YPHA pays tribute to mentor and friend Paul Cooling

  • YPHA Committee with Ian Hazon, Liz Dowling and Adam Frost
  • Ian Hazon
  • Adam Frost
  • Liam Cleary paid tribute to his friend and mentor, Paul Cooling

After the sudden death of Paul Cooling over Christmas, a proposed YPHA visit to Coolings that he had arranged was in doubt. However, it was clear that it would have been Paul’s wish that the event continue. 

Yesterday 65 members of the Young People in Horticulture Association heard Liam Cleary of The Old Railway Line GC and a founder member pay tribute to Paul as his friend and mentor when they visited Coolings at Knockholt.

There followed an introductory talk by Ian Hazon, production and operations director of Coolings.  He outlined the company’s journey from a grower of flowers and vegetables in Chislehurst established by Paul’s Grandfather 110 years ago; to the group that it is today with four garden centres and owned by the staff.

Employee Ownership Trust

Ian explained how Paul had the vision to transfer a majority of the shares to an Employee Ownership Trust.  The staff now owns 75% of Coolings, the other 25% remains with the family.

The ownership is managed by an EOT board which is separate from the management board that runs the company. The EOT board has four members: one from the management board, an elected member of staff, a family member and an external independent director with a history in banking.

Wine, cheese and an all-night AGM

However, it has been difficult to get the staff to realise that the company belongs to them and attendance at the AGM required to elect the staff director was initially low.

That was until it was decided to make the AGM a virtual event with wine and cheese.  Staff members were sent bottles of wine and given the opportunity to buy a box of cheese for a virtual party following the meeting.  Attendance shot up.  The meeting started at 7:00 PM and some people were still partying at 4:00 AM.


Membership of the YPHA is now close to 400 young people under the age of 35. The members have very diverse roles. Some have their own retail nurseries growing and selling plants.  Some are running garden design and maintenance businesses. Others work in garden centres or their suppliers and growers, while others work for organisations such as the National Trust and the RHS.

The real glue that brings the association together is the regional WhatsApp groups, where members can ask the advice of others. A major discussion recently has been the use of pesticides when spraying.

At yesterday’s event, hosted by Coolings, they heard BBC Gardener’s World presenter Adam Frost talking about a life in Gardening and Liz Dowling, a freelance marketing consultant, who discussed the importance of values and having a clear vision.

Photographs have been supplied courtesy of GingerHorticulture

Memorial Service for Paul Cooling

Everybody is welcome to Paul Cooling's memorial service that will be held on Wednesday 22nd February 2023 at 2pm at St Nicholas Church, Rectory Lane, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 1JA and after at Coolings Nursery, Rushmore Hill, Knockholt, Kent, TN14 7NN

The family would like to know in advance that you are coming and have set up a special email - pauls.message.log@gmail.com.

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