18 October 2021

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park hosts over 200 apprentices at free learning and development event

More than 200 Horticulture Apprentices and Trainees attended the "Green Spaces and Wild Places" Discovery Day, which was held on Thursday 14 October at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.

The event was hosted at the iconic London Stadium within the park, by an ongoing collaboration between the London Legacy Development Corporation and The Royal Parks Guild and in partnership with The Tree Council.

The event was designed so that attendees could spend the day learning about career paths in a wide range of green-space sector jobs such as horticulture, arboriculture, biodiversity, environmental conservation and landscape management.

Ed Iken of Kew's Wakehurst Garden addresses the crowd
Image 1: Ed Ikin addresses the crowd

Hundreds attended from across the UK, including the local London boroughs of Newham, Hackney, Waltham Forest and Tower Hamlets. Although many have been living, studying and training from abroad, showcasing the United Kingdom as a centre for learning and development in the land based sector.

Those in attendance benefited from an engaging range of talks and presentations from a number of world class speakers from this increasingly important sector. And in the afternoon, through guided tours of Olympic Park, they learned how an industrial part of London was transformed for the 2012 Games and how it is managed today; including its maintenance, management, sports and play provision, community engagement and conservation of wildlife and biodiversity.

Speakers included:  Sara Lom - CEO of The Tree Council, Mark Camley - former CEO of the Royal Parks and current Executive Director of Park Operations and Venues at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Ed Ikin - Director of Kew’s wild botanic garden, Wakehurst.

Long standing Green Flag Award judge Chris Worman OBE and Carl McClean - International Development Manager for the Green Flag Award also led two sets of tours on the day showing delegates how the Green Flag Award process works and encouraging them to become judges in future. 

Mike Fitt OBEMike Fitt OBE
Image 2: Mike Fitt OBE led the organisation of the day with Ruth Lin Wong Holmes

Mike Fitt OBE Chairman of the Royal Parks Guild led the day, and was intrinsic to the overall conception, essence and coordination of the day - which was to ensure that apprentices and trainees from all backgrounds understood the potential in themselves for career progression and the possible routes to maximising their opportunities.

Ruth Lin Wong Holmes, Vice-Chair of The Royal Parks Guild and Design Principal from the London Legacy Development Corporation, said:

“It was great to have horticultural trainees and apprentices at the park and to show them some of the best examples of sustainability, environmental and biodiversity management being practiced here. Discovery Day is a great way for people developing their careers to hear from the leading experts in their field and to inspire them about the opportunities that lie ahead in their chosen profession."

A trainee inside Olympic Stadium - home of West Ham United
Image 3: A trainee in Olympic Stadium

The Tree Council also supported this years Discovery Day as a key sponsor, with funding from its Close the Gap hedgerow planting and restoration programme. Close the Gap is funded by the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.

Sara Lom, CEO of The Tree Council said:

“We are delighted to have been part of this wonderful Discovery Day, with so many enthusiastic apprentices and trainees eager to learn and make a difference. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was the perfect venue to explore how we can work together for the love of trees and the future of our planet. We look forward to the brightest of futures for these young people as they continue to build their knowledge and skills in the tree and greenspace sector.”

 In addition to trainees and apprentices, a number of local schools also brought children along to dip their toes into the world of horticulture as a potential career.

School children on a learning tour
Image 4: School children on a learning tour

Niyah McNeish-Banks, aged13 , from Chobham Academy school in Newham, said:

“Today has been the most intriguing day of my life. I learnt about horticulture and the importance of our environment and nature. I was able to learn more about nature itself and how to nourishes everything around us. The Discovery Day has been really interesting and I would love to learn more about landscaping and maybe become a landscaper as a career in the future!”

And Sapna Raj, aged 13, from Chobham Academy school in Newham, said:

 “Today has been amazing. A really fun day. We’ve learned so much about the importance of nature and the environment and how we need to look after the green spaces around where we live to survive, not just for us but for future generations.”

The event also fell on the day the Green Flag Award announced a record breaking 2,127 winners from across the UK, including the 8th year in a row that Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has held the internationally recognised accreditation.

A special flag raising ceremony took place, complete with a bugler from one of the local schools. Then children, apprentices and orgniasers unveiled a giant Green Flag Award flag on the lawn underneath the giant ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture.


Image 5: Flag raising ceremony at the Green Flag Award flagpole

Mark Camley said:

“We’re incredibly proud that Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has once again been awarded the prestigious Green Flag Award. The Park has proved itself as a lifeline for many east Londoners, with the beautiful parklands providing safe, open space for everyone in the local area. We are  also honoured to host the London Blossom Garden – a living memorial to commemorate the city's shared experience of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

“Retaining the award for the eighth consecutive year is an honour, and is a testament to the hard working staff and volunteers who have kept the Park open during such difficult times, so thank you to everyone who played a part in this.”

Image 6: The 8th consecutive Award for Olympic Park

Carl McClean, International Development Manager for the Green Flag Award said:

"It was a fantastic day t be part of and very well organised. The finishing touch where delegates and and organisers got together to fly the giant flag was both fun and fitting to the huge amount of work of the Olympic Park team for continuing to achieve the Award for the 8th year running. Well done to the landscape contractors idverde and London Legacy Development Corporation for their upkeep and development of the park."

Green Flag Award Scheme Manager Paul Todd said: “I would like to congratulate everyone involved in the 2,127 parks and green spaces on their achievement”

“To meet the requirements demanded by the scheme is testament to the hard work of the staff and volunteers who do so much to ensure that their site has high standards of horticulture, safety and environmental management and is a place that supports people to live healthy lives.”


In celebration of this year’s announcement the scheme is asked parks, buildings and monuments around the UK to #GoGreenForParks to show appreciation for the spaces that mean so much to people. Landmarks including Alexandra Palace and Bradford Town Hall went green on the day.

A full list of Green Flag Award-winning parks and green spaces is available here