When it comes to taking pride in their work, you will be hard pressed to find anyone to beat the passion and commitment of Preim’s James Plant and John Jackson.
The friends have been working at Badersfield on the former RAF Coltishall base for over a decade.
Having risen to the working and personal challenges of the pandemic, and recently taking a young apprentice under their wing, we catch up with them as we near the lifting of lockdown.
Tell us a little about yourselves:
Hi – I’m James, I grew up in west Norfolk and spent most of my adolescence living in Hunstanton. I then went to college in Suffolk and Scotland studying greenkeeping. I worked on various golf courses including Turnberry, Woodhall Spa and Stapleford Park over the years before returning to Norfolk in my early 20s to start work at Dunston Hall Hotel in Norfolk.
This is where I first began working with John.
When I was younger, I remember coming to the then RAF Coltishall to watch Concorde land and take off, not knowing of course that 34 years later I would be working here! John and I have been working at Badersfield for just over 11 years now.
I am a keen runner, having participated in various events, from short 5kms to marathons and even a 24-hour race. Being on my feet all day definitely helps with my stamina for the longer events.
I’m John and I grew up in Romford, Essex and have worked as a greenkeeper for the majority of my life. I moved to Norfolk in 2000 and lived relatively close to the RAF station – regularly being buzzed by the Jaguar jets as they practiced their manoeuvres. I’m a keen golfer and also play table tennis.
James and I both started working in Badersfield in early 2010. In the early days only a few of the houses were sold and the place looked a lot different to what it does now. It’s been amazing to see how the village has transformed into a wonderful thriving community.
How have you been able to transfer your greenkeeping skills to a garden village?:
We both play golf and we use a lot of the skills learnt through green keeping in our roles at Badersfield. Attention to detail is key in this job. If something is out of place you need to be able to see it and deal with it. We also try and speak to as many of the residents as possible. This way we get to hear about any niggling estate-based issues that they might have and we have the ability to resolve them. Unfortunately, this job does involve getting wet and cold sometimes. Working as greenkeepers for many years has hardened us up to the great British weather!
What kind of feedback have you received from residents?:
The residents are very kind and give us some great feedback. The estate benefits from lots of green space around the properties , including trees, hedgerows and shrubbery. This makes it a lovely estate to live on, which the residents expect to be well maintained. During lockdown especially, the residents have enjoyed having these great green spaces to be in, and we have worked hard to ensure everywhere looks nice for them.
We take a lot of pride in what we do, and environment we look after, as a consequence we hope that the residents help to look after their spaces too, by not dropping litter or causing unnecessary mess.. Over the years we have got to know many of the residents, who often show their appreciation of our work by giving us the occasional sweet treat or hot cuppa in the winter.
What has been your experience of lockdown?:
We have had very different lockdown experiences, but both have been equally challenging in different ways.
I (James) have worked more or less as normal throughout, although due to young family commitments I have worked more flexibly than usual, often coming in at weekends so I can have time off during the week to look after my children whilst my wife has been working.
Personally, I am just looking forward to some normality, seeing family properly and staying away overnight, perhaps going out for a meal with the wife and of course going to watch the football again.
During the first lockdown I (John) was shielding, so I was unable to come into work which I found frustrating as I wanted to support James.
In the more recent lockdown, I decided to continue working as I felt being largely outside in this role meant I could stay safe. I was very pleased when the golf courses reopened.
Tell us about the addition of Cheyenne Turbett to the team:
Cheyenne has been shadowing us and getting involved in our day-to-day activities for the past couple of months; weeding flower beds, cutting grass, litter picking and edging paths. It’s great to have an extra pair of hands, who is keen to get stuck in.
She will do a first aid course in the next few months, followed by a spraying qualification and various other horticulture based courses at college. We have been building Cheyenne’s confidence by working together using the equipment such as the ride on mower and strimmers, and learning through demonstrations and guided use..
We have been introducing her to residents so that they start to get to know Cheyenne, and it is great that she lives on the estate as she has been able to introduce us to other people we had not had much contact with previously.
Badersfield, formerly known as RAF Coltishall, is a regeneration project of Annington Homes with mixed-tenure, previously Married Quarters homes, being sold to new owners since 2007. Set just 12 miles from Norwich city centre and 14 miles from the Norfolk coast, the development also boasts 50 acres of green space, woodland and other infrastructure – all of which needs to be maintained and managed on behalf of all residents.