Patchworking Garden Academy

Founded in 2019


The Academy


Founded in 2019 as a progression route for our supported volunteers, the Academy delivers City & Guilds Practical Horticulture qualifications at level one and two.

Tucked beside the brick walls of the Patchworking Garden and with a magnificent view of Box Hill, the Academy is staffed by three experienced therapeutic horticulture tutors and supported by volunteers from within the Patchworking Garden Project.

Students dig and tend their own allotment plots to grow flowers, vegetables and herbs.

Patchworking Academy
Patchworking Academy tutors

Our tutors

Box Hill

Our classroom

The course provides a good basic understanding of the horticulture industry – enough to get a first job in the sector or move on to further study.

An Award, Certificate or Diploma can lead to a career as a gardener, garden centre worker, grounds person, greenkeeper or lay a foundation for starting a gardening business.

It can also lead to volunteering in the many beautiful National Trust and privately owned estates in the Surrey Hills.

Students will have attended the Patchworking Garden for a minimum of six months prior to joining the Academy. They work at their own pace in a small group with no previous qualifications or experience needed.

The Academy is funded by grants from, amongst others, The National Lottery, Community Foundation for Surrey and The Henry Smith Charity.

For further information please contact

This has been an incredible opportunity. It’s a great environment and for me this has been a significant career change. It’s something I could do and something I love. I feel the course and the qualification will provide me with evidence of what I can do. I’m about to start Level 2.
What I love is that the course is not pressurised. It’s not in a classroom and for me that’s really pleasurable.”


I’ve been a student here since it began – it’s been quite a ride! Our tutors are very good and I’ve found it very helpful learning from their experiences. The atmosphere here is really nice – it’s like being with friends. When I volunteered at Patchwork Garden I mostly enjoyed the Arts and Crafts so I didn’t think of taking gardening more seriously. But people dropped hints that I should apply and it’s been great. The tutors here are brilliant. I’m not very good as a learner but this has been very supportive.”

Each student has a patch which they tend – David decided to concentrate on vegetables runner beans, sprouts, cabbages, potatoes and tomatoes. Unfortunately for David, like almost everyone, the potatoes and tomatoes were affected by blight. “We were told that it was probably due to the cold spring, followed by too much rain, followed by a very dry spell. The runner beans though were a great success. I have been giving them away for ages.”


I’ve been here since 2019 so I started when the Academy began. I am really enjoying the course – more so now even. Level 1 was the diploma and we’re now doing Level 2. I’m really hopeful this will lead into some suitable work. What I enjoy about the Academy is that you’re working outside and working with your hands – things I enjoy. I’ve got my own allotment in Bookham where I live and also help with my parents’ garden. Location is the best thing about this, and the organisation is excellent. Lockdown was hard but we came back as soon as was possible as we were working outside so it was a safe environment.

I enjoy seeing the plants through different stages and I enjoy using the skills I pick up here – so I’m helping my parents which is satisfying.” Jo helped lay the path at the Academy, “I enjoy physical work, always like working outside and like labouring: so gardening is ideal for me.


I’ve really enjoyed this course. The tutors have a real depth of knowledge. It’s been an exciting two years. I like gardening and nature generally. There’s a good atmosphere here. Being outside is really good both physically and mentally. It improves your well-being.

“The assessment is not too challenging. You have to explain what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. You have a task but it’s practical and is pretty stress-free. I’ll be sad when it finishes.”

Chris (Christopher)

“I’ve really loved come here. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s such a stress-free environment. I love it.”


I have been volunteering with the Patchwork Garden for ages so this felt like a natural progression and this is my second year,” She is enthusiastic about working as a volunteer in the community, specifically at Goodwyns Community Garden. “I have been working there – advising and also working on the beds for some time. I think the community garden is very satisfying as it reaches out to many people and hopefully it cheers people up. If you make a difference to one person’s day it’s worth it.


I find it really interesting and am learning a lot. I volunteered at the Patchwork Garden and found I enjoyed the gardening most. It kept on getting hinted that I might enjoy the Academy when it first started but I don’t think I was ready then. But I have really enjoyed these last few months. The environment here makes it. It’s very calming working in such a beautiful place and away from the bustle of the town.”


Last word from Carmel O’Shea who has seen the Academy go from strength to strength

The Academy is a huge success story. We have weathered all sorts of difficulties in the past 18 months but everyone has risen to the challenge. We have been found to be exemplary by the quality assurance process which is a very rare occurrence and says a great deal for Chris Munford who does such a brilliant job, as do our dedicated tutors and of course our excellent students.

Where to find us


Get in Touch


Please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

Remember to include your phone number in any email

The Garden (formerly Friends Life), Sports Ground, Pixham Lane, Dorking, RH4 1QA

Registered address: 44 Westbank, Dorking RH4 3DH