Martin Towsey, estates gardens manager at The Bedford Estates, has made an outstanding contribution to horticulture during his 33-years working in the profession – a career which began with an apprenticeship and culminated in the restoration and recreation of Humphry Repton’s original plans for the gardens at Woburn Abbey.
In the 13-years that he has been a key member of the senior management team at Woburn, Martin has put horticulture back into the heart of the estate which in addition to the gardens at Woburn Abbey includes London’s Bedford Square, Southampton Row and Montagu Gardens plus Woburn Safari Park, Woburn high street and private houses owned by the Duke and Duchess of Bedford.
Martin has delivered two five-year plans, enabling Woburn Abbey Gardens to evolve and become a better example of horticulture, while restoring and re-creating Humphry Repton's original plans from Repton's Red book presented to the 5th Duke in 1805. The Gardens now command a ticket price - and visitor numbers match visitors to the Abbey. The site is now also an RHS partner garden scheme.
He has put in place an annual garden events schedule, including the annual Garden Show, which has secured revenues while developing the skills of the gardening team. Other revenue drivers include profitable plant sales. Woburn Abbey Garden School now delivers a range of study days and ‘come and grow’ sessions where both external experts and the garden team pass on their skills and techniques to visitors.
Martin is also known for his enthusiastic and knowledgeable tours and talks. He is the only senior manager within Woburn Enterprises that plays an active role in delivering bespoke, specialist and VIP garden tours, as well as visiting all manner of groups at their AGM's and monthly meetings.
Recently he secured the funding to renovate a property on the estate which is now student accommodation, so the gardening team can accommodate more work experience placements and interns from universities to help preserve the future of horticulture in the younger generation.
Martin has also engaged with the community and in particular local schools to deliver horticulture to Years 1 and 2 (5 to 7 year-olds). These children assisted by Martin and his team created and delivered a show garden at the Woburn Abbey Garden Show 2016. Their progress was regularly followed for three months by BBC Three Counties radio who conducted radio interviews broadcast to the wider community who learnt to grow at home.
He is a custodian of the Estate's values: Heritage excellence, community, innovation, and integrity, and has always stood by these while delivering horticulture in a stimulating, relevant and interesting way.