Fun park garden is Ian’s hidden gem

Head gardener at Blackpool Pleasure Beach Ian Howlett
Head gardener at Blackpool Pleasure Beach Ian Howlett
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Thrill-seekers riding one of the world’s most famous 
rollercoasters might never know the secret world 
beneath them.

Tucked away in the turns of the Grand National are the greenhouses and potting sheds of award winning Pleasure Beach head gardener Ian Howlett.

Ian, 56, has been at the park so long he’s almost part of the fabric.

He joined the company in May 1989 and has been busy ever since brightening up every corner of the Pleasure Beach.

And almost everything, from the flowers on the tables in the White Tower to the plants in beds around multi-million pound rides is grown in Ian’s secret garden.

He said: “Most of the public don’t even know it’s here.

“You go flying past on the ride and you’re going so fast you don’t notice the greenhouses and potting sheds.

“I’ve not been on the ride for a long time but I don’t think I’d even be able to see we were here.”

Ian doesn’t have an army of gardeners at his disposal, but his efforts have been continually rewarded by North West in Bloom judges.

The Pleasure Beach has only missed out on winning in the visitor attraction category once since 2000, with Ian going for his tenth consecutive victory in 2017.

He said: “There’s two of us full time, that’s it.

“I’ve been to visit some parks and seen half a dozen gardeners working on one bed and wondered what we could do with that.

“But we have made our mark.

“There was no landscaping when I started, it was concrete everywhere.

“We’ve gradually built it up and now we’re growing a huge amount from cuttings, we’re recycling the park.”

Ian’s commitment to reusing resources is clear from the area around his potting shed where huge compost bins provide as much growing material as he could ask for.

And, clambering through the wooden legs of the historic racing coaster, Ian is proud to show off a tunnel packed with new plants, growing ready for the new season.

With a massive swathe of the park currently a construction site, Ian knows he’s got 
his work cut out to wow the judges this year.

But he’s also excited about the prospect of landscaping the Pleasure Beach’s £16.25m Construction 2018 ride ready for opening next year.

He said: “We are involved in the project but we really can’t start thinking about what we want to do until they have finalised where everything is going.

“It’s only when they’ve got that down and the theme that we can start thinking about how we’re going to make it look as good as we can.

“It’s a challenge but it’s one I look forward to.

“The construction work is a challenge for us.

“Everyone’s coming into the park past our greenhouses, it’s like the M25 down here.

“Hopefully it will quiet down when the season starts.”