A BOSS has reflected on his time at a much-loved county attraction as he celebrates a major milestone.

Markshall Estate's head of the arboretum and gardens, 51-year-old Ian Chandler, is celebrating being part of the team for 25 years.

After joining in 1998 as an estate worker and arborist, Ian has spent the past quarter of a century dedicating most of his working career to nurturing and developing the 2,350-acre landscape near Coggeshall.

Ian said he always had a love of the outdoors, so did some volunteering work at Bradfield Woods in Suffolk to gain experience to be accepted onto a college course.

He then funded himself through a year’s course at Moulton College in Northamptonshire.

Starting working life as a photographers assistant, then in a photography lab, Ian took on various factory jobs to fund getting through his college years before joining Markshall.

Reflecting on how the site has changed, Ian said: "The arboretum, as I remember, was very different to what you see now - half the size as it is today, with areas such as the Birkett Long Millennium Walk and Gondwanaland, not yet developed or planted, existing.

"The walled garden was just a large lawn surrounded with three long borders."

Since then, Markshall has expanded and significantly developed, thanks to the help of Ian and the arboretum and horticulture team.

Some of his other projects have included the creation of the hard path network.

Ian said this was particularly significant as it made the grounds more accessible to visitors.

Braintree and Witham Times: Milestone - Ian Chandler is celebrating 25 years since he first joined Markshall EstateMilestone - Ian Chandler is celebrating 25 years since he first joined Markshall Estate (Image: N/A)

He continued: "More recently it has been very rewarding to be a part of being involved in the creation of the digital plant catalogue.

"From paper records in folders and books, the entire catalogue has been digitalized and loaded to a horticultural database.

"This means moving forward the management of the tree collection will be easier and more focused, and visitors can now explore the arboretum and more than 5,000 trees through the arboretum explorer on our website."

Ian said whilst the dark and cold winter mornings are the tougher parts of the job, it is his "amazing" colleagues who keep him sane.

On the best part of the job, he said: "Markshall was left ‘in trust’ to the nation, so being given the opportunity to fulfill the wishes of Thomas Phillips Price and have a part in creating an Arboretum and managing the landscape of the estate for the future is both unique and special."

Chair of the board of trustees Meriel Barclay said: "Very many congratulations to Ian after 25 years at Markshall.

"Ian has been an incredibly valuable member of the team having started as an estate worker and arborist and been steadily promoted to become head of the arboretum and gardens.

"He is a pleasant colleague, a very motivational manager for his team, as well as being exceedingly knowledgeable in all aspects of arboretum management.

"From a conception of an arboretum to developing zones, designing landscapes and planning for the future, Ian has achieved so much in 25 years at Markshall.

"Everyone at Markshall is incredibly thankful for his dedication and commitment to the development and safeguarding for the estate."