Green-fingered Les’s 50 years of gardening tales

Less Catt in later years
Less Catt in later years

A pensioner has published a book about his career in gardening spanning more than five decades.

Les Catt, 84, of Homesdale Gardens, took up his first gardening job in Hastings aged 14.

For the next 51 years, interrupted by only military service, he worked in the Parks Department and private gardens across the town.

Turning out in all weather and with his loyal gang of mates, Les went about his work with diligence and good humour.

These same qualities are reflected in his book, called My Life As A Professional Gardener For 51 Years, which also celebrates the beautiful parks and gardens he worked on in Hastings and St Leonards.

The 134-page book, which took Les 18 months to compile and publish, is illustrated with colour and black and white photographs. Also included are a selection of Les’s poems, some of which have appeared in the Observer.

Les, who lives with his wife Emily, said: “I’ve always been interested in gardening since I was a boy when I used to help my father on his allotment in Frederick Road.

“In the closing weeks of the war I saw an advert in the Observer for a job and applied for it.

“I got it and worked in the garden of St Helen’s Wood House for more than two years.

“When I started there was an older boy there with me and one day when we were working at the bottom of the garden, half a dozen German PoWs came through the gate laughing and joking in German.

“They came down from Ore Place near the cemetery.”

“There were a few of us there working on the garden as it was in a right mess, seeing as it closed during the war.”

After leaving St Helen’s Wood House, Les worked in the gardens of a Lower Park Road nursing home.

He was then called up for National Service with the Army, spending his time in Plymouth in Devon on the coastal defence guns.

When he returned to 1066 Country, Les resumed his profession.

He said: “I was looking for jobs and thought it would be good to work for the Parks Department.

“I worked for them for 40 years before retiring. I spent a lot of time in Alexandra Park and our team used to take care of the flower beds along the seafront, including where the White Rock Baths were.”

Les’s book, which costs £8, is for sale at Waterstone’s in Priory Meadow shopping centre, on Amazon, and from YouByYou Books, the publishing company that helped Les publish his book.

Those interested in buying the book from the company can visit www.youbyyou.co.uk. It can also be ordered from bookshops.