Wigan widower's floral tribute creates wonderful view

Coun Greensmith opens the Housley Garden, seen here with Wilf holding a picture of wife Brenda
Coun Greensmith opens the Housley Garden, seen here with Wilf holding a picture of wife Brenda

A widower has pledged to carry on looking after a Wigan care home’s rooftop garden he helped to transform after it became a memorial to his late wife.

Wilf Housley has been the brains behind a major makeover to Ashton View’s unique horticultural feature while also visiting spouse Brenda who was resident there for three years until her death at the age of 81 last month.

Because the skilled 85-year-old had been so key to the project, bosses had already decided that tribute be paid to the couple before dementia sufferer Brenda’s health began to deteriorate.

And now, with her passing, a plaque has been unveiled in her memory during the garden’s relaunch attended by the borough mayor, Coun Susan Greensmith.

Wilf, who lives in Haydock, is hopeful that the finished product might even win the Ashton home an award in a group-wide garden of the year competition.

He is no stranger to putting his hands to good use. A painter and decorator by trade, his hobby for many years was cake decorating - a gift for which was only demonstrated to many when he crafted a spectacular one for Brenda and himself at their diamond wedding party last year.

But he has also had a long and keen interest in things green-fingered. His own home’s garden is beautifully well-kept and populated in part by trees sent to him by a grandson in Copenhagen.

And it was good while ago now that he told Chris Millington, the then new manager of Ashton View, that its old rooftop garden could be put to much better use.

Wilf said: “It had fallen into quite a sad state of disrepair, the space was being wasted, and I thought it had the potential to look good again, not least because it is somewhere where the residents can sit out.

“Then I heard that there was a £1,000 prize up for grabs for the best care home garden in the group so I said to Chris that we should get a move on and see if we can spruce it up in time for September when the judges would come. It is the only home in the company with a rooftop garden so that could give it a good edge.”

Wilf said that he had to keep in mind that dementia sufferers are prone to falls so he positioned displays around the edge.

There is now an arch which will become overgrown with climbing plants, wheelbarrows containing aromatic herbs for the residents to smell, attractive seating areas, hanging baskets and a trellis.

Wilf said: “I have really enjoyed doing it and it was very pleasing to see the mayor was impressed. I will now help to keep it in good shape - after all it is a memorial garden to my Brenda.”

Chris said: “Mr Housley is a wonderful man. For as long as Brenda was resident with us, he not only visited her but also all the other residents and, since she died, he has continued to come to see them.

“The rooftop garden has been a feature of Ashton View for years but had fallen out of use to the point that no-one could go up there. Mr Housley offered to help do something with it and I told him that I knew nothing about gardening so I would leave him to it!

“He has done a marvellous job and he even managed to get a lot of the flowers donated free of charge.”