‘Mr Bedford Park’ retires after 43 years of service

John Shepherd, Bedford Park manager.
John Shepherd, Bedford Park manager.

The man in charge of keeping Bedford Park looking pristine has retired after 43 years of gardening service.

John Shepherd was just 15 years old when he took up a council apprenticeship in gardening and groundsmanship.

Now aged 58 and having worked his way up the ranks to park foreman, John said: “It was my one and only choice as a career and I have enjoyed every minute of it.”

A party was held on Friday (December 18) for John, who lives in Cranfield, where his colleagues and friends wished him well.

Co-ordinator of Bedford Park’s volunteer group Howard Darbon said: “There are few people who can match John’s enthusiasm and dedication, and it is largely through his, and his team’s efforts that the park is widely recognised as an outstanding example of what a municipal park should really be like.

“His passion for the park has, in more recent years, seen him supporting and guiding the Bedford Park volunteer gardening group at their sessions on the first Sunday of every month.

“For this he, and a colleague, give their time and energies free of charge to the council, and it is typical of his love of the park that he will continue his commitment to the group after he retires.”

The park, often referred to as the jewel in Bedford’s crown, has secured Green Flag status - given to open spaces that reflect the highest of standards - every year since 2007.

John, who was introduced to gardening by his mother, is now looking forward to spending more time in his own garden and renovating his home.

A Bedford Borough Council spokesman said: “John started work for Bedford Borough Council on 31 July 1972 as a young trainee gardener. Over the next few years he worked in various parks gaining knowledge of horticulture and groundsmanship. John eventually went on to be the foreman at Bedford Park where he was affectionately known by many as ‘Mr Bedford Park’.

“His knowledge and expertise were respected by all and he was often the ‘go to’ person if there was a problem that needed specialist input.

“He will leave a large hole that will be hard to fill.”