Skip to content

Lily - Community Gardener at Groundwork London

Meet Lily, a Community Gardener at Groundwork London. Lily’s journey in the green space sector showcases not only her passion for the environment but also the varied and rewarding nature of a career in this field. The flexibility of training and a combination of volunteering and practical work experience formed the foundation of her career.

“Working in the sector can be rewarding, working with people and plants makes me feel great… It’s great to have a job where you are paid to do something you are passionate about and it makes a real difference to the environment and the people you work with.” 

lily barson - community gardener employee


Before joining Groundwork London, Lily’s path was a blend of volunteering, training and a patchwork of different short-term contracts and self-employed work. Her journey began with her dedicated volunteer work at growing communities in Hackney. This led her to pursue a Level 1 Horticulture course, followed by a Level 2 course with a focus on market gardening (growing produce for commercial purposes). Lily went on to further enhance her skills by completing a teaching qualification at Organic Lea and obtaining a Level 3 Award in Teaching and Training.

"It’s really empowering to learn new skills and help other people realise talents in themselves."

Day-to-Day as a Community Gardener:

Lily’s role is diverse, encompassing a wide range of responsibilities. She engages in the development of educational resources tailored to the science curriculum for schools, delivering courses to diverse audiences, including children, families, and the general public. Additionally, Lily works on the upkeep of the Mobile Garden, has led well-being walks designed for asylum seekers and refugees, and collaborates with local authorities on greening training initiatives.

lily barson - community gardener employee

Training and Development:

Lily has also been presented with opportunities for additional training. Notably, she has undertaken training in COSSH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) and Microsoft Excel at Groundwork London. Her journey emphasises the flexibility of training in the green space sector, starting with volunteering as a stepping stone.

Rewards, Challenges and Community:

Lily acknowledges that she was very lucky to be able to pursue this career, starting with training, volunteering and piecemeal work and that, financially, volunteering is not a possibility for everyone who wants to start their career. She notes that there are benefits and challenges of freelance work, such as flexibility and balancing projects, and she expresses gratitude for having the stability that her job at Groundwork London provides. Lily appreciates the sense of community within the sector and praises the sector for its “friendly and supportive nature”, with colleagues being “kind, curious, and always willing to share opportunities”.

lily barson - community gardener employee

Advice for Job Seekers:

Lily encourages job seekers to explore jobs in the green space sector as, now more than ever, jobs like these are important to feel more connected with the environment and our communities. As a queer woman, she says she understands some of the barriers facing more marginalised groups entering this sector.

"I am keen to encourage more underrepresented groups in the green sector but at the same time think that there is work to be done from the sector to make this possible. For example, increasing paid training opportunities and salaries of these vital jobs so that more people can see green jobs as a real potential career path."

“While the green space sector might not always be the path to financial wealth, this is a job you will genuinely enjoy, is good for your mental and physical health, with nice colleagues and meaningful work that positively impacts the environment.”