Emma’s putting on the Ritz

SUE SKINNER Red carpet glamour is in short supply when Emma Hill dresses for work in the morning.But next month she'll be swapping her wellies and waterproofs for a posh frock and high heels, as she accepts a prestigious national gardening award at a glittering ceremony in London.

SUE SKINNER

Red carpet glamour is in short supply when Emma Hill dresses for work in the morning.

But next month she'll be swapping her wellies and waterproofs for a posh frock and high heels, as she accepts a prestigious national gardening award at a glittering ceremony in London.

Emma, 37, a seasonal gardener at the National Trust's Oxburgh Hall, near Swaffham, is to receive one of the two prizes given annually by the Worshipful Company of Gardeners, one of the City of London's livery companies, for outstanding achievement in the field of horticulture, gardening or floristry.

Her work was singled out for particular praise after she completed her City & Guilds (Level 3) NVQ in amenity horticulture and her name was put forward by her tutor at Easton College, near Norwich.

She will collect her £300 award at the 2007 City and Guilds Medals for Excellence Lion Awards - an Oscars-style bash which honours those who have gone the extra mile to gain their qualification, followed by a night in a luxury hotel in the capital, joined by partner Richard Barney.

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“I can't wait,” said Emma, a mother-of-two who lives at East Lexham, near Swaffham. “I get to wear a frock and I don't have to wear steel-capped boots! It makes a change from wearing trousers and if I'm using a chain-saw I wear padded trousers, so it's nice to wear a dress.”

Gardening has always been a passion for Emma, who has worked at Oxburgh for nearly five years and loves “absolutely everything” about her job.

“I love the people I work with, where I work, the things that we do,” she said. “It varies from doing the chain-saw work to writing the gardening leaflets and taking people on tours around the garden.

“I'm very lucky.”

Head gardener at the hall, Graham Donachie, said he was very proud of Emma.

“She has worked hard for her qualifications and she should be very proud of what she has achieved,” he said. “It is great to see that her hard work has been acknowledged.”

A “gardeners' question time” event, due to have been held at Oxburgh on Saturday was cancelled due to poor ticket sales.