The last 18 months has caused considerable disruption to travel – the core activity of the Merlin Trust. The Merlin Trust funds travel bursaries to young horticulturists to enable them to experience new horticultural environments, see the plants they care for growing in the wild, and develop greater awareness and understanding of global horticulture. With ongoing COVID-19 issues, the Merlin Trust has made the decision not to fund international travel and restrict funding to UK-only projects.
While this might be curbing the geographical spread of projects, changes to the awards structure will allow for a greater diversity of activities to be funded by the Merlin Trust. As well as the standard travel grant, the Merlin Trust has developed a special award for a heather-related project (thanks to a generous donation by The Heather Society) as well as two new grants: the Green Recovery Award and the Health & Wellbeing Award.
The Green Recovery Award is aimed at young horticulturists interested in growing their practical experience in conservation horticulture, including the role of horticulture in UK habitat restoration, and sustainable horticulture. The Health & Wellbeing Award will allow award recipients to explore the impact of horticulture on society, particularly the links between gardening and health. Both are aimed at providing practical experience in two key areas of horticultural development in the UK. The special award for a heather-related project seeks to raise the profile of a much neglected group of plants!
The standard travel grant has changed too. The UK-only Study Travel Grant has been expanded into new areas for the first time, including conferences, study fees (short skill or competency based courses), or purely conservation based projects. It still provides funding for tours and visits as well as work experience and research-related projects. A much wider remit should help young horticulturists fund activities in the UK which will help their careers post-pandemic.
New awards structure
As part of the Merlin Trust’s UK-only travel grants we have instigated new award categories and a special award for 2021:
- UK-only Travel Grant – We offer up to £1,000 to individual applicants to assist with UK-only travel projects. As well as travel, we will support work experience in gardens or other horticulturally-related areas including research projects. For the first time, we will also be supporting training and learning: if you need skill specific training, certificate of competency training, or would like to attend a conference or other short training course, you can now apply to the Merlin Trust for assistance. Special recognition will be given to exciting or innovative projects.
- UK-only Travel Grant for a heather-related project. Thanks to a generous donation by The Heather Society, which closed earlier this year, the Merlin Trust is funding a £1,000 special award for a project focused on heather. Projects might involve heather in cultivation or conservation projects of heather and heath habitats in the UK. The project might be a study tour of the heather National Plant Collections (at RHS Garden Wisley, National Trust for Scotland’s Branklyn Garden, The Lakeland Horticultural Society at Holehird Gardens and National Trust’s Nymans), work experience in a specialist heather nursery, or contributing to a moorland or heathland restoration or research project. For more information on heathers, please see the Heather World website. Exciting or innovative project ideas are particularly welcomed.
- Green Recovery Award – to support travel to and support at gardens and plant-related environment projects with a sustainable or conservation focus. We would like to hear from you if you have a study tour planned which looks at sustainability in horticulture – from improving the sustainability of public gardens to sustainable growing practices, or if you are planning work experience or research as part of a plant conservation or habitat restoration project. Tours/work must be in the UK and you must show evidence that the garden/s or project/s are willing for you to visit and/or work. There are many places you could visit/arrange work experience including the RSPB Haweswater Restoration Project, Centre for Alternative Technology, or projects that you might want to consider e.g. seeking work experience at a peat-free compost maker to identify new opportunities for in-garden compost production. This list is not exhaustive and, as with all our awards, special recognition will be given to exciting or innovative projects.
- Health and Wellbeing Award – to support travel to and support at gardens or projects which have a focus on health and wellbeing in horticulture. Examples could be work experience with an horticultural therapy organisation or a study tour examining the role that gardens and contact with plants can play in improving health and wellbeing. Tours must be in the UK and you must show evidence that the garden/s or project/s are willing for you to visit and/or work. There are many gardens and organisations who have created health and wellbeing gardens or are involved in horticultural therapy. Potential examples of organisations and gardens include Thrive, Trellis, Eden Project, Horatio’s Gardens and many other social prescribing sites in community and public gardens e.g. RHS Gardens Wisley and Bridgewater. This list is not exhaustive and, as with all our awards, special recognition will be given to exciting or innovative projects.
Continuing COVID-19 issues might restrict the level of involvement in some projects so potential applicants are urged to talk with the garden/project contact/s to find out what will be possible. The application form also requires applicants to consider how to make their projects more COVID secure.
Applications open on 30th August 2021 and close on 30th September 2021. All forms are available from the ‘Available Grants‘ page with details on eligibity in the guidance notes.