WHEN I began writing my book, it was my intention to give a view of a gardener’s life. The pleasures and hardships, along with funny anecdotes.

I have included an easy-to-understand monthly guide to gardening, including potting compost formulas to make up yourself to achieve good plant growth.

My own introduction to growing, came in 1957 at Cleckheaton’s open market, now long gone. There was a plant in a pot with brightly coloured leaves which took my eye. I asked the stall holder how much it was? ‘One shilling and two pence’ was the reply. But I only had nine pence left out of my pocket money. I plucked up courage and showed the man my nine pence and asked if he would accept it for the plant. Yes, to my delight, was his reply. The plant was a Coleus a plant which I still grow and enjoy today.

I was to work for the next 45 years as a gardener, leaving school in 1964, firstly at Kirklees Hall Clifton, Brighouse in the employment of Sir John and Lady Armytage. There was a garden with walls 10ft high, several greenhouses, including a stove house which was built half underground to help maintain a high temperature. The extensive estate included tied cottages for estate workers. There were villages and several public houses.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Peter as a young gardenerPeter as a young gardener (Image: Peter Fawcett)

One of my first jobs was to riddle hundreds of sacks of hydrated lime (Calcium hydroxide) which I was told Sir John had bought as a job lot left over from World War Two. The sacks were in the old water mill on Wakefield Road, which has since been made into a restaurant, Kirklees old mill, part of Kirklees Priory founded in 1155. There I was riddling lime in mid-winter with no heat or lights. The dust rising as I worked was excruciating,

Also included is a thread of history of gardening which runs through the book, and the unsung heroes the gardeners who made it happen. Before 1840 public gardens hardly existed. There were private parks of the gentry, but not for the public. In recent years Lancelot Brown has received much accolade. But another deserves credit for the creation of public parks which we all know today - John Claudius Loudon, who created the first public park in 1840. The park was free to all to visit and was quickly followed by a host of other towns and cities with the creation of public parks in Sheffield 1861, Bradford, Salford, Manchester, and Worcester in 1859.

Loudon deserves more credit than he has been given. He heavily influenced the great gardener Joseph Paxton (1803-1865). Paxton first used London’s ‘Ridge and Furrow’ system of glazing in the building of the great stove house at Chatsworth and the construction of the Crystal Palace London in 1851.

I learned my trade at the Scandinavia Gardens in Cleckheaton. The gardens were attached to the BBA Company (British Belting and Asbestos) there were two greenhouses and extensive gardens to provide a pleasant environment for the factory workers. I have described the excellent facilities (including photographs) which included canteens, a medical centre and leisure was looked after with an annual dance, sports faculties. My mentor was Gordon Stewart, a contemporary and friend of arguably the greatest gardener of modern times, Yorkshireman Geoffrey Smith.

Following BBA, I worked in municipal parks. Public parks handed down the ages are noble and precious. Created by generations of gardeners with love, and they deserve to be treasured. Alan Titchmarsh said they are not a ‘Frivolous add-on to a local budget, they provide a valued resource for every member of the community, lifting spirits and increasing a feeling of self-worth and pride in towns, and they provide a host of community benefits for their relatively modest cost ‘.

In 2023 public parks are a shadow of what they were 20 years ago; this is underlined by the fact that Britain’s parks have lost £130 million every year since 2010,

A little-known fact which I have included is it was Claudius Loudon who proposed ‘green belts ‘in 1829 as breathing zones as heath giving areas around our cities and towns. I have highlighted that these belts are now under threat. Green belts are needed now more than ever. They are valuable as places for wildlife and human health alike.

I have quoted Dr Ross Cameron of Sheffield University at the RHS lecture 2016, when he said ‘horticulture is the glue that brings humans back to their own ecological framework, and hopefully promotes a more sustainable future for the species.’

* Gardener’s Delight by Peter Fawcett is published by Elgar Books Limited.

The book is available from Peter Fawcett, 34 St Peg Lane, Cleckheaton, BD19 3SD or by emailing peterfawcett0@gmail.com, or from Spenborough Stationers, Albion Street, Cleckheaton, tel. (01274) 873026 or email alecsuchi@hotmail.com.

The cost is £10 plus post and packing at £2.