An “appalled” 74-year-old pensioner who uses crutches has been unable to walk his dog in a park because the grass and trees are so overgrown they have caused him to fall over. 

Brian Chisholm, of Gaddesden Crescent in Watford, said the grass in Garston Park has been “so neglected” by utility service company, Veolia, that he cannot walk his dog through the park where it is over a foot-high in places. 

Brian, who suffers with spinal stenosis, has lived in Geddesden Crescent for 30 years. 

Watford Observer:

He said: “There is not a day, no matter what the weather, that I don’t take my dog, Poppy, into the park. 

“The grass and paths have not been trimmed for nearly six weeks and the nettles are so high they sting your arms. Some are four-feet high and my arms are more vulnerable when using crutches.

“The trees attacked me - they swooped down and took my glasses off and nearly knocked me over. 

Brian claims this has only been an issue since Watford Borough Council gave the contract for maintaining Garston to Veolia. 

“It’s an absolutely appalling neglect of responsibility, it’s not down to the council it’s down to Veolia and the council don’t know what’s going on.

“This year has been particularly bad, it needs to be cut every two weeks.

The grass in places is a foot long, we haven’t got grass anymore we’ve got hay!”

This week, Brian became so “annoyed” he went out with a battery-powered strimmer and cut back the grassy paths, so he could walk Poppy. 

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The retired engineer, who is a full-time caregiver to wife of fifty years, Julie, 79, said he is concerned he will put his crutch in a small hole hidden by the deep grass and become injured. 

“There are small holes here and there and if my crutch goes in one of them, I’m over. When the grass is cut back you can see them.

“I have fallen over before, I have to be so careful.

“Julie doesn’t walk or go out much. She has all sorts of medical problems including diabetes, her knees are shot, arthritis – she is unable to live at home alone. She would have to go into care without me.”

“But the park is so neglected it’s unbelievable. It’s gone on long enough.”
Brian used to be part of the Friends of Garton Park community group which disbanded some years ago.

He has contacted Watford Borough Council, Meriden ward councillor, Kareen Hastrick, former Watford Mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, and newly elected mayor, Peter Taylor, suggesting the group reform. He said Mr Taylor said it was a “wonderful idea”. 

Brian said Ms Hastrick and Mr Taylor both agreed the park needed to be brought up to “Green Flag” standard. He added: “I gave Kareen a list of requirements for the park, but she never replied.

“I feel very annoyed that the park has been so neglected. I can’t remember the last time we saw a work team picking up the litter. This used to happen weekly without fail.”

In response, Veolia said: "We are working hard to maintain Watford's parks and open spaces to the highest possible standard and this is recognised by the eleven Green Flags that have been awarded to the parks we manage on behalf of Watford Council. 

“Grass is kept deliberately long in some areas to attract wildlife; however, the grass at Garston Park is due to be cut shortly."

Elected Mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor, said: “Garston Park is one of our most popular parks and we take all complaints very seriously. The park was inspected by council staff on May 23 and whilst the grass was quite long in places, will be cut shortly. The park overall looked in excellent condition. 

“Garston Park also has a large area that is a dedicated Local Nature Reserve where grass is deliberately kept long and where we positively encourage wildlife and have been working with the Green Gym along the wetland area doing clearance work. 

“We have secured significant funding for this year to improve Garston Park’s infrastructure and we will be consulting with local residents on Saturday 16 June at a fun day currently being planned.” 

“We are hoping to re-establish a Friends Group for Garston Park that will then lead to a Green Flag application for Garston Park adding to the 11 we currently hold.”