UHI Inverness grounds blossom thanks to voluntary efforts of gardening grandad

The grounds of the UHI Inverness campus have been transformed this year by the green-fingered talents of its very own gardening grandad.

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John Walmsley happy at his voluntary work in the UHI Inverness gardens

John Walmsley (67) from Dingwall began dedicating his free time to keeping the gardens immaculate when he accompanied his granddaughter Kiera to her supported education classes at the main UHI Inverness building.

He wanted to be at the campus on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9am to 2pm in case she needed him, and he soon decided to make himself useful. After striking up a conversation with a member of staff about volunteering his time, John made his way to the Estates Office to offer his services.

Following the necessary checks, he was given a staff lanyard and immediately set to work tending the campus gardens. The results have been nothing short of impressive.

Working with the Estates staff, John maintains a flower bed at the front of the building and a new garden at the rear entrance that was planted by staff last year. He has introduced a small herb garden and garden accessories in that area and has planted a new plot, complete with fencing, at the side of the building. John has also maintained the willow huts and cleared the area around them, creating a secluded green space, and has recently started weeding at the Scottish School of Forestry.

The campus grounds are not the only gardens flourishing thanks to his magic touch. He maintains the grounds at the Highland Theological College UHI and as a volunteer with Dingwall in Bloom he works outside at the Puffin Hydrotherapy Pool, the Highland Rheumatology Unit, Dingwall Primary School and St Clement’s Special School. He also looks after the town’s war memorial.

John, a committed Christian, said: “It is very important to be kind to people and you need to have purpose in your life. I have always been busy all my life and if you stop, it’s not good for you.

“I wanted to be near my granddaughter in case she needed me and one day I found myself falling asleep in the library. I spoke to one of the Estates staff and asked him if there was a job for me and he directed me to the office. I filled in the paperwork, waited for the checks to be done and got started.”

Originally from Glasgow, John worked as a draftsman and in the oil industry before he retired. He is now a familiar face on campus and was invited to attend the UHI Inverness staff conference in June.

The great-grandfather’s dedication to his voluntary work has meant that he has continued to turn up at the campus every Tuesday throughout the summer while the students are on holiday.

“I have had lots of nice comments about the gardens from the people passing by and the staff at the college. People are very kind,” he said.

Professor Chris O'Neil, principal and chief executive of UHI Inverness, said: “John’s hard work has made a real difference to the appearance and ambiance of our campus. His nurturing and careful attention has brought life and colour to virtually every corner, which serves as an example to our students of the importance of respecting and appreciating our surroundings. We are really grateful to him for maintaining and creating beautiful spaces that staff, students and visitors can enjoy.”