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Growing old, but still in love with Suburb

PUBLISHED: 15:44 17 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:57 07 September 2010

A GARDENER in Hampstead Garden Suburb has been given a special send-off as he looks forward to retirement. After 34 tireless years of keeping the area's open spaces looking good, John Cassels has called it a day

Katie Davies

A GARDENER in Hampstead Garden Suburb has been given a special send-off as he looks forward to retirement.

After 34 tireless years of keeping the area's open spaces looking good, John Cassels has called it a day.

A magnolia tree was planted in a Hill Top garden on his last day of employment with the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust.

"I used to do the garden for a gentleman who lived in the house which is now owned by Jonathan Ross," said Mr Cassels, who is 63.

"At the time he shared an office with the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust and they mentioned they needed a contractor and he recommended me.

"It has been a lot of hard work and I have got to the point where I have run out of ideas. The trust is going to be making changes to the gardens soon and I think they need someone fresh and young to do it."

After picking up his spade and starting his job in 1974, Mr Cassels immediately fell in love with the area - so much so, he moved in.

He currently lives on Temple Fortune Hill but said he sometimes found himself split between his role as gardener and resident.

"Sometimes you'd see a tree being chopped down illegally and you're torn between your neighbours and your job," he said.

"I have to say, though, most of the time I reported it because I feel so strongly about cutting down trees.

"On the whole it has been an enjoyable experience - what you realise is just how quickly time goes. I know it's a cliche and I know it's what people say when they're old, but it's true."

Working in the area for so long, Mr Cassels has had an insight on all the unusual characters and the changes that have occurred in the Suburb.

He added: "The biggest change is that people are buying homes with gardens but they are hiring gardeners to do them rather than doing it themselves. I find that an oddity.

"The most unusual character I have come across is Tom (the homeless man who lives in Sunshine Corner on Hampstead Heath).

"I had to clean up his rubbish, which I didn't like, but he is a very interesting man when you talk to him. He is obviously a strange chap but he is interesting and, given a number of people here are quite boring, at least he livens things up."

katie.davies@hamhigh.co.uk

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