'Inspirational gardener' honoured at orchard

February 2013  

A NANTWICH IN BLOOM PAGE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Gentil after the unveiling of the plaque with Doug Butterill (left) and Tom Deans. To the right are Reaseheath students who had planted more trees in the Community Orchard.

Picture kindly supplied by Lynne Lomax. Press Officer, Reaseheath College (after mine failed!)

 

A REASEHEATH College lecturer was remembered for his "inspirational" work in a plaque unveiling ceremony before which more trees were planted by students at Nantwich's Community Orchard in the Riverside.

 

Two Reaseheath students, guided by senior lecturer Anthony Saxon, plant one of the trees.

   Sadly, Tony Gentil (once deputy head of the college's horticulture department and later head of business and management), died last year. His widow, Elizabeth, accompanied by her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, attended the planting and commemorated her husband by unveiling a plaque (below, right) in the orchard.

   The establishment of a Community Orchard came from Tony. Trees have been planted in the orchard in stages over the years and the latest planting included apple and pear trees from the Tony’s fruit tree nursery. Eventually there will be more than 30 trees (apple, pear, and cherry) in the orchard.

   Also attending the plaque unveiling ceremony was Tom Deans who, as a former Head of Horticulture at Reaseheath, was once Tony's line manager.

   The Chairman of Nantwich in Bloom, Doug Butterill, and Sue Hughes, the Secretary, were also present, as was Jeff Stubbs, Chairman of Greenspaces South Cheshire C.I.C., who is also Chairman of Nantwich Civic Trust.

 

DOUG Butterill launched the unveiling ceremony by saying: "This Community Orchard was started about five years ago with just five apple trees provided by Cheshire Landscape Trust and the inspiration came from Tony Gentil. Last year we had more apple trees from the trust, again inspired by Tony.

   "He has been a wonderful inspiration to me, Nantwich in Bloom, and Greenspaces South Cheshire. We miss him now.

   "I didn’t know so much about him working with Reaseheath College so I’m delighted that we have Tom Deans here. He was Head of Horticulture when Tony worked at Reaseheath."     

 

TOM Deans said: "It is unusual for this sort of event to be held out in the open. It's usually fancy drapes and pull strings and the Queen’s here. You haven’t got the Queen; sorry to disappoint you.

    "I first knew Tony when he came to Reaseheath as a student – as did his wife. Reaseheath is to blame for Tony and Liz getting married. It was the best thing he ever did.

    "Having said that, he did many good things. He was a very fine lecturer and when I became head of department he was a very close colleague and he did a fair job in horticulture at Reaseheath.

    "There was another side to Tony – a side for conservation. He was what we call in the trade, a good knifeman – he could propagate anything. He could grow roots on an old chair leg.

    "He found some of the old varieties of fruit in the area, and in the country, and with his skills he was able to propagate them on to root stocks. Hence we have some of these old varieties now being perpetuated in his memory. I cannot think of a better commemoration of a gardener. He was a gardener; let’s not talk about heads of department and deputies. He was a gardener; we were all gardeners.

    "There is no better monument for a gardener than something living. And this orchard, as long as it is here, will be living proof that Tony shared so much with us. We are so grateful to him for his contribution to everything.

 "It is lovely to see his wife, and his grandchildren as well because it perpetuates things. I want to say, Liz, it’s been a pleasure to be here to remember Tony for what he was – a gentle man.

ELIZABETH responded with: "When Doug asked me, back in September, whether I would mind if this new orchard planting was dedicated to Tony's memory my first thought was how surprised he would be.

   "He was one of the most modest and unassuming people I ever met. He was never one to push himself forward, or to seek accolade or status. He was known by those close to him to be the sort of man who gets on with things quietly, working away in the background, achieving great, and sometimes extraordinary, things but rarely having these publicly acknowledged - until today.

   "He has left us a great legacy. Over his career he did much to help change the face of arboriculture from “someone called a forester who does things with trees” to a respected profession where practioners' achievement was measured in the same way as academic achievement - by peer scrutiny. He influenced many people with his calm and pragmatic approach to management, teaching them from his lifetime's experience of real work in local government and horticulture.

   "After he retired from Reaseheath he was in demand to speak to professional groups both in horticulture and other fields including, once, a meeting of psychiatrists.

    "He had a contract over three years to promote orchard planting in Wales, which was funded by the Welsh government and the E.U.

   "The one word that I have heard more than any other used to describe Tony over the past weeks is inspirational. He had that profound and lasting effect on people. Tony's dedication to everything he undertook means that we have a number of apple and pear varieties now in cultivation that were thought to be totally lost. He tracked down, and he corresponded with, the heirs of those who developed Cheshire varieties such as Elton Beauty and Millicent Barnes, And he rediscovered and brought several varieties back in to cultivation including the Aston Town pear which we have just planted this morning.

   "But chiefly, his family will remember him as a loving, immensely kind-hearted and tireless gardener who was never as happy as when he was working outside in his wellies and bodywarmer, whatever the weather. When we care, at Briarfields, for his hundreds of fruit trees we will feel close to him. Who else but Tony would grow peaches, nectarines, apricots and figs alongside his apples, pears, and plums?

  "I hope that this community orchard flourishes and, like Tony, provides inspiration and fruit for many years to come."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELIZABETH with her family at the orchard - Darren and Lesley Midwinter and their children, Laura and Charlie.

 

 

TONY and Elizabeth ran

TLG Orchards at their home, Briarfields, at Aston, Nantwich. Sadly, the business is no longer operating.

   Tony wrote a regular gardening column for the Advertiser Group of newspapers and was well known locally.
    As founder members of the Cheshire Orchard Project,

  Tony and Elizabeth were major contributors to "Orchards of

  Cheshire", published by the Cheshire Federation of

  Women's Institutes to mark the 70th anniversary.

     Tony, who was planning a book on gooseberries, had also

  taken part in various radio and TV programmes on

  horticultural topics and was involved in the production of a

  series of programmes about the restoration of the fruit

  garden at Tatton Park.

The orchard a couple of months after the ceremony as a fruit tree bursts into blossom. Other trees in the orchard can be seen in the background - with a host of dandelions.

Cheshire Landscape Trust Orchard Project | Cheshire Federation of Women's Institutes | Greenspaces South Cheshire CIC index | Nantwich in Bloom index

Nantwich Civic Society

 

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