International Women's Day: Meet Clare Miller: The Female Lawn Care Specialist Bringing Beauty to Burnham-on-Crouch
Meet Clare Miller, a skilled lawn care specialist from Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex. Discover her journey from a freelance photographer to a full-time lawn care specialist, and how her childhood memories shaped her passion for proper lawn care. Learn about the challenges of being a female in a male-dominated industry.
My name is Clare Miller & I’ve been living in the small town of Burnham-on-Crouch in rural Essex for the last 15 years. It’s a place with quite a community feel to it so many of my customers are from recommendations & word of mouth.
I’ve always been an active person, into sports & fitness & grew up with a love of the outdoors. Nothing makes me happier than to be outside on a summers day! Even in the winter when it’s cold & damp it still feels good to get out in the fresh air - although the motivation to get out there in the depths of winter to start the day can be hard to find sometimes!! When I’m not working I still love to be outside - walking by the river where I live with friends, or venturing up to Scotland in my camper van to explore the islands & walk some big hills with my partner - often with a camera in hand. I’m a single mum to a 16 year old son so juggling work & home life can be a challenge!
Where Did Your Passion of Lawncare Come From?
I remember when I was young, watching my father cut the grass at home. I was never allowed to help as he was very particular about it and always cut the edges very precisely! That’s definitely influenced me as I always make sure I edge a lawn properly now & customers often don’t realise how important that is until they see the finished result! I think a well cut & edged lawn makes the biggest difference to the look of a garden - it’s very satisfying to see the transformation!
Tell Me A Bit About Your Work?
For many years I was a freelance photographer in London with general gardening as a side business to fill in the quiet times. But the lawn care side of gardening is the bit I enjoy most so now I do that full time. It can be anything from a one-off cut to a full annual program of treatments & care, tiny gardens to large “fields”! I’ve educated myself with online courses & learn a lot from the many Facebook & YouTube pages out there. I really enjoy the variety of people I meet - my favourites are the ones who provide a cup of tea & a cake to keep me going!!
What Challenges Have You Faced Being A Female in the Industry?
Being self-employed is something I’m very used to but it has it’s challenges & advantages! And the seasonal nature of the work means I become a painter & decorator over the winter months to keep busy. I’ve always worked in male-dominated industries (I was an aerospace engineer before I became a photographer) and I don’t actually know of any other female lawn care specialists in my area! Maybe it’s because of the amount of heavy machinery involved & the physical nature of the job? But for anyone interested in being active & being outdoors it’s a great career. I’m not very tall (5’2”) & the biggest problem I have is that tools, lawnmowers etc are all too tall for me! Most mowers don’t have the facility to adjust the height of the handles & it does feel like they’re all designed around men! I normally have to chop a bit off the handles of rakes etc so they’re more comfortable!
It took me quite a while to realise that lawn care can be a separate job from general gardening, & that there’s so much involved in making a lawn look great. There’s a big market out there for customers who want their grass looking fabulous but don’t have the knowledge or time to achieve it. I’ve not had any negative experiences from customers about being a female in the industry - in fact I think many customers prefer it & feel less intimidated perhaps?
What Can Be Done To Get More Women Into Lawncare/The Industry?
Most advertising I see for mowers & garden machinery seems to show men doing the “serious” work with larger mowers, aerators, scarifiers etc, and women only pictured with small lightweight machines in a pretty back garden! I know plenty of women very capable of taking on the heavier jobs & it would be nice to see these examples used to encourage women into the industry.
There is a lot of information online about lawn care & how to improve your own lawn at home. Much of it can be quite technical in terms of specific treatments, expensive machinery etc, but there’s also big improvements to be made by regular mowing & an occasional rake & feed. But if I give away too much I’ll be out of a job!