May 18 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Gardener Stephen Hagon is marking 40 years service tending the stunning grounds of stately Blickling Hall.
Mr Hagon, who lives in nearby Oulton Street, joined the team of nine at the National Trust flagship hall near Aylsham as a trainee gardener on July 31, on the princely salary of £8.10 a week.
At the time in 1972 Ted Heath was prime minister, Donny Osmond topped the charts with Puppy Love, Clive Sinclair was inventing the first slim-line electronic pocket calculator, and the average house price was £7,500.
Mr Hagon, who is also well-known in local footballing circles as a veteran player, has seen many changes over the years. “We’re much more accessible to visitors all year round than we used to be. Now people can come to see the gardens in the winter, but in the past the season was very short,” he explained.
He has also seen the increased use of machinery in the garden team.
“It used to take months to cut our famous yew hedges. With modern equipment, it’s now less than two weeks.”
He is very proud of his contribution to the conservation of the gardens, and also that they have continued to evolve. “The creation of the double borders in 2006 compliments the famous parterre and gives visitors the ‘wow factor’.
“It was designed by our current head gardener and transformed two very old and tired borders which were full of weeds.”
He was also involved in the restoration of the garden after the storm of 1987, where 265 trees were felled by the gale-force winds.
“It was a two year project to clear up the mess,” he said. “We re-planted 365 trees, one for each day of the year.”
There are now only five full time gardeners, supported by a dedicated team of 40 volunteers.
Stephen’s tenure at Blickling will leave a lasting legacy. To mark the milestone he is currently planning a new Philadelphus garden next to the Secret Garden, which will provide more summer colour next season.
Around the weeding and planting, Mr Hagon also has the chance for a bit of celebrity-spotting.
“We often have famous visitors at Blickling. I’ve seen David Jason, Wendy Craig, and of course Stephen Fry, as well as members of the royal family. Everyone has been very friendly.”
And what has kept Stephen at the same job since he left school?
“Well, when you own a Rolls Royce, why would you change it for anything else?” he said.