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Parts of the Glasgow Garden Festival are still flourishing 30 years on at an Inverclyde garden centre

Cardwell’s retail general manager, Paul Carmichael at the bridge and pagoda-style shelter that came from the Glasgow Garden Festival and is now at Cardwell Garden Centre
Cardwell’s retail general manager, Paul Carmichael at the bridge and pagoda-style shelter that came from the Glasgow Garden Festival and is now at Cardwell Garden Centre

GLASGOW’S famous Garden Festival may have ended 30 years ago, but parts of it still live on in a Scottish garden centre.

After the festival closed in September 1988, the owner of Cardwell Garden Centre, near Gourock, spent a six-figure sum buying up buildings, ornate shelters, plants and mature trees from the organisers.

The wooden structures bought by the late Eric Gallagher were dismantled and then re-assembled at an expanded Cardwell.

To this day, they remain an integral part of the 28 acre site, forming around 20% of the structures.

The mature trees and some of the more unusual plants Eric bought were carefully dug up, sold on and transported to gardens and country estates all over the UK.

To visitors, the only obvious trace of the Glasgow Garden Festival at Cardwell is one of its multi-coloured signs attached to the wall above the exit.

But many won’t realise that both the entrance and exit frontages came from the Garden Festival’s entrance hall, used by people coming across the Bell’s Bridge over the River Clyde.

And many won’t know that the quaint little red-painted bridge with a pagoda-style shelter they use to walk across the stream that runs through the garden centre came from the Festival too.

The Glasgow Garden Festival sign above the exit at Cardwell Garden Centre

Other pagoda shelters from the Festival are dotted around Cardwell along with the roof on a sheltered walkway and the roof over the lengthy veranda that runs past shops.

Eric first started a nursery in Gourock’s Cardwell Bay more than 50 years ago before expanding and moving to the present site at Lunderston Bay, a few miles from the town centre.

Eric’s two sons, Drew and Kieran along with his daughter, Stefanie, now run the popular garden centre.

As a teenager, Drew was one of a small army of workers from Cardwell who spent months on the festival site dismantling buildings and digging up trees and plants.

On the 30th anniversary of the Glasgow Garden Festival, Drew recalls: “My dad made sealed bids for almost anything and everything he thought he could use. He hated waste and always wanted to recycle things and make use of them.

“He also liked a bargain and I suspect that’s what attracted him to the Garden Festival after it had closed!”

The late Eric Gallagher who bought parts of buildings from the Glasgow Garden Festival and erected them again at Cardwell Garden Centre

Cardwell’s retail general manager, Paul Carmichael said: “I remember the Glasgow Garden Festival very well and when I started working at Cardwell I was amazed to find out that about 20 per cent of the structures here came from the Festival site.

“What was brought in from the Festival has certainly given Cardwell real character and has made us far more than just a big shed selling gardening products.

“There can’t be many people who come to Cardwell realise they are walking in the footsteps of the famous Glasgow Garden Festival after all those years.”