A 16-year-old who started working as an apprentice gardener at Calderstones Park has now racked up an incredible 50 years of service in the job.
Jon Warren started at the park on November 15, 1971 – and he’s still there today. A tree is named after him in South Liverpool Park in recognition of his remarkable achievements and has also been awarded a 50-year service medal from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).
Jon, who recently celebrated his 67th birthday, began a five-year apprenticeship at the park straight from school. And despite his vast knowledge and experience, he opted to stay on the outside as a gardening team leader, rather than taking on a purely management role.
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He said: “I like practical things. The knowledge and skills that I had acquired from some of the former gardeners who taught me, I passed on by becoming a mentor myself to very many apprentices, some of whom left to become team leaders, managers or supervisors.
“It’s the only job I’ve ever had, and I haven’t been tempted to go anywhere else. Calderstones Park is the best park to work in as it has the Old English Garden, the Japanese Garden and the Oak of “Allerton. But Sefton Park is my favorite park of all. It’s Liverpool’s most famous park and I love the scenery and the way it’s been built.
Needless to say, Jon has seen many changes over the decades he has worked at the park. He said: “The biggest changes I’ve noticed are fewer people working in gardening and the machines being used. We used to use brooms, now we have blowers.
“When I started there were 24 gardeners at Calderstones, and each had their own little patch. Now there are just four of us, plus a summer temporary worker, and we are also responsible for maintaining the park Sudley House and Otterspool Park and the ballroom But you get used to it I am an outdoors person and don’t mind being outside in all weathers.
“It’s just a nice environment to work in. It’s good to be outside and I’m not stuck in an office. I know every inch of Calderstones Park and if you have a good team behind you , it makes your job all the more important. The interaction with the public is also very important. If they say the park is beautiful, it feels good.”
But despite his passion for his job, Jon, from Wavertree, decided he would hang up his trowel in October this year, just before his 51st birthday at the park. He said: “I think it’s time for me to go. I’m not getting any younger and it’s a demanding job. I’ve accumulated a pension so why not take advantage of it?
“When the council honored me with planting my own tree, they asked me, ‘Do you want a plaque on it?’ And I said no, I’m not dead yet!”
Caroline Teire, who runs the Facebook group Calderstones Park Forever, said: “Jon is without a doubt the most knowledgeable, kind, interested and caring gardener you could ever wish to meet. His passion, his interest in nature and her commitment to the park are truly amazing.
“Just seeing him talk about the Allerton Oak illustrates his incredible knowledge of bird life in the park. What other park has such a dedicated, hardworking and committed gardener as Jon? This incredible record of hard work, love of nature and commitment cannot pass without the recognition of the users of the park and the city as well.”