Brodsworth Hall's head gardener creates wildflower meadow for King Charles III
As a teenager Dan Hale spent his school work experience as a landscape gardener because he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do in his life. Now thousands of people walk around the idyllic Victorian pleasure gardens he has spent the last eight years expertly restoring and on Saturday will be able to watch the coronation there.
Hale is head gardener at Brodsworth Hall, an 1860s’ manor estate outside Doncaster and one of three English Heritage sites chosen to show the momentous occasion live on big screens. Alongside viewing the ceremony, visitors will also get to see the development of Brodsworth’s new Coronation Meadow, one of 100 being planted to celebrate the King’s coronation.
For Hale, the journey from a teenager in Barnsley to being part of a national project that will last decades has been one of joyful learning and discovery. “After leaving school I was originally training to be a PE teacher,” he says. “I realised quite quickly that I didn’t want to teach, but I did enjoy being outdoors and the physical aspects of the job. I thought about the couple of weeks’ work experience I’d done with a landscape gardener when I was still at school, and the way he had spoken about it as a career encouraged me to come back and give it a go.”
Hale credits the passion people showed for their gardens as the reason he pursued the career. “It was infectious. Growing up I had done a little bit of pottering in the garden but a career in horticulture was never pushed as a potential career in school. It wasn’t until I’d seen how much people cared about their own gardens that I started to think about it. All the different styles, from manicured lawns to big floral displays to wild woodlands – it opened up a whole world.”
After gaining qualifications from Askham Bryan College near York, Hale worked in the landscaping sector for a few years before seeing an opening for a gardener at Wentworth Castle, near Barnsley. By his mid-20s he had risen to acting head gardener and the move to Brodsworth Hall opened up even more opportunities.
“It’s been fantastic,” says Hale, now 36. “I’ve had the opportunity to restore one of the best Victorian gardens in the country.”
While his remit at Brodsworth is to recreate the past, the need to plan for the future is deeply embedded in his work – and the Coronation Meadows are a big part of that. Out of the 100 sites chosen by English Heritage, 75 will be new meadows and 25 will be further enhancements to existing ones, with Brodsworth’s being the latter.
“It’s a huge honour to be chosen,” Hale says. “We’ve already got a really diverse meadow here because it’s on a limestone ridge and that immediately makes the fauna found there more interesting.”