Reaseheath florists awarded top medal at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

Talented floristry students from Reaseheath College, Nantwich, are celebrating after taking a top medal at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park (July 20 – 24).

The student team of Jacqueline Tudor, Shiona Fosh, Helen Cooke and Robyn Longden were awarded a silver gilt medal in the hotly contested RHS Future Florists competition.

Their achievement, which saw the students missing a coveted gold medal by just a few points, was outstanding as the show is one of Britain’s most prestigious horticultural events.

The students are now waiting to hear whether their success has qualified them for the national finals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2017. Reaseheath’s florists have been runners-up for the national title at Chelsea in both 2015 and 2016.

The challenge at RHS Tatton this year was to create a costume suitable for the Rio Carnival. The students, who have just completed their Level 3 Diploma in Floristry, dressed a mannequin in the ‘hot ‘ colours of yellow, cerise pink and orange with flower varieties including Vanda orchids, Oncidium orchids, gerberas and roses.

Their stunning design, described by judge Sarah Cunningham as showing fantastic techniques and superb workmanship, is now impressing the thousands of visiitors to the Floral Design Studio.

Sarah, of the UK Floristry Judges Guild, said: “Reaseheath’s design really shouts Rio. This is a fabulous design in good proportion, made with a good choice of flowers with clever use of mirrors. This medal was extremely well deserved.”

Sue Poole, Programme Leader for Horticulture and Floristry, said: “I am so proud of my team of students and the way they have come up to the mark at a world class event. Competing at RHS Tatton gives our florists the chance to showcase the skills and knowledge they have learned through their vocational training. It also provides a platform for them to test their team work, problem solving, determination and handwork.”

The RHS Future Florists competition is designed to reward the best floristry college, school or training provider in the UK.

Competitors must enter a heat at either RHS Flower Show Tatton Park or RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show to be in with a chance of progressing to the final at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2017.

See Shiona describe their show design below >>


Header image caption: Floristry students Shiona Fosh, Robyn Longden, Jaqueline Tudor and Helen Cooke with their award winning design


Innovative gardener showcases miniature plants

A Chartered Institute of Horticulture ‘Young Horticulturalist of the Year’ regional runner-up, Matt Wood has an eye for innovation.

Matt Wood and Susi Boxall portrait CROP for our alumni page

Matt Wood and Susi Boxall celebrate regional Young Horticulturalist of the Year accolade

Matt, 26, joined Reaseheath from school and progressed to a Level 3 Diploma in Plant Production, which he completed in 2005. He now runs The Tiny Plant Company based in Weaverham, Northwich with fiancé Susi Boxall and two other business partners.

The couple specialise in growing the smallest variety of as many species of plants as they can, from dwarf Agapanthus to dwarf hostas.

Their obsession with small plants stems from Matt’s hobby of growing Bonsai. He’s shown with the gold medal winning Cheshire Bonsai Society (of which he is membership secretary) at RHS Tatton Flower Show for the last 7 years.

Said Matt “It’s a growing business because gardens are getting smaller and people don’t have the space or the time to maintain large gardens. Container and ‘fairy gardens’ have also seen a surge in popularity in recent years.”

The Tiny Plant Company won a gold medal and also ‘Best Blooming Bed 2015’ at RHS Tatton Flower Show 2015 with a display designed by Sally Parkinson.

This year Matt and Suzi started their first ever full show season with a stand at the Arley Hall Spring Fair and are also aiming for the RHS Malvern Autumn Festival. They have their sights set on RHS Chatsworth when it begins in 2017 and will then look beyond to RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2020.

Matt also builds show displays for Bowden Hostas and will build their stand for this year’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. He’ll also be one of the team leading the build of the company’s stand for RHS Chelsea – a Pullman’s train carriage – biggest ever stand on a showground.

Find out more about The Tiny Plant Company at:

Memoirs of an agriculture student – 1948-49

Brian Pringle shares his memories and few anecdotes from his time as an agriculture student at the Cheshire School of Agriculture (Reaseheath), 1948-49

I was a resident student in 1948 and at that time there were 36 male students; 21 female and 5 or 6 students studying horticulture.

