governor, which he counts as one of his most rewarding and challenging roles.
‘It remains my personal ambition to improve careers advice in schools and to help more young people enter the land-based sector.
‘Working creatively with nature and people is truly rewarding. I feel privileged to be a practitioner within this dynamic profession. The land-based sector has something for everyone. Even after 25 years of growth I am still finding fulfilment in my career.’