By David Dalgliesh
Stuart Ritchie has been the educational gardener at Castlebank Horticultural Centre for the last 3 years. He recently took the big decision to emigrate to New Zealand with his partner Emmy and daughter Mia. Stuart had always fancied the idea of moving to a different country and decided now was he ideal time to do so.
He officially finished at Castlebank on Friday the 18th of March. He gave notice of his intentions, just before Christmas, and was keen to be actively involved in finding a successor. Stuart said, “The park and the horticultural centre mean so much to me, it is important that we find a suitable candidate.” Walter McArthur was appointed to take over from Stuart and shadowed him for the last 3 weeks.
Stuart agreed to sit down with me and talk about his time at Castlebank. He said “It’s the variety of work that makes it such a unique place to work. No two days are the same!” With all that goes on at the centre, Stuart enjoyed the range of activities that took place. From bat walks to virtual lessons online, there was always something different to offer.
As well as different activities, the people also made the job for Stuart “what I love about the project, is that people benefit form it. Whether it is people simply enjoying the park, and the different areas that we’ve worked on or volunteers enjoying being part of the team. It brings me great joy, knowing that what we do here really makes a difference to people.”
Asked what he found was the most challenging aspect of the job, Stuart said that “because there are a lot of old paths in the park and walkways in the park, maintenance can, at times be an issue. We are a green flag park, which means that we can’t use weedkiller or other chemicals to kill weeds, so it must be done by hand.” Stuart continued, that one thing he would like to see in the future is the walls in the park restored, and the terraces brought back to their former glory. “I think it would be such a great attraction and a great addition to the park to have them restored.”
Stuart said that one of his proudest achievements is that there is now a strong volunteering group at Castlebank. “The park requires a lot of maintenance and without the volunteers, it simply wouldn’t happen. We have a really great team at Castlebank, and it is nice to see people from the local community, and out with Lanark, getting involved. There is a really great group of volunteers, that have made working in the park, such a joy.”
As well as the volunteers, Stuart said he’d like to thank all those he has worked with over the last three years. “I’d like to say a big thank you to the volunteers, Melissa, Sylvia, the board of Lanark Community Development Trust and of course yourself, David for making my time at Castle bank so memorable”.
Sylvia Russell, Chairman of LCDT, said “I would like to thank Stuart for his hard work over the last 3 years, he has been a real asset to the project. His vision, people skills and dedication, have truly made Castlebank park a great place visit” Sylvia added that “she wished Stuart, Emmy and Mia the best of luck as they start their new life.” From everyone at Castlebank, and Lanark Community Development Trust, thank you, and good luck!