Practical work was the priority and we were divided up into teams so that we could get experience of all aspects of farm work. The day started at 6am and we breakfasted between 8am-9am followed by 3 x 1 hour lectures, lunch 12pm-1pm then divided into teams to do the various practical duties until 5.30pm. Tea was served at 6pm and for four nights each we were expected to revise and make notes on the work we had done during the day.

Meals were adequate but rationing was still on and each of us were given a 1lb jam jar which contained our butter ration for the week. One particular week several of us had eaten our said ration portion by Wednesday and we went up to the farm and filled our jars with molasses – very healthy! With no problems arising…we were encouraged to carry on.

During my time as a student I recall Mr J Lambert as the Principal (who lectured mainly on crops), Mr R D Park was a Vice Principal (who lectured on live stock), George Simpson lectured on economics, Mr Brookfield lectured on horticulture and Miss Reiss lectured science. Lecturers not on the permanent staff list included W A Carr who taught grassland (in 1955-58 I was PA to his son Peter Carr who ran 100 commercial cows on 100 acres with loosing housing 4 unit Pit parlour, paddock grazing and self-fed silage – the first farm in the UK to be thus organised and the original shippons and lofts were laying birds) and Brian Wilson (MRCVS) a local vet who lectured on veterinary science.

Wednesday evening was ‘relaxation evening’ and several of the female students joined us for either dancing, a film or lecture and some of us even managed ‘dates’ – with the opportunity to meet again on a Sunday afternoon if we weren’t down to work.

Unbelievably I had a single room and below the window was quite a wide edge and to the left drainpipe – in 1948 we had quite a few ex-service students who filed through my room each evening and proceeded to the local pubs after the warden had been around and check we were all in bed! One evening several of us decided to go to the Conservative dance in Nantwich – we got a rude awakening when we arrived, as Mr Lambert was on the door!!

Another funny story and so called practical joke… in the next double room to me, one student fitted a string from the light switch to his bed head. Each evening he ran from the washroom to his bedroom calling “goodnight”, and he leapt onto his bed. A colleague and I had lifted the front end of his bed out of the sockets – “oh dear” – he landed, the bed castors broke, the bed went down with an almighty bang, the light went out and the back of the bed came down and gave our fellow student a very nasty knock – the air was blue, matron and a lecturer arrived and myself and a colleague owned up to what we had done. The £5 deposit – that each of us had paid for our rooms, to coverage breakages was lost the following day and we were duly ‘taken to task’ by Mr Lambert and were very lucky not to be expelled!

All in all it was a good period in our respective lives and it came to an end in July 1949. I was fortunate indeed to gain a credit pass in the final exams.

I did practical work until aged 30 but then joined Batchelors Foods becoming the National Special A/es Mgr but returned to a farming career aged 41, becoming Managing Director of Pioneer Holstein Breeders Group and subsequently M.D. of The Green Acres Farming Co retiring at 67 having travelled extensively throughout the British Isles, America, Canada, Europe, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Studying at Reaseheath played a very important part in my life and it gives me great pleasure in reading all the various publications that so vividly illustrate the present achievements of today’s students.

Brian Pringle

Agriculture student, 1948-49


A dream come true for equine science graduate

Emily Westwood back on campus recently

Emily Westwood back on campus recently

Equine Science graduate Emily Westwood is set on a highly specialised career in veterinary medicine now she’s graduated from Reaseheath.

Emily, 28, will be joining the prestigious Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh this September after recently gaining her place.

Shortly after graduating with First Class Honours, Emily had the opportunity to complete a work placement with the Nantwich Veterinary Group Equine Centre and it was there she found her passion for veterinary medicine.

Impressing the team at the Nantwich, equine centre, on completing her placement, Emily’s now their Yard Manager and part time nurse.

Emily used her business innovation and creative skills to set up a blog and own business to help raise the necessary funds to pursue her dream career as a vet.

