Quarryman Simon pays tribute to family’s past

Simon Ratcliffe in his quarry garden at Southport Flower Show
Simon Ratcliffe in his quarry garden at Southport Flower Show

A Wigan stone carver has defied his disability to create a spectacular show garden which pays tribute to his family’s former business.

Simon Ratcliffe, from Pemberton, created A Quarry Garden for this year’s Southport Flower Show and filled it with hand-carved stone ornaments and features.

The garden is a tribute to the Ratcliffe family’s past as Simon is a fifth-generation quarryman and master, his family perviously owning and running Hardrock Quarry in Up Holland.

His achievement in creating a show garden is all the more impressive as he partially severed his right hand and had to have his little finger amputated following a horror accident involving an angle grinder.

His efforts also impressed the judges, who awarded the quarry garden a silver gilt medal, and celebrity show visitors including chef Ainsley Harriott.

Simon created the garden partly to realise a long-held ambition to exhibit at a top flower show, as his business L&T Stone Supplies has previously supplied the raw materials for designers going to all the country’s biggest celebrations of horticulture, and partly to prove he could bounce back from his physical setbacks.

Simon, 47, said: “Over the years the family business sold rock for show gardens at Chelsea, Southport, Tatton and all the others and people have won gold and silver medals.

“When I got my business I always wanted to do a show garden myself and in 2007 I designed one but unfortunately had a massive heart attack and a friend had to make it for me.

“This is finally my chance to do it. I’ve come back from severing my hand, I’m working and I’m carving again and I want to prove a point with this. There are people a lot worse off than me coming back from Afghanistan and if they can do things I certainly can.

“Apart from the planting everything in the garden is made from stone.

“It mimics a quarry so I wanted water coming through the rock strata and a pond with a stone bridge over it. It’s quite small but there are about 60 tonnes of rock in the garden, which surprised me.

“The responses I’ve had have been absolutely phenomenal, I’ve been told it’s quite exceptional.”

Simon’s garden is also designed to raise awareness of independent lifeboat charity Southport Offshore Rescue Trust, with any donations from visitors who enjoy the garden saving lives at sea.

The planting and landscaping has been done by Brian Jones and Eddy Aspey, who helped to make Simon’s vision of the garden a reality.

Simon says he is now hoping to encourage more young people to take up the traditonal skills of stone carving and recruit a new generation of workers to his business, which is based on Miry Lane.