Head gardener put out to pasture

Its manicured lawns, herbaceous borders, and flower beds were once used by visiting monarchs and lords of the manor.But a storm is brewing over the future upkeep of a former royal garden in Thetford after it emerged that the town's head gardener was being put out to pasture.

Its manicured lawns, herbaceous borders, and flower beds were once used by visiting monarchs and lords of the manor.

But a storm is brewing over the future upkeep of a former royal garden in Thetford after it emerged that the town's head gardener was being put out to pasture.

Barry Gayton, who has been planting and landscaping the King's House Gardens for the last 34 years, said he felt he was being “pushed out” by the trustees who manage the town centre site.

The head gardener said he feared that the Staniforth Trust, which is responsible for the upkeep of King's House - the former residence of King James I - was set to “rip up” his work and order a complete overhaul of the gardens.


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Mr Gayton, who spent his last day at King's House Gardens last Friday, said that a new contractor - believed to be the Shadwell Estate - was being brought in to “simplify” and “sterilise” the area.

The 58-year-old, who is a gardening expert on BBC local radio shows, said he declined the alternative offers of a handyman position at Thetford Town Council and the chance to work with the new King's House Gardens contractor because it would be too “heartbreaking” to see the fruits of his labours destroyed.

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“I feel sad I am leaving under duress and I feel sorry for the public who have enjoyed me working in the garden for the last 34 years. I have always been here to give help and advice as part of my job and I have tried to keep the garden the same as the man who left them would have liked to see them as a memorial to that person,” he said.

King's House and its gardens were bequeathed to the town by George Staniforth in 1947 and is now the headquarters of Thetford Town Council.

Ed Chambers, town clerk, said the town council had managed the gardening contract for many years, but the Staniforth Trust committee, which consists entirely of town councillors, had decided for a change. He added that the long-term management of King's House Gardens had not yet been formally agreed.

“There is going to be a thorough reinvigoration and there is going to be a programme of removal of plants and replacement of plants that is scheduled for the next few weeks. There is going to be a bit of a blitz. They [the Staniforth Trust] have looked at the operating costs and appearance of the gardens and it is considered time for a change,” he said.

Theresa Mason, who was one of 170 people who signed a petition against the plans, said she was “appalled” by the “undemocratic” decision.

Mr Gayton added that he was happy to offer gardening tips and advice at his home at Desert World Gardens, Santon Downham, and could be contacted at 01842 765861.

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