Emily has now successfully fundraised her entire £150,000 worth of course fees ready to start her studies and credits the invaluable support of the Nantwich Veterinary Group Equine Centre’s industry links and contacts to this impressive accomplishment.

Read more about Emily’s journey via her blog


Equine undergraduates win USA internships

Two Reaseheath equine science undergraduates have won prestigious internships in the USA.

Michelle Hand and Zoe Greenwood have both been awarded the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) competitive internship to go to Virginia Tech’s Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension (MARE Center).

The MARE Center is a 420 acre equine research and education facility in Middleburg, Virginia – the heart of horse country in the USA.  The three month internship will allow our undergraduates to develop research and academic skills in a practical, hands-on, environment.

The programme, which focuses on optimising horse and environmental health, is designed to prepare students for careers in the equine industry, academia or veterinary science by applying classroom knowledge in a ‘real world’ context.

Looking forward to their internships: Michelle Hand and Zoe Greenwood

Looking forward to their internships: Michelle Hand and Zoe Greenwood

It is the first time in the history of the internship that it has been awarded to two candidates, with judges feeling that both were equally worthy.

Michelle and Zoe are following in the footsteps of first class equine science graduate Charlotte Woolley, who won the internship in 2014 during her final year with us. Charlotte is now studying for an MSc in Animal Biosciences, and will start a PhD in Clinical Veterinary Sciences in September, both at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh.

Michelle and Zoe, both 21, are due to complete their BSc (Hons) Degrees in Equine Science this summer and are confident that their internships will boost their career prospects as well as giving them a unique insight into an acclaimed international programme. As interns, they will be involved in the advancement of equine research in reproduction and breeding in the Sport Horse and Thoroughbred industries, and in nutritional management and health, exercise physiology and land stewardship.

To qualify for this valuable opportunity, both undergraduates wrote 3,000 word essays on subjects involving the health and welfare of equines. Michelle, who wants to become an equine journalist specialising in horse care and veterinary issues for the leisure owner, chose the indiscriminate breeding of horses as her subject.

Zoe, who is considering a future career in research, wrote her report on internal parasite burdens in young horses and how it affects their health in later life.

Both students, who came to Reaseheath after ‘A’ level studies, were shortlisted and interviewed by a judging panel consisting of Prof Graham Suggett OBE (former Director National Equine Database, former BEF Director of Equine Development and Principal Emeritus Warwickshire College), Dr Georgina Crossman (BEF Research Consultant) and Dr Bridgett McIntosh (MAREC) via Skype.

Dr Crossman commented: “Michelle and Zoe were both outstanding candidates with unique qualities who we felt would equally benefit from the internship. We hope they enjoy the summer with Dr McIntosh and the rest of the team at the MAREC, and look forward to reading about their experiences and the way the internship has influenced their future upon the submission of their reports when they return.”

Michelle said: “This will be an amazing opportunity for us to learn alongside acknowledged experts and to gain practical skills working with some fantastic horses. We’re both really excited about the trip!”

Keep updated with Michelle and Zoe during their internship experience via our HE blog site here.

Header picture caption: Celebrating winning their internships: Michelle Hand and Zoe Greenwood are joined by Professor Graham Suggett, Dr Georgina Crossman and Charlotte Woolley

Reaseheath’s apprentice stars recognised

A trainee groundsman at one of the country’s top golf courses and a trainee food development technologist who helps to bring new ready meals to the supermarket shelf took the top titles at Reaseheath College’s Apprenticeship Awards.

Advanced Apprentice of the Year James Tickner of Hitchen Foods

Advanced Apprentice of the Year James Tickner of Hitchen Foods

Peter Lewis, an apprentice groundsman at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake, was crowned ‘Level 2 Apprentice of the Year’ while James Tickner, a development apprentice with Bakkavor Hitchen Foods, Wigan, was awarded ‘Advanced Apprentice of the Year’.

