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Reporter turfs out gardening career to become award winner

A former gardener is celebrating after changing career and being crowned the Midlands’ best new journalist.

Just two years ago Richard Ashmore was happily mowing lawns and perfecting flower beds when a near miss with a hedge trimmer made him re-evaluate his career plans.

Now, the Coventry Times reporter is the proud owner of a Best Newcomer prize which he received at the Birmingham Press Club’s Midlands Media Awards.

He said: “I went to university in Manchester but didn’t know what I wanted to do so worked as a gardener in Yorkshire.

“It was great but I thought it wasn’t the job for me when I nearly cut my leg off with a hedge trimmer.

“It sounds random but when you’re mowing lawns and cutting hedges you think about what you want to do.”

The 26-year-old, who has a degree in English, upped sticks from his native Yorkshire after being accepted on Warwickshire College’s NCTJ pre-entry course.

During his time there, he undertook work experience at the Coventry Citizen – later to become the Coventry Times – and has never looked back.

His prize-winning portfolio also earned him a runner-up prize in the Weekly Reporter of the Year category.

One of its stories was something Richard created off his own back just weeks after joining the newspaper.

He said: “I had the idea about Leamington Spa that there were a lot of down and out people, or people who seemed to be having a hard time.

“Leamington has a reputation for having so much money but there’s quite a lot of undercurrent to that.

“I spoke to a charity and they said there as a big problem with young people getting into drugs and they asked if it could be highlighted.

“Another story was about a guy who set up a fast food truck outside a school.

“It was during Jamie Oliver’s school meals campaign so we put an image of Jamie next to the van with the headline ‘Burger Off’.

“The school had just introduced healthy meals but he was trying to compete with them.”

Richard added: “Luckily the paper that I have got on has given me the chance to explore every type of journalism.

“My editor Darren Parkin has been a great mentor.”