Meet the Team: William Hurton
Over the next few weeks we will be publishing a series of short articles featuring the dedicated team at Dixter. To kick us off, here is a piece about just William - our maestro in the vegetable garden.
Name: William Hurton
Service: 8 Years
What's your role at Great Dixter?
Officially, I think it says I'm Head of Produce. My job is to grow all the vegetables and produce for the estate and to make sure the kitchen runs smoothly with seasonable vegetables. In the winter I ensure that there is plenty of wood and that the fires are lit.
How did you come to work at Dixter?
I saw Dixter on the TV on Gardeners World. At the time I was helping out at a garden in the local village. I wanted to do two weeks work experience and so I went up the house at Dixter and met Fergus. I came for two weeks initially. I don’t think I impressed them that much but I wanted to come back, but they weren’t so sure. Anyway, I persuaded them let me come to work for two days a week in the summer holidays, helping out with cutting the grass and so on – this is my chance, I thought to myself. In fact, I used to bunk off and go and help out in the Potting Shed. One time the phone went and I answered it – it was someone from the school. Unfortunately, my Dad had just called in 15 minutes before saying I was sick. I remember they weren’t too impressed and I got quite a lot of detentions for that! I came to Dixter full time from July 1999.
What do you love most about your job?
Coming to this gorgeous garden. It changes every single day and there is always something new and the seasons are so different at Dixter. In Spring there are the wild flowers, narcissus and orchids; in Summer there is the gorgeous Long Border and the freshness of the garden. In the Autumn I love the fantastic colour and the Exotic garden which is then six feet high and so lush. Then in the Winter you see the structure once again and get back to basics as well as enjoying the warmth of the log fires.
This is a high maintenance garden because when Christo started gardening at Dixter in the 1940s and 50s, horticultural labour was very cheap. I love learning about how to garden using these old methods. For example, we grow our own tulip bulbs, we don’t buy them – which takes time and hard work. But this means we get what’s called Tulip Fire – a fantastic variation of colour. And in the nursery we make our own compost, and to learn using the old techniques is an amazing opportunity.
What do you think makes Dixter special?
I think it’s seeing another way of life. Just to witness how Christo lived his life – how he would treat his guests, filling the house with people and giving them the most amazing experience ranging from what they ate, to sitting in front of the fire, perhaps having a doze after lunch or sunning over a cup of coffee – then out into the garden again for walk around with Christo where he would explain exactly how he had come by each plant……
What is your fondest memory of Christo?
For me it was the times we spent in the kitchen. When Christo became older and weaker, Fergus and I would help with the cooking. He would sit down and direct us – the sprouts should take exactly 12 minutes and be cooked with the lid off and the sauce should go into a hot oven and be cooled down to seal it – he had 80 years of learning the best ways to cook and he was passing it onto us. He taught me how to make his Mum’s favourite chocolate pudding....
What are your aspirations for Dixter’s Future?
To keep in going in the way Christo would have wanted it to – and it will take us a lot of hard work. We must fight for Dixter, to host events and workshops and to raise the funds we need and to keep the garden up to the highest standard possible. One day I would love to see a fantastic eating place here – maybe in the Barn. Somewhere that is very seasonal and where people can come and eat what’s cooking and eat produce we have grown here ourselves, just like Christo offered to his friends when they came to stay.
Dixter must carry on giving people a chance. I used to be quite a rebel when I was younger. I had bleached hair, sometime I was bald. But none of that mattered to Christo, it didn’t matter if you had a tattoo or an ear-ring, he would just laugh. He would always look beyond the superficial and see through to the person behind.
What are your personal ambitions / interests?
I want to travel more. I want to go round a lecture about Dixter and spread the word. I am hoping to go to America with Fergus late this year to help with the fund-raising. I love listening to music and, of course, supporting my local football team, Brighton Hove Albion.