A man from Gilfach Goch who has spent the last quarter of a century creating a garden for his neighbours to enjoy says nothing will stop his dedication to his garden.
Des Churchill, who is 88 years old, moved into his RCT Homes flat in the village near Llantrisant in 1988. As a retired former miner Des had time on his hands and set about turning the plain, grassed area into a peaceful, colourful retreat for himself, his wife and his neighbours.
“I wanted to work on the garden as soon as I moved in,” Des recalls. “There were no gates, just a fence. There were no plants or trees, just a lawn. The first thing I did was plant the golden privet hedge – so that is 26 years old. The ornamental maple tree is about 25 years old now.”
Over the years Des has added to the plants and now the garden is blooming with perennial plants, flowers, shrubs and trees. Des has cultivated a kitchen garden with fruit and vegetables growing around the shared patio areas.
“Everything you see growing here – I bought and planted,” Des explains.“Green fingers run in the family. My brother was a farmer and we’ve always had a garden to look after. Everyone seems to enjoy it. I bought my petrol mower with me when we moved in and when it conked out the neighbours all clubbed together to by me a new one.”
Des, who spent 30 years working underground as a miner, has an unstoppable passion for working with the earth above ground.
“I have to be outdoors,” Des confirms.“I am out here for at least two or three hours every day. If it’s raining I go in the shed and tidy up. When we go on holiday my son-in-law looks after the garden. I can’t bend on my knees so I have tools that mean I can garden whilst standing up. The biggest challenges I have are the weather and selecting the right plants to grow.”
Des has been married to his wife Olive for 66 years. Olive said,
“I’m very proud of what Des has created. When we came here we had been used to our garden in our old house and without a garden I said I wanted to go to the cemetery! We’ve both always liked gardens. He is out here all the time, but I don’t mind – sometimes if he’s under my feet I send him back out!”
Shirley Corlea is one of Des’s neighbours. She has enjoyed helping Des out and spends as much time as she can outside.
“The garden is beautiful,” Shirley gushes. “I’ve lived here for two years now and when I was shown the flat by RCT Homes I couldn’t believe the garden – I am so lucky! I bought him plants a few times and a bench to sit on. Des works hard and it is a pleasure to see his hard work.”
Over the years Des’s hard work has been recognised further afield and he has won over half a dozen awards for his garden.
Allyson Whiston, RCT Homes’ Homes and Neighbourhood Officer said,
“The flats in Gilfach Goch are unique in Rhondda Cynon Taff. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful and well-cared for communal gardens. It’s wonderful to see a communal garden looking like this.
“The neighbours take so much pleasure out of this wonderful garden that Des has created. All new tenants comment on how beautiful it is and it is having such a positive impact on their lives.
“Des is a joy to visit and is always full of song and laughter. I look forward to seeing his plans for the garden over the coming years and only hope he inspires more people to get creative in the garden.”