Tatton Park's head gardener Sam Youd to retire after 30 years loyal service
PUBLISHED: 16:09 28 March 2012 | UPDATED: 19:22 14 April 2020
Tatton Park's head gardener may be retiring after 30 years' service, but Sam Youd is already growing new opportunities WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS
Sam Youd never intended to spend three decades working at Tatton Park. The head gardener, who is about to retire following 30 years’ service, originally planned to spend just three years at the historic Knutsford estate. But as the three year marker approached, fate stepped in.
Sam, who was working as a propagator at the time, explained: ‘Our head gardener, Colin Pritchard, took ill and died. It was very sad. He had talked to me about lots of projects he was going to do and he never got to do them.
‘He asked me, if it was possible, he would like me to finish things for him. There was great debate and I said I would do it. I knew if I stayed on I could do them for him. He was great to work for.’ Sam has kept his word, dedicating the past three decades, with the help of his 13-strong team, to finishing those important projects that Colin had dreamed of completing. Everything from the Italian Gardens and the Fernery were tackled as well as the kitchen garden. Perhaps the most important project was the Japanese Garden, now considered the best example of its type in Europe.
He said:‘There was a time when many gentry would have had Japanese gardens but many were destroyed. This is what makes Tatton’s so important. We did our planning from old photographs so they look how they would have been in Tatton’s heyday. The most important thing about the gardens at Tatton is that they are living history, they are not dead history like that in the mansion. They must be preserved.’
Sam, also chairman of Cheshire Gardens of Distinction, had worked for the council’s parks department in Liverpool before going to Tatton. He looked after some of the city’s important green spaces including St John’s Gardens at St George’s Hall, Calderstones Park and Pier Head and was also gardener to a former Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Cyril Carr. But it was the job at Tatton Park he longed for. He started there as a propagator and jumped straight to head gardener, taking over from Colin.
His labours have been extensive over the past 30 years: his first task as head gardener at Tatton was to decorate a stage for a performance by Princess Grace. But his shining moment was his success in bringing the RHS Flower Show to the estate. It took him ten years to persuade the right people to set up in the north – a show at which his designs have since received 20 gold awards. His persistence won through.
He said: ‘We worked really hard to bring the RHS to Tatton. There was Hampton Court and Chelsea and I remember thinking what’s going on?
We deserved to have it up here because we grow really good stuff. If you can grow things in the north of England then you can do it anywhere.
‘Now, we have 100,000 visitors. For me, the show is not just about a show. We have the Young Designer competition at RHS Tatton which is all about encouraging young people to follow their dream. There is a lot of satisfaction for me in that.’
Some might expect Sam to be putting his feet up now. Not a bit of it: the 65-year-old, who will move from Tatton’s grounds to nearby Knutsford, will be working as an advisor and consultant for other important estates in Cheshire and father afield.
He said: ‘I didn’t want for that to be it. I’m keeping in touch with the big estates and will be doing advisory work, spending time doing what I really love.
‘I’ll be advising on what can be done with the gardens but also the management of them. I’m excited about it. I have never gone to work; I just go and enjoy my hobby and I want to do more of that.
‘Leaving Tatton is just a new chapter. It’s exciting and I very much want my new challenge to be a success. I don’t think it’s the only thing I will be doing. Watch this space.’
The print version of this article appeared in the April 2012 issue of Cheshire Life
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