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Opportunity knocks: Meet the Angus man growing a budding career in horticulture – one step at a time

Tim Buchan is revelling in his new career.

Tim Buchan from Forfar has always had a love of the outdoors.

But his early career took him in a different direction.

Studies in international hospitality management were followed by a master’s degree in digital marketing.

From there he spent several years in retail and hospitality.

But as someone brought up in the country with strong family connections in agriculture, Tim felt he was in the wrong place.

Rewilding project

Opportunity came knocking when he learned about a trainee post with Trees for Life, part of Scotland’s Skills for Rewilding project.

The government-funded initiative aims to develop rural skills within the community and re-establish wild areas and natural habitats across the country.

Tim said: “When I saw the advert, I knew this was what I was looking for.

“Trees for Life were offering a role as a nursery trainee at their flagship rewilding estate at Dundreggan, near Fort Augustus.

“After a 12-month course I would graduate with an SVQ 2 in horticulture. I applied immediately and was delighted to get accepted.”

Restoration of the previously expansive Caledonian Forest is part of the Trees for Life initiative.

The once vast populations of Scots pine, birch, rowan, juniper and aspen now cover just 2% of its former size.

Through planting native species, removing non-native varieties and fencing seedlings, Trees for Life aims to help the natural regeneration of the forest.

Tim became involved in all aspects of the project.

He said: “I felt what we were doing was really significant – we were helping to grow and develop the species that are needed in our wild areas.

“It was very satisfying and my time at Trees for Life really helped spark my passion for plant propagation and husbandry.”

Heritage gardening

As his training with Trees for Life came to an end, Tim spotted a role at the National Trust for Scotland’s School of Heritage Gardening at Threave in Dumfries & Galloway.

The ornamental gardening Threave specialises in was a world away from the commercial work Tim had been doing.

But his passion had taken root and he grasped the opportunity.

Tim said: “They have a great set up with glass houses, a walled garden and grounds, so you can pick up a broad range of horticulture skills over a short period of time.

“It has been a great experience and really set me up for life.”

Threave Gardens
Tim Buchan working at Threave Gardens.

While doing his studies at Threave, the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Lockdown saw the team there cut by half as projects were put on hold and training was impacted.

But Tim said: “We were given more responsibility sooner and this gave us confidence and self-belief.

“So, despite the challenges, it wasn’t all bad.”

Advice for budding horticulturalists

With a couple of years now under his belt, 29-year-old Tim has some sound advice for budding horticulturalists.

“I think the crucial thing is a willingness to learn and having a genuine enthusiasm in what you do,” he said.

“You shouldn’t be afraid to take the first step. Doing something new or different is always tough, but once you start, its much easier.

“Finally, I’d say having some volunteering experience before you apply is really helpful.”

Tim doesn’t have any firm plans for the future yet, except to continue to build upon his growing experience.

He said: “I have so much to learn and I’m really happy with my role at Threave, which is a great place to learn your trade.

“As far as the future is concerned, I have a real admiration for the work that The National Trust for Scotland do.

“For now, I’m happy to keep working away and growing my interest and skills in all areas of horticulture.”

Crowdfunder raises £2m towards Highlands rewilding centre

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