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Category: Sustainable Solutions

A breath of fresh air for community spaces

Sharing Vernon Square’s 25 year celebrations

I have attended some very interesting but very different events recently, all linked to horticulture and the communities that support it.

Firstly, last Saturday, (17 May) it was my great pleasure to attend a reception to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the re-opening of Vernon Square on the Isle of Wight. This stunningly beautiful regency town garden – the only one on the island, as it happens – is cared for by Vernon Square Preservation Society, an organisation set up in the late ‘80s to ensure that this space is maintained as a green oasis of calm for everyone to enjoy.

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Our apprentices make a bit of history at Ally Pally

I’ll keep saying it – apprenticeship schemes are just so important in our industry. This was brought home to me just a couple of weeks ago when The Royal Parks Guild, of which we are a member, invited us down the iconic Alexandra Palace and Gardens for a special 150 year anniversary celebration.

The building, constructed in 1873 as ‘The People’s Palace’, is surrounded by 196 acres of North London parkland, and offers fantastic views of the city. When you are there, soaking up its Victorian splendour, you’re instantly aware of just what a treasure this place is.

How lucky for me and our team of apprentices that we had the opportunity to play a small part in its ongoing story.

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Why protecting our parks also means protecting the health of our nation

I have quite a bit of sympathy with well-known gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh, who recently said it was ‘a sin’ that our beautiful public amenities are suffering from lack of funding.

Looking at things from the government’s perspective, I can understand why there is a perceived need for local government expenditure to be rationalised and looked at closely. We’ve been through difficult times and we need prudence where public expenditure is concerned.

No organisation or body wants its funding cut, and it can seem that any protests are just a manifestation of the old ‘not in my backyard’ syndrome.

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Training our trainers

Training has always been a big big part of improving quality and productivity at John O’Conner. I see the evidence of this investment every day in the excellence of the work all around our contracts. I also believe that when operatives are trained by their own colleagues, it becomes even more effective, which is why I was so pleased to see the continuation of our programme of ‘train the trainer’ courses this week.

We chose 5 experienced operators of groundscare machinery to attend the current course. These people, who have all shown an impressive desire to develop and pass on their knowledge,

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A spring in the MD’s step

Can it really be spring at last? Well all the signs are here, so I guess we’d better believe it! The buds, the blossoms and the blades of grass have all taken a punt on the snowy days being well and truly gone, so let’s all do the same, as we reflect on those long, damp, cold days of winter (and phoney spring) behind us.

From me, it’s a sincere and heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the John O’Conner teams for the hard work they’ve put in through the winter. In the past few weeks I’ve been out and about,

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Speaking with a shared voice

There’s a real buzz about the horticultural industry at the moment, with so many different organisations coming together to speak with a shared voice – all of which means we stand a much better chance of being heard.

Horticulture Week’s vigorous ‘Make Parks a Priority’ campaign is doing a really good job of highlighting the disproportionate cuts to parks maintenance budgets. The aim is to try and get as many MPs as possible to sign Early Day Motion 219 regarding funding for urban parks and ultimately Make Parks a Priority.

Also, The National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces supported by GreenLINK is in the process of setting up a petition to call for protection and improvement of the UK’s parks and green spaces.

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Why parks must always be a priority

Whilst I very much admire Horticulture Week’s ‘Make Parks a Priority’ campaign – and the 40 or so politicians who signed the Early Day motion calling for a fresh Parliamentary Inquiry into urban parks – I don’t think we can be confident that there will be new legislation in this area any time soon.

Which is why it is just so important for all of us who love our British heritage to get out and support this campaign. As I’ve mentioned so many times before on this blog, parks and open spaces are vital for good quality of life.

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New Electric vehicles. Why?

Bob Dylan had it right in that old song of his – times certainly are a-changing. For a recent example of this, just look at our North Hertfordshire contract, where we’ve just taken delivery of two new electric commercial vehicles.

These newly acquired vehicles, to be used by our teams that look after parks, sports pitches and open spaces, are part of a joint initiative to help reinforce the council’s commitment to reducing the district’s carbon footprint as well as helping to tackle climate change and manage operational costs.

Now it would be fair to say that these vehicles are little different from the norm.

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Best plots of the lot: allotment competition time at Hertsmere

Huge congratulations to Renate Romer, Jaime Artime and Madeleine McCormack – all winners of our first ever Bushey allotment competition.

The competition was organised by Hertsmere Borough Council and as a company we were, as you can imagine, only too happy to assist in whatever way we could.

Judges for the competition were Geoff Kazer, Contract Manager for Hertsmere Borough Council and Herstmere Borough Council officer Jonathon Hawes. In their quest to find the best, the pair visited 175 plots right across Hertsmere town.

In their judging, they looked at the presentation of each plot as well as the quality of the produce and the variety of fruit,

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Winner: St Albans Chamber of Commerce – CSR Business Award

More deserved recognition for ALL our teams!

I’m thrilled that John O’Conner has just won this prestigious award, recognising exceptional work on our St Albans contract.

If you’ve ever watched the Academy Awards you’ve probably cringed at the false modesty in some of the acceptance speeches (“This award is not for me, it’s for my producer, my parents etc”), but put that aside for the moment. As far as my fellow Directors and I are concerned, this award really is for all of our contract teams.

Corporate Social Responsibility is what makes us tick as a company and it is our true USP.

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