GARDENERS from two of Barnsley’s most popular parks have given the Chronicle a look into how they and their dedicated volunteers keep the treasured sites looking their best.
We’re now well into the time of year when gorgeous blooms and plush greenery start to really catch our eye around town - and despite ultimately being ‘nature’ itself in action, these scenes don’t just happen on their own.
Months of pre-planning, planting, pruning, maintenance and design goes into each and every corner of the gardens - and teams from Locke Park and Wentworth Castle Gardens have shared how their gardeners achieve this.
Locke Park - the 47-acre greenspace on the outskirts of the town centre - has drawn crowds for more than a century after being gifted to the Barnsley public in 1861.
The park’s gardens are now kept by a team of four gardeners with the help of the Friends of Locke Park volunteer group, under management of Barnsley Council’s parks supervisor, Jo Birch.
Led by Anne Cherry, they mainly concentrate their efforts in the former sandstone quarry area, near to the main park entrance on Park Road.
“Gardening never stops,” she told the Chronicle.
“Once April came around, we started our rose pruning, shrub pruning, and grass cutting - all those sorts of things.
“The Friends of Locke Park group have been sorting the bedding plants which they raise funds for.
“The ladies who volunteer their time are brilliant, they do a lot of the planting and pruning and upkeep, and choose the seasonal flowers themselves.
“Of course my lads do the lion’s share - the more heavy stuff.
“We have two head gardeners, Tony Richards-Vardy, who has been with us for around 40 years now, and Alan Newcombe, who isn’t far behind him at around 30 years with us. It’s a great team.
“There are always the jobs which never stop, of course, like keeping things tidy and emptying the litter bins, that sort of thing.
“We’re always busy, and while it might look like things calm down as autumn comes - that’s just when the grass cutters get swapped out for leaf blowers.”
Though under the National Trust, the gardens team at Wentworth Castle Gardens in Stainborough shared with the Chronicle how they operate on quite a similar basis.
Gardens and outdoors manager at the site, Rachel Parkin, specialises in historic gardens and explained more about how the heritage is safeguarded, whilst also moving forward with the times.
“We have a small team of gardeners who work across the whole site,” she said.
“We also have support from different teams of volunteers who come on different days - there are so many volunteering opportunities.
“Some complete wider work and some are more interested in specialist plant collections.
“One of our specialist planters has been with us for more than 30 years and personally planted a lot of our Rhododendron collection herself, and has propagated from them since as they’re obviously very well established now.
“It really is a passion for them as well as a job.
“The gardens have been here for hundreds of years and it’s always changing, but allowing it to do that without artificially changing too much of it is what we try to do.
“Some parts have been partially restored, but a lot of it is original and natural.
“We want to make it an interesting, special, and intriguing place.”
The site currently have a ‘Union Jack Garden Project’ running, which Rachel said is the ‘perfect opportunity’ for local communities to put their own stamp on a patch of the historic gardens.
Communities have now been contributing to the patch of land, laid out in a Union Jack pattern no less, since September last year.
“The project really gives people the opportunity to come and make their mark.
“It involves redesigning and replanting sections of the shape, and while we primarily bring back historic features in the gardens, I guess this gives people the opportunity to become part of that history.”