A future of wildlife conservation and volunteer work beckons for the green-fingered head gardener at a Shropshire hospice who is retiring next month.
After almost seven years, Tony Comley has decided the time has come to hang up his secateurs at Severn Hospice and move on to pastures new.
But he won’t be leaving the hospice for good. Instead, he plans to become a regular volunteer.
Tony joined the team back in 2014 and has made his mark on Severn Hospice’s award-winning gardens at Bicton in Shrewsbury and Apley in Telford.
But while he is pleased with the planting schemes and restful areas he has helped to create for patients and their families; he is most proud of – and humbled by – the relationships he has cultivated with the hospice’s team of dedicated volunteers.
“They are a really great bunch,” said Tony “and I’m going to miss them. They’re the lifeblood of the gardens and without their dedication and commitment – whatever the weather and whatever the circumstance – my job would have been so much harder.
“The gardens offer so much more than just being somewhere nice to sit and relax. They are truly therapeutic and really are at the heart of the hospice.
“It is so nice when someone comments on how beautiful they are – whether that’s staff or the families of our patients. We know then that we have done a good job.”
Tony has a few ideas for how he will spend his retirement.
“I’d like to come back as a volunteer if they’ll have me.
“I also plan to give the local Butterfly Conservation group, which has a site out at Prees Heath , a call. They are helping to conserve one of the rarest butterflies in the country, the Silver Studded Blue and I would like to play some part in that.
“I have a huge interest in nature and wildlife; currently I am helping with the surveys of Curlews and Lapwings in the River Tanat, Severn and Vyrnwy area, and I have joined a conservation group at Gronant Dunes in North Wales protecting the very rare Little Tern colony that breeds there.
“My wife Hazel and I also plan to do quite a lot of travelling around the UK. There are so many parts of the country we haven’t seen.
“My time at Severn Hospice has been amazing. I have met so many wonderful and kind people and this really is an incredibly special place. I am so proud to have worked here.”
Barry Caudwell, Severn Hospice’s facilities manager, said: “We’re sad to see Tony go but he is leaving behind such wonderful living reminders for us of his time here. He’s made such an impact on our gardens and his team of volunteers. We would be delighted if he does want to return as a volunteer, there is always a place for him here.”