Tanya and her long journey to Peterborough Cathedral makes a worthy entry into our More than a Building campaign.
It’s a long road from standing on a factory production line to head gardener at Peterborough Cathedral, but Tanya Simons was born within the sound of the cathedral bells with a passion for gardening inspired by her granddad, her own dad – and Alan Titchmarsh.
While she worked on the production line she dreamed of being a gardener, read book after book, and put all her energies into transforming her own garden.
“I’d always loved gardening and we had a big garden and I just got the bug; I dreamt, slept and ate that garden. It was all about gardening.
“I read all Alan Titchmarsh’s books and knew I’d need to go to college to be able to get anywhere close to my dream; and that’s what I eventually did.”
Not a natural academic, Tanya struggled with the course and when her dad was diagnosed with cancer, she nearly gave up. But her mum wrote to Alan Titchmarsh to tell him how he’d inspired Tanya – and how she was thinking of giving it all up – and it was his message of encouragement that spurred her on.
She finally passed her exam and when a job came up at Peterborough Cathedral, it was exactly what she wanted.
“I ‘d always loved the cathedral. As kids we lived close by and I knew it well. My tutor gave me the confidence to go for the job, and I just showed them what I’d done with my own garden.
“I couldn’t believe it when I got the job; it was a dream come true. It’s not just a passion for the garden, it’s a passion for the whole place,” she said.
Fourteen years on Tanya is now head gardener at Peterborough Cathedral and loves every minute of it. It’s the cathedral’s 900th Anniversary this year so there are 900 daffodil bulbs planted to mark it, and she’s got big plans for a neglected orchard she wants to bring back into use.
“The weather hasn’t been kind; the gardens aren’t looking as crisp as they should but I have such a love for this place and the people – it’s the people who are making a really big difference here and I’m just glad to be a part of it all.”
As part of Peterborough 900 celebrations, the spacecraft which transported Tim Peake to and from the International Space Station, will be on display in Peterborough Cathedral from Sat August 11 until November with a wide range of events organised alongside it. Find out more here.