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Local Life - Wigan - March 2018

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38 Orrell resident John,

38 Orrell resident John, now 64, was one of those tasked with beautifying the borough. Originally Pemberton, John grew up on Ridyard Street and later moved to Marsh Green. He attended Scot Lane Primary before moving to Gidlow Secondary Modern, which he left aged 15 without any qualifications. After four years working at a Lord & Sharman Ross Works shoemaker’s in Campbell Street, Pemberton, he got a job with Wigan Corporation’s Parks Department. “The double digging was relentless” The initiation was a baptism of fire: “I was sent to Haigh Hall to do ‘double digging’. It was relentless, no wonder it was actually known as ‘b*****d trenching’ but I liked being outdoors. “I started with two guys who had been in prison and one old seasoned navvy from the building trade. I was only 19 at the time so it was all a bit intimidating. “We were among the very first members of the newly-formed landscape section of the council and we were the pioneers who transformed that bleak and often ridiculed landscape into a garden city, because that’s how I saw it after we became a huge Metropolitan Borough. “In those days, the parks teams had an John in the ‘70s incredible number of employees; money was literally thrown at us. “The spoil heaps looked like scenes from a distant barren planet and could have been ideal settings for sci-fi films. “When you look at old pictures, the public parks looked great, and they were. But they were patches of brightness on a very grey landscape. It was our job to ‘colour’ those patches in.” One of the first projects he was involved with was the regeneration of the Wallgate and Scholes areas: “It was around 1975 when we started ‘greening up’ the borough. There were a lot of new communities being built. Scholes was like a new garden city and we’d move in once the building works had finished. It was almost like we were following the builders Spoil heaps, such as this one in Southern Street, Pemberton, were commonplace in 1970s Wigan

39 around the area. There was also a heck of a lot of tree planting. It’s something we take for granted now but there are many more trees now than there used to be. We used to get whips for a few pence each so if any were pulled up - and there was a lot of vandalism around at that time - we’d simply plant another one.” “It was pure slack... with clay underneath” The programme of regeneration was painstaking work, done over a number of years. In the late 1980s, attentions turned to making Orrell reservoirs into an attraction. But the geology of the land, coupled with its industrial use in the past, proved challenging: “All the area was mostly spoil; you’d dig into and it was pure slack. And then underneath it, there’s naturally occurring builders’ clay. That makes it even more challenging. “The streams had to be cleaned and we put in three control flow dams which are still there to this day. “The wetlands were really welcomed by the community and we had a lot of help from local During the demolition of Scholes in the 1970s The creation of the wetlands at Orrell Water Park in the late 1980s

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