The event marked the achievements of 150 apprentices who had gained their qualifications at the Nantwich, Cheshire, specialist college in the past year. It was held during National Apprenticeships Week, a celebration of the benefits which apprentices bring to businesses and to the national economy by increasing productivity and providing workforce succession.

Also selected for special awards were Best Horticulture Apprentice Rebecca Dawson, who works at Cholmondeley Castle Gardens, Malpas, Best Construction Apprentice (Brickwork) Adam Platt, who is employed by Greg Lambert Ltd., building contractors in Northwich and Best Construction Apprentice (Joinery) Ewan Collins of Magno Property Maintenance in Whitchurch.

Best Agricultural Apprentice was Jordan Brandrick, who works for his family’s arable farm in Burton-on-Trent and Best Food Apprentice was William Hill, an apprentice butcher with Woolliscroft Butchers, Stoke-on-Trent

Best Agricultural Engineering Apprentice (Parts, Sales and Marketing) was Mary Wallbank, a customer care trainee with Guy Machinery Ltd, Gisburn, Lancashire. Mary, 21, joined guest speaker Lee Webster, Managing Director of Hultons Landscapes, on stage to make a presentation to a packed audience of employers and families.

Best Agricultural Engineering apprentice (Parts, Sales and Marketing) Mary Wallbank addresses guests

Best Agricultural Engineering apprentice (Parts, Sales and Marketing) Mary Wallbank addresses guests

Opening the ceremony, Reaseheath Principal Meredydd David emphasised that apprenticeships were recognised by the government as the preferred training route for employers and that demands for places from young people were currently at an all time high.

The apprenticeship training programme delivered meaningful and highly valued qualifications along with skills and knowledge which were of vital importance to the country’s economy. Continuous upskilling was essential if the UK’s workforce was to be able to compete in European and world markets.

Describing the apprentices as the future leaders of local businesses and communities, he said: “You will be the influencers and the drivers for change. Through the skills and knowledge you have gained, and through your resilience and adaptability, you will prosper.”

Meredydd also pointed out that Reaseheath’s apprenticeship provision had earned praise from Ofsted inspectors last November, with the college’s outstanding work with employers and the industries it serves being particularly commended.

The college’s apprenticeship frameworks and success rates were well above the national average and apprentice satisfaction rates were also very high.

Speaking from the employers’ point of view, Lee Webster confirmed:  “A Reaseheath apprenticeship is a qualification that horticultural employers value highly. Having a Reaseheath ticket on their CV helps to make young people more employable.”

Reaseheath currently has 355 apprentices studying agriculture, agricultural engineering, animal care, construction, construction plant, food industry skills, horse care, horticulture, motor vehicle and sports turf.

Other apprentices to be commended during the evening were:

For further details of apprenticeships visit or call Reaseheath Training on 01270 613221

Young Horticulturists prove their growing knowledge

Reaseheath students have celebrated success in the prestigious Chartered Institute of Horticulture’s ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ competition.

Two Reaseheath trained students were among eight contestants to qualify for the North West and North Wales regional final, held in our new Centre for Horticulture, the Environment and Sustainable Technology last weekend.

The demanding competition, in front of an audience of supporters, tested the breadth of the contestants’ knowledge over ten hard fought rounds with the quickest off the buzzer gaining valuable points.

Former Reaseheath horticulture student Matt Wood, who was in the open category, took the runner-up position while Finin Talbot, representing Reaseheath, was narrowly beaten into fifth place.

Matt, 26, joined us from school and progressed to a Level 3 Diploma in Plant Production. He now runs The Tiny Plant Company in Northwich with partner Susi Boxall. Finin, 25, a current Level 3 Extended Diploma in Horticulture student, qualified for the regional final after winning an inter college heat contested by over 30 students. He wants to be a collections manager in a tropical house

Winner of the regional final was Joshua Stevens from South Staffordshire College, while Jamie Leslie, a student gardener at Chatsworth House, was third. Other contestants were Mike Wilkinson (Myerscough College), Jacob Watts (Derby College), Jen Hyatt (Nottingham Trent University) and Sion Williams (Coleg Cambria).

