David Barnes receives the George Brown Memorial Award 2014

by Allan Hart

David Barnes began his horticultural career in 1983, becoming a horticultural technician at the plant sciences department of Kings College London based at Herne Hill. The role comprised of maintaining the acre of grounds along with the rooftop complex of glasshouses containing the plant collections used for experimentation and teaching. Here David gained his City and Guilds qualifications as well as taking part in a student expedition to Ecuador. The natural progression was to move on to Kew following in the footsteps of previous staff, including E Arthur Bell who had been in charge of the department before taking on the role of Director of Kew a few years earlier.

David successfully interviewed for the Kew Diploma joining Course 25 on the 14th September 1987. During his student days David took part in some key events in Kew’s history. Only a few weeks after his start on the course the ‘Great Storm’ of 1987 hit the Gardens changing the landscape dramatically with many thousands of trees uprooted and badly damaged. His first months working in ‘West Arb’ consisted of endless bonfires followed by weeks of mulching the bamboo garden. Equally dramatic times came with the replanting of the newly renovated Palm House and the retirement of the Supervisor of Studies, Leo Pemberton. In 1988 David received the modest sum of £50 from the Guild to carry out his travel scholarship proposal to visit UBC Botanic Gardens in Vancouver. In 1990 David graduated from the Diploma course to a full time member of staff in the School of Horticulture taking the reins from Gary Castle as Staff Training Officer. It was then that his links with the Kew Guild were forged, joining the Awards Scheme Committee under Kenwyn Pearson’s chairmanship. David later became Secretary of the Awards Committee, Membership Secretary of the Guild and latterly Chair of the Awards Committee.

With restructuring of the Horticultural Department, David moved into a Health and Safety role for a short period before promotion to his current role as Manager of Horticultural Support working for Tony Kirkham and looking after the procurement of machinery, compost production, outdoor event support and the Chairmanship of sustainability for the whole Kew site. While work commitments have seen a reduction in the time available to dedicate to the Guild, David continues to be a member of the Awards Scheme in support of the new Chair, Chris Kidd.