From garden volunteer to airport pest control

Another guest blog as we celebrate ‘Volunteers’ Week’ – a big thank you to all of our volunteers, including Charles, whose experience here has landed him a great job at Manchester airport…

Hello! I’m Charles and I’ve volunteered at the SLBI for just over 2 years now – I started in my gap year before I started my MSc in Food Security at the University of Glasgow so that I could increase my knowledge of plants and get involved with such an amazing charity. During my undergraduate studies I focused on how we use plants for our food and feed, more specifically different types of agricultural practices around the world. I knew that I lacked “typical” horticultural knowledge so I was extremely keen to volunteer in the garden, but what I didn’t realise was how obsessed I would become with the different plants grown there!

The gardeners have done an amazing job in maintaining a collection of plants from all around the world, which are categorised according to a specific border. My personal favourite area is the poisonous part since I am a big fan of ivy, hellebores and the Giant Hogweed which I just find so grand and pompous!

  Helping Cath, one of the gardeners, at Open House

I’ve also really enjoyed outreach activities with the groups of schoolchildren that come in, teaching them about plants, as well as helping out in the yearly plant sale and National Open Gardens Day. I get a lot out of talking about how wonderful SLBI is as a charity and sharing my never-ending enthusiasm for plants!

Having spent a fair bit of time at the SLBI before and during my MSc, I realised that my top priority was to get a job where I would be dealing with plants regularly. This led me to getting a job with the Civil Service as a Plant Health and Seeds Inspector at Manchester Airport. It’s quite a unique and interesting job whereby I have to inspect imports of fruit, vegetables, flowers and plants for quarantine pests and diseases that come on flights from all around the world. What’s great is that not only do I get to look at plants that come into Manchester but I’m able to visit other airports and ports, examine the plants there and broaden my knowledge.

I knew that by moving to Manchester I would be away from the plant sanctuary that is the SLBI in South London, which is sad because I always have an amazing time volunteering there. However, I make sure to drop down to Tulse Hill whenever I can to help out with whatever events are going on, socialise and share my newly acquired plant facts.

I’d really encourage everyone to volunteer at SLBI – there’s so many different activities and events to get involved with, the people there are really lovely and I promise you’ll have a great time!

Charles Philpot


Please help us spread the word:

Leave a Reply