Durham Cathedral gardener celebrates 25 years in the job

Geoff McCallum with the Bishop of Durham
Geoff McCallum with the Bishop of Durham
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GREEN-fingered Geoff McCallum is celebrating a quarter of a century as Durham Cathedral’s gardener.

The 55-year-old joined the team in 1989 after training as an apprentice with the then Durham City Council.

He said: “A friend and I saw the job in the Durham Advertiser and both applied. We were both interviewed on the same day and we had a bet on as to who would get it. I got the job, we’re still good friends though.”

Geoff’s main focus when he first started at the Cathedral was working on the woodland on the riverbanks area. He said: “I loved working with trees and when I started here there was a big problem around the country with Dutch Elm disease. It’s quite poignant really because we were felling them and there are no elms left on the riverbanks now.

“Twenty-five years later and I’m looking at tree disease all over again, this time with Ash Dieback, but we’re not felling at the moment, which is good news.”

The theme of coming full circle is something that Geoff says comes with being a gardener: “You work through the changing seasons and before you know it a whole year has gone by and you’re back to the start of the cycle. When I started here there were a lot of long-serving staff and I said to myself ‘that’ll not be me’, but 25 years on I’m still here.”

But although he loves gardening while he’s at work, Geoff says it’s a different matter at home: “By the time I get back I’m all gardened out really, so it’s my wife Clare who does our garden. It’s pretty formal with a lawn and borders and although I’ve collected some of the shrubs and trees in it, it’s Clare who does the day to day upkeep.”

And Geoff says there is no great secret to why he’s stayed at the cathedral for so long.

He said: “The people who work here are wonderful. The gardeners and the yard staff are like a little family and we really look out for each other.

“And who couldn’t love working somewhere as fabulous as the cathedral.”