Me & My Job - Paul Rabbitts, head of parks, Watford Borough Council

Paul Rabbitts, head of parks, Watford Borough Council - image: Watford Borough Council
Paul Rabbitts, head of parks, Watford Borough Council - image: Watford Borough Council

How did you get started in the industry? I qualified as a landscape architect at the University of Edinburgh in 1989 and thought I knew lots about plants until I was introduced to a proper gardener and was left humbled and humiliated after an hour of failed plant identifications. That summer was spent every day at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

What has been your greatest achievement at work? I always wanted to be a head of parks and achieved that in Watford. I built the biggest skatepark in the country in Middlesbrough. I submitted one of the first Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) parks projects in Carlisle. I have published eight books on parks and my obsession — the Victorian bandstand.

What is the best aspect of your job? Getting out and seeing "my estate" and what’s been done elsewhere. I am a parks obsessive. Having spent nearly £5m on improving Watford’s parks gives me a real buzz. I am really proud of increasing the Green Flags from three to six after former colleagues saying "you’ll never get more than three in Watford".

And the worst? I could say depleted budgets, but that’s too obvious, but email, litter louts — I despise negativity in any form.

What projects are you currently working on? A £6.6m HLF/BIG Lottery Cassiobury Park restoration, including "bring back our historic bandstand"; a really innovative wheeled sports project and book number nine — a social history of the bandstand to be published by Historic England in 2018.

What does the future hold? This is a critical year for the parks industry and I fear the impact of cuts really starting to hurt. Government still does not get it. Definitely more books too. Great British Parks — A Celebration is out in June, published by Amberley Publishing. It covers 20 years of lottery funding and 20 years of Green Flag Awards.

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