If you’ve ever wandered around Bute Park in Cardiff, you’ve probably admired the many trees, bushes and flowers that make the park look so colorful and manicured. And although there’s a whole maintenance crew guarding the park, which was recently named one of Britain’s most treasured green spaces, there is undoubtedly one man who knows the grounds more than most.
Mark West, known as ‘Westy’, is celebrating 50 years since he started working at Cardiff Council’s Parks Department after starting as a trainee gardener when he was just 15. Now 65, Mark works two and a half days a week as a supervisor and spends most of his time looking after Cardiff’s parks and gardens.
Breaking with the maintenance of the boundaries of the 130-acre Bute Park in Cardiff, Mark said: “I think I’m outside for maybe 90 per cent of the time and that’s how I prefer it. J ‘ve loved this job since the day I started on £7 a week and still love it so much now.” After leaving school in Caerphilly, Mark’s father had first found him a job at the Royal Ordnance Factory and he started working there for £18.
READ MORE: The incredible progress being made in rebuilding the Vulcan at St Fagans
But Mark preferred gardening to gunpowder and instead chose to work at the Parks Department in Llanishen. He said: “We grew shrubs and other plants for all of Cardiff’s parks and gardens there and it was also a storage place for council equipment. I stayed there for two years, then I moved to Wedal Road…and I’m still based here.”
Mark rose through the ranks to become head gardener at Bute Park and was promoted to supervisor 25 years ago. Its remit still includes the popular downtown park, but also encompasses Gorsedd Gardens, Cathays Park, the Civic Center and others. But in 50 years of working for the department, his workload still hasn’t eased – Mark has 40,000 bedding plants to plant across the estate this spring.
Mark’s Manager, Parks, Sports and Port Authority Operational Manager Jon Maidment said: “He is a highly respected and valued member of the Parks team. His enthusiasm and commitment to service has not wavered over the years, and he is a role model and inspiration to others.”
With a vast knowledge of gardening and parks in the capital, Mark’s favorite park is Bute Park and his favorite shrub is the rhododendron. His gardening hero is English gardener, broadcaster and author Geoff Hamilton, who died in 1996, and says his best advice for beginners would be to ask as many questions as possible.
As for which gardening tool he finds most useful, Mark says the Dutch hoe has many uses. He added that the toughest adversary he would face while gardening would be tying weeds or elderberry to the ground.
Mark said he originally planned to retire when he turned 65 in January, but it “came and went”. He continued: “So I’m looking at July…or January next. The problem is I love my job too much. Even when I’m not working I tend to my garden at my home in Thornhill so when I finally finished I will not be a couch potato.”