A learning day at the Task Academy

"Would you like to spend a day in the Worcestershire countryside learning new skills such as dry stone walling, bricklaying and willow-weaving?" read the invite "Count me in!" was the swift reply.

I already knew of the Task Academy as its founder Rupert Keys took part in my 'The Questions' series last year.  It was lovely to meet Rupert in real life.   Rupert has an impressive career history of over 30 years in landscaping.  He works with his wife: the garden designer Ruth Gwynn on projects and he also has built award winning show gardens, including the Newson Health Menopause Garden designed by Ruth at Gardeners World Live last year.  This garden won the Platinum and Best in Show Award.  It is fair to say that he knows his stuff.

The Task Academy was set up in 2022 and aims to provide courses for industry and for the public for a range of hard landscaping skills.  The industry courses are Lantra accredited  and cover a wide range of subjects from hard paving, to garden lighting and water feature system training.   The 1 day workshops for the public include willow-weaving, bricklaying, block paving and dry stone walling and the basics of garden design.  You receive a certificate to show your successful completion.  All the courses are taught by a team of 12 industry professionals, which means that their skills are kept up to date as they are also working professionally outside of the Academy.  The public courses are priced c: £110 - 150 at the time of writing.  If you know someone who you think one of these courses would make a great gift for, then you can buy gift cards from Task Academy.  Such a good idea.

What better test could there be for these courses than to invite a group of gardening writers come along for some taster sessions?  I did not pay for the day and I have not been paid to write this.  My words and opinions are my own.  The day arrived and despite a bit of rain on the drive there, the rain held off.
First session for me was led by Nick Leitch and was the dry stone walling.  This turned out to be more fun than I expected, and I had expected it to be fun.
Here I am hitting some stone with a hammer to remove lumps and corners to 'dress' the stone to fit more neatly.  We were told the basics of what we were doing and the best techniques to choose and dress the stones.
Don't get too excited, we didn't make this whole section of wall, we only placed the top layer on this demonstration wall, but even so I was impressed at how well we did.  
Next session was brick laying, led by Rupert himself and David Sewell.  We had a quick briefing about different types of bricks and why they differ and for what purpose.  We were also told that the Academy aims to work as sustainably as possible; the lime mortar would be reused and the bricks would be washed and resued for future courses.
Then it was time to get laying.
I measured, I checked levels and didn't keep my work area very clean.  That aside I was actually quite pleased with the outcome.  I think if I was making a small wall at the speed I was working I might make a small one in a month.  I was not fast.
Last session was willow-weaving taught by Mel Bastier; which was a nice indoor seated session to finish the day.  We learned about the types of willow and how to prepare it ready to be woven.
We made these bird feeders and I think they would also make rather good plant pot holders too.  I do love multi-functionality!

We had such a good day, we were looked after well and taught very (very) patiently.  The Academy is in the most beautiful countryside and yet also very easily accessible.  I came away from the day genuinely surprised in what I had achieved through these short taster sessions.  Just imagine how much I would have learned in one of the full day courses!
A huge thank you to Rupert and the team for being such lovely hosts and to Jane Southcott and Emma Mason for co-ordinating the day.

Take care and be kind.

For more from the Blackberry Garden follow me on Twitter X  Facebook and Instagram


  1. Sounds like a great opportunity, and congratulations on your accomplishments! The rock and brick walls are fantastic!


Post a Comment

Comments are approved before being published