Unmasking the mystery man brightening up Cleckheaton

A mystery gardener who tends planters in Cleckheaton town centre has been unmasked.

By Martin Shaw
Saturday, 19th June 2021, 5:00 pm
Pete Fawcett is Cleckheaton's secret gardener.
Pete Fawcett is Cleckheaton's secret gardener.

A picture of the mystery man, wearing a baseball cap, dark glasses and a hi-vis vest, was posted on Facebook group Cleckheaton Matters.

The post said: “Peter the gardener! Unsung hero of Cleckheaton. Done these beds for years, all home-grown at his cost. Unnoticed. People probably just think it’s council.”

The community-minded horticulturalist got lots of love from locals and someone identified him as Peter Walker, the Kirklees Council gardener who lovingly cared for Cleckheaton’s Memorial Park until his retirement in 2009.

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Peter Walker in the Memorial Gardens in Cleckheaton around the time of his retirement

However, that was a case of mistaken identity. The real “Peter” is, in fact, another former council gardener, Pete Fawcett.

Pete, 72, worked in the council’s parks department for 32 yars until his own retirement in 2010.

Since then he’s tended blooms all over the place from the Wickham Arms in Cleckheaton to the Irish Centre in Huddersfield.

He is also a strong campaigner for parks and fought to save 15 holly trees in Batley’s Wilton Park, which were eventually chopped down in 2018.

Pete, who is not on Facebook, was amused when he learned of his new-found celebrity.

“Peter Walker was one of the best gardeners I had the pleasure of working with,” said Pete. “He kept the Memorial Park in a pristine condition.

“The confusion must have come about because he was known for wearing a baseball cap while I always wore a flat cap!

“My patch when I worked at Kirklees was Birstall but after Peter retired in 2009 I worked in Cleckheaton for nine months so I know how well-loved and missed Peter was – because everybody told me!”

Pete has changed the soil in the four planters – which are near the main car park entrance on Bradford Road – and has put in croton-leaved coleus, weeping fuchsias and ivy-leaved pelargoniums.

All the plants he puts in his displays he grows himself from seed or cuttings.

Pete wrote to all the candidates in the West Yorkshire mayoral elections asking for their support for parks and he has done the same to candidates standing in the upcoming Batley and Spen by-election.

“Parks and gardens are important,” said Pete.

“They kept people sane during the pandemic.”