Making Birmingham Botanical Gardens more appealing to children is the ambition of its new manager. Victoria Farncombe reports.
Renovating the “tired” playground at Birmingham Botanical Gardens is the number one priority for newly-appointed gardens manager Keith Rimmer.
The Walsall-born horticulturist said during his first year he would be focusing on making the gardens experience more enjoyable for visitors of all ages.
“We want to make sure we’re doing all we can to make the visitor experience enjoyable so people will come back again and again,” he said.
“In particular, we want to do more for children and young people. I think what we have got here we can do a lot of work with to make it much more interesting for them.
“To be honest, I have seen better. We need to bring everything up to standard.”
The 45-year-old joins the gardens with more than 20 years experience with Walsall Council in the parks department, where his responsibilities included allotments, contractors, horticultural designs and play areas as well as open space features.
Most recently, he has occupied the position of play safety manager in London’s Tower Hamlets.
But coming to the gardens is a homecoming for Mr Rimmer who worked here 25 years ago while studying at the University of Wolverhampton.
“It’s nice to be back,” he said. “I’d always hoped I would return and to come back as gardens manager is certainly an ambition realised.
‘‘It’s a beautiful place. The views are fantastic and it’s amazing to think there’s somewhere like this in the heart of a big city.”
As well as improving the play facilities, Mr Rimmer is hoping to enhance the Grade II-listed attraction’s reputation for education.
“We want to carry on the education side of things, particularly on things like sustainability and climate change. People look to the Botanical Gardens for help on what they should be growing and how they can keep growing in an uncertain future.
“People shouldn’t only be coming here because it’s a wonderful place but also so they can learn while they are here.”
In the coming year, Mr Rimmer expects the trend for growing vegetables to continue and he wants people to look to the gardens for inspiration.
“I think there’s still going to be a move towards people growing their own veg because they will be looking to see what they can do to cut their household bills. We have demonstration areas and I want people to look at what we are growing and think, I could grow that too.”
Educated at Aldridge School, Writtle Agricultural College and the University of Wolverhampton, Mr Rimmer has a HND in Amenity Horticulture, a diploma in Management Studies and a masters in Business Administration.
His responsibilities in his new post will include management of the horticultural staff, health & safety, special horticultural projects and new developments on sustainability projects to reduce the gardens’ carbon footprint.
Chief executive James Wheeler said: “It is gratifying that Keith wanted to return to us. His success proves the value of the gardens’ education programme and its standing as a green education charity. We look forward to the benefits of his experience and working on new projects.”