The top three celebrate – Jamie Leslie, Joshua Stevens and Matt Wood

The top three celebrate – Jamie Leslie, Joshua Stevens and Matt Wood

Joshua, 18, now goes through to the grand finals to be held at the National Botanical Gardens in Dublin in May. The national winner will receive a £2,500 travel bursary sponsored by the Shropshire Horticulture Society through The Percy Thrower Trust.

Reaseheath has strongly supported the competition, which is open to horticulturists aged between 16 and 30, for many years. We encourage as many students as possible to take part and have had national finalists in previous years. We also hosted the national finals last year.

Sue Nicholas, Young Horticulturist of the Year Action Group Chair, said: “We were delighted to bring this competition back to Reaseheath and have been very impressed with the new facilities here.

“Over 2,500 young people are eligible for this competition. Those who have qualified for the regional final here have done really well and should be congratulated.”

Image caption: Regional finalists l-r Finin Talbot, Jamie Leslie, Joshua Stevens, Sion Williams, Matt Wood, Jen Hyatt, Mike Wilkinson and Jacob Watts

Business flourishes for former floristry student

Talented Reaseheath trained florist Anna Eite is putting her entrepreneurial skills into action as her new business develops.

Anna Eite portrait crop for web

Anna Eite

After completing her Level 3 Diploma in Floristry at Reaseheath in 2014, Anna went straight on to launch her own home-based business, Anna Flora. Offering a range of services including bespoke floral packages, wedding flowers, workshops, masterclasses and her specialist ‘floral experience’, business is continuing to flourish.

Anna prides herself in using only the freshest, best quality, seasonal flowers designed and tailored to her clients’ needs, offering a bespoke design service. Her floral masterclasses run throughout the year, the most popular being Christmas Wreath Making, with the next masterclass running at Easter. Her business is now partnered with Red Letter Days offering floral masterclasses with an accompanying champagne afternoon tea service. With a strong interest in specific flower varieties, colours and detailed work Anna is developing her business to specialise in weddings.

Anna Eite prepares floral bouquets

Anna Eite prepares floral bouquets

During her time at Reaseheath Anna was crowned most talented floristry student in Britain after winning gold at the WorldSkills UK national finals in 2014.

Anna, 21, who lives in Acton, Nantwich, took the top title in the advanced section against strong competition from the best students from colleges and training providers nationwide. The taxing competition was held over three days in front of thousands of visitors at The Skills Show in Birmingham, the country’s biggest showcase of vocational skills and careers. Tasks included designing a floral hat, belt and chair, making up a planted container and taking part in a team project.

Supported and trained for the competition by Programme Leader for Floristry Sue Poole. Said Sue: “This was a fantastic result and we are all so proud of Anna. She was a wonderful representative for Reaseheath and for the floristry department.”

Anna was also member of the 2014 student team who won Reaseheath the title of RHS Tatton Park Floristry College of the Year, which enabled the team to compete at RHS Chelsea seeing them win an Silver medal.

Said Anna: “Competing in front of so many people was a great experience. It was good to see how well I could work under pressure and how hard I could push myself, fantastic preparation for starting up my own business.”

Find out more about Anna’s business at

The Skyr’s the limit for Yorkshire Dales farmer

A pioneering Skipton farmer Sam Moorhouse is Britain’s first to make and sell a healthy Icelandic style super-yogurt.

Dairy engineer Thorarinn Sveinsson with Sam Moorhouse

Dairy engineer
Thorarinn Sveinsson with Sam Moorhouse

After completing his National Diploma in Agriculture at Reaseheath and spending time travelling Australia Sam knew he wanted to focus on the future of his family farm.

Sam of Hesper Farm at Bell Busk, initially launched Hesper Farm Skyr at the 2015 Harrogate Fine Food Show after researching ideas on how the family dairy farm could diversify.

Inspired by his research into the Icelandic cow and trips to Iceland to train in the art of making the naturally fat-free skyr, Sam recognised the potential of the product.

