First written and posted on 24th August, 2012. Please click here if you would like to read the original post on This and That.
If you read my last post then you’ll know I am moving away in a couple of weeks, to start an apprenticeship in horticulture with the Eden Project – my start date is rapidly approaching and I’m getting more and more excited about the whole thing!
Even though I can’t wait to get started I’m also feeling sad about leaving my old job behind – bittersweet is the only way I can describe it.
I’ve worked at Staverton Bridge Nursery since I was fourteen, for the first two years I helped a lady called Muriel, learning about all aspects of horticulture alongside her. She sold the business to her daughter and son-in-law about eighteen months ago who chose to keep me on – since then I’ve been helping them re-vamp the whole site, and watching them work wonders by building a brand new café.
We officially opened last July, this year is the first full season being open – I feel lucky to have witnessed it grow from baby stages to what it has blossomed into. The transition from then to now is amazing! I felt blessed to have any job in the current economical climate, let alone one I thoroughly enjoy.
Steph, Mu’s daughter, looks after the plant side of the nursery and Dan, her husband, is in charge of running the café – I do a mixture of both! If it’s quiet in the café then I will be outside doing all kinds of jobs, from weeding to watering, pruning to planting – there’s never a shortage of things to do where plants are involved!
Or if it’s a busy day inside then I will don an apron and be a waitress/coffee maker/cook – the one thing I can say about my job is there’s no time to be bored!
Although I love the versatility of my job, plants are my passion and nothing compares to being outside with them – I’d do weeding over washing-up every time! There are two huge glasshouses full of plants which are for sale, and two polytunnels which are for growing plants in, until they’re healthy enough to be put on display and sold.
My favourite job to do is re-arrange the plants, “display organisation” I call it. Steph is pretty pedantic about things like that, so for her to trust me enough to do it unsupervised is great! We don’t just have plants for sale in the glasshouses, there are also various bits and bobs like vintage watering cans, troughs, pots, furniture and pottery, made by a range of talented local people.
There are always the standard shrubs, perennials and herbs in stock, as well as seasonal annuals and bedding plants. At the moment the glasshouses are full of geums, cosmos, asters, and dahlias to name a few.
The dahlias are easily my favourites, it’s astonishing how many different varieties there are. I would love to have an acre of them at home but unfortunately they are incredibly susceptible to slugs – those little buggers love nothing more than munching on dahlias day and night!
I don’t think it’s possible to take a bad photo of any plant, no matter how amateur a photographer you are – one evening after closing time I went round and took a whole load of shots, which you can see are included throughout this post. Hopefully the photos will give you a feel for what an inspiring and beautiful place the nursery is!
For many people the café is the main attraction, you don’t have to be a genius to work out why.
The setting for it is unique, it overlooks the River Dart and out to the Staverton steam railway which is a five minute walk away. A lot of train spotters come into the café for a quick coffee, whilst waiting for a special train to chug by.
As well as tables and chairs outside, there’s also a summer house (or a posh shed!) to sit in and a Wendy house, which children love. We’re child and dog friendly, walkers come down from the woods opposite, as well as cyclists on their way past. It’s the perfect place to stop and rest, as the atmosphere is so relaxed.
You can’t run a successful café without the food being outstanding – which it definitely is! Everything is hand-made by Dan, apart from most of the cakes which come from a baker in Ashburton whose cooking is second to none.
There’s a certain cake which we have to sell all the time otherwise our regular customers would cause a riot – the infamous pear and chocolate cake should have a page on Facebook, it’s that popular!
We do lunch every day, midday til 3pm. You can choose between soup of the day, ploughman’s or hummus salad.
I know how to make everything on the lunch menu, apart from the bread which is Dan’s own recipe – no one but him is allowed to bake the bread! We also sell Rockbeare ice-cream, Burt’s crisps, Luscombe and Tom Morrow’s cold drinks.
The other thing we’re getting particularly renown for is our coffee – Dan prides himself in serving the best coffee possible because, as he says, there’s nothing worse than drinking a cappuccino which tastes like an ashtray!
It took me nearly four months to get my coffee making skills up to scratch, before Dan was satisfied it was to a high enough standard to be sold to customers.
My friends and family loved it though, it meant they could get my practice coffees for free!
Now I know what proper coffee tastes like I don’t think I could ever go back to drinking instant – I think not having a constant supply of free lattes and mochas is the thing I will miss the most about my job!
If you would like more information then take a look at http://stavertonbridgenursery.com/ which includes opening hours and directions on how to find us.
Anyone is welcome, if you have a spare moment then come along and have a wander round – the scenery if nothing else is beautiful. You never know, if you come within the next few weeks you might even see yours truly!
For me the nursery isn’t simply a place of work, it’s where I’ve grown up and learnt not just horticulture or culinary skills, but social and life skills, which will be invaluable to me in the future.
Saying goodbye to not only the place, but the people, is going to be harder than I imagined. This chapter in my life is coming to an end but it’s one I’ll keep bookmarked, for sure. . .