103-year-old alumna recalls time at Writtle

June 2016

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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

Sitting in her vibrant, wonderfully maintained, two acre garden, Betty (Evelyn) Pearce proudly shows off her expert knowledge of the various plants and trees on display.

Having studied a horticulture course with Writtle between 1929 and 1931, Betty is likely to be one of the oldest alumni in the UK, if not the world, and speaks just as enthusiastically about her garden as what she did when studying her course all those years ago.

Formerly known as the East Anglian Institute of Agriculture, Writtle clearly has a place in Betty’s heart as she recalls her time in education and where her interest in horticulture started.

“My mother started my interest in Horticulture when I was five years old. From a young age I would help her in the garden as I used to love being outside with her and getting my hands dirty. I remember my mother used to wheel a water-barrow about the garden a lot.”

“I started my course in 1929 and I remember we used to go on a lot of excursions to various farms and gardens on a Saturday, which I always enjoyed. After studying my course I continued to work in horticulture and my first job was a gardener in Orpington for a place called ‘The Priory’. It was a fantastic first job. ”

Unfortunately, due to a spinal stroke in her 90s, Betty is now unable to maintain her garden herself, but it was a job she always enjoyed doing right up until the incident happened at the age of 98. Betty has always bottled her own home-grown fruit which she was inspired to do whilst at Writtle and even now continues to make her own jam and marmalade each year.

Betty - who has three daughters, four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren - still clearly has a huge passion and love for her garden and said: “I enjoy the planning side the most. It’s important to make it interesting.” She still keeps up-to-date with the latest development within the world of horticulture and has been a member of the Royal Horticultural Society since graduating from Writtle. “I still like to watch the Chelsea Flower Show on television to see the different plants.” she explained.

Finally, when asked what advice she would give to future students, Betty said: “Work hard and enjoy the outdoors!”

Betty celebrates her 104th birthday in July this year.