IN the wake of Poole Park's successful bid for £2.7million of National Lottery money, Brian Cooper reflects on the time when he was in charge at Poole Park and the grounds in the area over 30 years ago.

"I worked for Poole Parks Department from 1951 -1984 and was head groundsman at Poole Park with nine staff as well as casual labour such as litter pickers. I was also a roaming groundsman looking after grounds for schools, police stations and clinics, and all the roundabouts from Whitecliff to the Shah of Persia, Fleetsbridge and Darby's Corner," said Brian from Upton

Born in Wimborne, Brian attended Lytchett School and as a self confessed dunce had to ensure of fulfilling some sort of employment before leaving school. This quiet, unassuming but extraordinary man discovered from a young age he had a talent for gardening.

When he was 11 during the Second World War he was the link between the Land Girls and Italian P.O.W at Upton Park Farm where he 'dropped cabbages' in the fields so the two parties could get on with their work without meeting up which was forbidden.

During school holidays and when he left school he worked for Sir John Lees at Lytchett Manor under Mr Dance, before becoming an apprentice gardener at Upton House when the Llewellin family lived there.

When Brian started at Poole Park in 1951 he worked under the head groundsman, Mr Gale, and by the following year at the tender age of 21 he was a top class gardener within a small team.

Brian and his late wife Betty were the last family to reside at East Lodge in Poole Park, living there from 1957 until 1969.

"To live at the lodge you had to be a family or married couple so I asked Betty, who I was then courting, to marry me,"said Brian.

The lodge was used as a public toilet up until the end of the war so it was very damp. Their two eldest sons Richard and Philip were born at the property.

In 1977 Brian was in charge of a team that skilfully adjusted the levels and relaid the great part of Broadstone Bowling Green during the inclement winter using techniques that were new to many of the workers.

"In 1981 the crew and I landscaped and replaced the muddy bank by the lake at Poole Park with stonework. It was a winter job and took three months to complete," said Brian who is now in his eighties.

The Poole Park team also became well known in the early 1980s for their award winning colourful floral displays, including 'carpet bedding' which was a skill in itself where plans drawn on paper were converted to designs on the ground which were marked out in silver sand trestles and carefully planted out in flower beds. These designs included the Combined Operations British Commandos 'United We Conqueror' motto and the Red Cross Youth in Great Britain commemorating 60 years.

After his retirement from Poole Park Brian received a plate from Poole Council in 1985 for his long service tending gardens and grounds in the Poole area.

This didn't stop Brian from his love of gardening. He continued at Upton, where he still lives today, designing, planning and growing floral displays around the town. He also owned Upton Nurseries and kept bees.

In 2005 Upton won a bronze gilt, and then silver the following year, in the South and South East in Bloom contests sponsored and supported by Southern Water, where Brian was the town's gardener and groundsman.

Upton town councillor Janet Freke at the time said of Brian, " He's the little jewel in our crown".

In 2015 Brian received the Upton In Bloom Dorset Volunteer Group of the Year award, thanking him for his outstanding contribution.

The following year Brian's wife Betty passed away and Brian finally hung up his gardening gloves after three decades of devoted duty to Upton and Lytchett Minister, first as a councillor, then for 25 years as groundsman.

In the same year he was the first person to be honoured with the Freedom of the Town in recognition of his years of dedication.

Brian said his style of gardening was different from the modern gardener.

"I am a Victorian gardener, creating gardens for everybody to see and take pleasure in at public places such as Poole Park. This is very different from the modern gardener who have other ideas of what a park should look like."