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Gardener Andy celebrates 40 years at Dudley Zoo

By Heather Large | Entertainment | Published:

He's been helping to keep the grounds of Dudley Zoo looking their best since leaving school in 1978.

Gardener Andy Palmer, with zoo director Derek Grove and gardeners Paul Durber and Ivor Norris and Carl Stevens

Now gardener Andy Palmer, who is the attraction's longest serving employee, has been recognised by his colleagues for 40 years of hard work.

To mark the occasion the 56-year-old planted an acer called Crimson King by the summer beach, Ow Bin Ya Sands, with colleagues from the gardening team and zoo director Derek Grove.

Mr Palmer, who lives in Lower Gornal, has been working at the zoo since finishing his studies at Ellowes Hall School at the age of 16.

"I left school on the Friday, started at the zoo on the Monday and I've been here ever since," said Mr Palmer

He had originally enquired about jobs at Dudley Council but as there were no vacancies, they suggested he tried the zoo and he was offered a position in the gardening team.

On May 29, 1978, he started as a young gardener as part of a team of up to 15 groundsmen and worked all over the site when the attraction had polar bears, elephants and white tigers.

Mr Palmer said he had witnessed many positive changes over the years and has also had the opportunity to see stars including Dudley-born comic Lenny Henry, rock band Status Quo and classical singer Katherine Jenkins during their visits to the zoo.

"I enjoy meeting people, doing the gardens and working with such nice staff," he added.

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In 2003, Mr Palmer planted a silver birch tree in the red panda enclosure in 2003 to celebrate 25 years of service.

In recognition of his 40th anniversary, Mr Palmer, who also enjoys tending to his own garden at home, was presented with £200 of gift vouchers by Mr Grove, who thanked him for his dedication and loyalty.

Mr Grove, who has notched up 35 years of service himself, said: "It's great when somebody finds a job they like and sticks at it. Andy and the rest of the gardening team do a fantastic job and it's a great achievement to reach 40 years. Hopefully we'll be here again in 10 years time celebrating 50 years of service."

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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