After extensive market research to confirm the demand for skyr in the UK, he took the product to Reaseheath Food Centre for initial trials to achieve his perfect formula.

Sam, 22, whose family has farmed locally for generations, is proud to be the first farmer to launch skyr in Britain and the first to bring skyr to the market with British milk. The skyr is produced onsite using milk from the farm’s award winning Airburn herd.

It’s currently available to buy from a host of farm shops and delis across the Yorkshire as well as being stocked by chefs and businesses via Wellocks wholesalers and plans in place for further expansion later this year.

He explains: “I started to read up on skyr when I was looking at ways we might be able to diversify. It really caught my attention because of its massive across Scandinavia and Iceland, and has really taken off in America too.

“It’s a really interesting product with great health benefits and I realised no-one was making it here. We are the first farm to make it onsite with our own specially-trained expertise, using our own British milk.

Baby the cow

Baby the cow

“The cow on our pots and logo epitomises what we are trying to do. It’s a drawing of a cow called Baby that I bought at auction a long time ago. I liked the look of her unusual markings. Her temperament means she always stands out from the crowd too.

She does exactly as she pleases and there is no persuading her otherwise! She’s been with us all these years and really represents our aim in doing something different and making skyr – we don’t follow the herd.”


Skyr (pronounced skeer) is a staple in Iceland and dates back to around the ninth century. It is made by incubating skimmed milk with live active cultures. The water contained in the milk – the whey – is then strained away. Per pot, about four times as much milk as an equivalent pot of traditional plain yogurt is used meaning it’s incredibly thick and creamy. It also means that the skyr contains more protein and calcium than standard yogurt.


Sam realised he would need expert tuition to learn how to make it, so set off for Reykjavik and asked around delis until he was put in touch with dairy engineer Thorarinn Sveinsson, who works for the Icelandic Farmers Union. Thorarinn taught him the labour-intensive process behind making skyr and then visited Hesper Farm once the new purpose-built dairy was finished to make sure the skyr Sam was producing was perfect.

Hesper Farm Syr range

Hesper Farm Skyr range

Thorarinn said: “I had been getting increasing numbers of phone calls from people interested in skyr but I was so impressed with Sam, I knew I wanted to work with him. He has taken the whole  process so seriously and has paid attention to every last detail. In fact he is using a heritage culture which originally dates back to 874,meaning his skyr is genuine Icelandic skyr – the real thing made in the Yorkshire Dales.

“Skyr is part of everyday life in Iceland. I am sure that with its delicious taste and the health benefits you’ll see it becoming part of life here too. I have loved my visit to the Yorkshire Dales. It is a truly beautiful part of England.”

With business going from strength to strength, most recently Sam featured on James Martin’s Home Comforts where he demonstrated his approach to skyr production.

For more information about Hesper Farm Skyr please visit



Students celebrate 20 years since college days

Members of the class of 1996-99 were welcomed back to Reaseheath last weekend for their 20th anniversary reunion of starting at college.

Twenty-six former students met on campus to catch up on old times and see what’s changed since their time as students.

The reunion was coordinated by 1996-99 agricultural mechanics student Adrian Dunn through generating interest via Facebook and involved students from a range of subject areas including agriculture, animal management, engineering, equine and floristry. One group of former engineering students made the journey all the way from Ireland specially for the weekend!

The group went on a guided tour of the campus, visiting old haunts and many new facilities around the campus followed by a proper catch up over a buffet and a brew in the historic Reaseheath Old Hall.

A big thank you to agricultural engineering instructor (and former student) Graeme Smith and our student ambassador Tia Castle for being such excellent tour guides on the day, the group had a great time and plans are already in the pipeline for their next meet up.

If you’re a former and student or member of staff and would be interested in being involved in reunion tours and events at the college, please do get in touch with Katie Burt (Alumni Officer), 01270 613 219.

Header picture caption: Members of Reaseheath 20th anniversary reunion group outside Reaseheath Old Hall