A FORMER apprentice who now tends the Island's parks and gardens has received a prestigious horticultural award.

The Ventnor Botanic Garden Friends' Society has presented the Harold Hillier Award to Stan Hayden, in recognition of his contribution to horticulture on the Isle of Wight.

Stan started his horticultural career as an apprentice with the South Wight Borough Council. He now works for John O'Conner Grounds Maintenance, the company responsible for parks and open spaces.

At the society's recent AGM, botanic garden curator Chris Kidd said: "We might not have appreciated it then but now we are reaping the benefits of the energy and resources that were put in by local authorities to horticulture, parks and gardens, particularly in the training of young apprentices.

"Despite the decline in local government resources, Stan's solid training has enabled him to keep up his standards. He has put in more effort than required from the job description — Ventnor Park has been Park of the Year twice in the last five years.

"There are not many in the world of contracting environmental services that could claim to have achieved what Stan has. I think the words that sum him up best are 'unsung hero.'"

Stan said he was 'absolutely astounded' to receive the award, and had simply done his job over the years.

As a result of council funding cuts, he said it was increasingly difficult to keep the Island's open spaces looking as good as possible.

The Harold Hillier Award — given to the Island by the Hillier Family in memory of Sir Harold, who was instrumental in setting up the Ventnor Botanic Garden — is presented annually to someone who has made a significant contribution to horticulture on the Island.