A key member of the Roberts Park management team has retired after lifetime in horticulture to devote himself to marathon running, cycling and his much-loved allotment.

Assistant manager Martin Bijl has worked at the Saltaire park since it was opened after restoration work four years ago and before he taught horticulture at Shipley College for 20 years.

But at the age of 64, Dutch-born Mr Bijl yesterday left his role overseeing Bradford Council’s prestigious park at the World Heritage Site.

He said: “I’ll be spending a lot of time at my big allotment on the Cottingley Bridge site which has 15 fruit trees and the rest veg and it runs right down to the River Aire.

“It’s absolutely lovely. I hopped around a few other plots before I got it and have had it for eight years now,” said Mr Bijl, who is married with two grown-up children.

But superfit Mr Bijl also has other more strenuous plans.

“I’m a keen cyclist and runner and will be taking part in the Sydney half-marathon alongside my son who lives over there with my three grandchildren,” he said.

Other plans away from the garden include joining a choir.

“I’ve not done that yet, but I have just joined the Bingley Harriers running club – just to slow them down!” joked Mr Bijl, who arrived in England in the 1950s when his scientist father came over to work.

“I’ve lived all over the country, but am more than happy to stay where I am now,” said Mr Bijl whose daily efforts to maintain and improve the park were rewarded with the gift of a new spade from the Friends of Roberts Park.

“We got him the poshest spade we could – we’ve been so lucky to have had him at the park,” said friends secretary Sharon Ashton.

“Martin knows horticulture backwards and forwards and he’s got such a passion for the park. He’s got an infectious enthusiasm and is a really good ‘people person’ who will be really, really missed.”