Labour of love: meet the green-fingered Northamptonshire man who keeps his village in bloom

Roger and Becky outside the Norton pub
Roger and Becky outside the Norton pub

It is not often people work for free, but for one Northamptonshire village resident gardening really is a labour of love.

Roger Hepton lives in Norton, the small village which sits a couple of miles east outside of Daventry. From the front room of his house he can see the fruits of his labour, the bright and colourful flowers of the White Horse pub, which he maintains daily.

The White Horse in Norton

The White Horse in Norton

"I look at it as my garden really," said the green-fingered Roger, who also tends to the plants and lawns around the village when he is not at his allotment.

"It started a few years ago when I thought it looked untidy. So I tidied it up and planted lavender all along to start with, and it's gone on from there.

"I've added to it year by year until we got to where we are."

"Becky appreciates it and she looks after me, and I look after the flowers."

Pub owner Becky says the flowers make the White Horse more inviting.

Pub owner Becky says the flowers make the White Horse more inviting.

Becky Chan is the owner of the White Horse pub. She has known 79-year-old Roger for two decades because she ran the fish and chips shop in Daventry from 1989, where he would come in for a meal every Friday.

Even though the pub changed hands Roger stayed on as its unofficial gardener, and Becky is grateful for it.

“The flowers are so inviting and so nice. I think without them the pub would be a much less inviting place.

“Everyone comments, people of every age group, they say it looks so nice and colourful.”

Roger waters the pub's flowers every day

Roger waters the pub's flowers every day

It's clear that Roger, who used to work at British Timken, is held in high regard by Becky who describes him as generous, kind, and thoughtful.

Just as she has done for 20 years, Becky still happily cooks meals for her friend Roger.

"We look after him," she said. "He always has a fish and chips once a week, and a Sunday dinner, and if I've made a big meal I'll save a portion for him to try out."

It all began when the pub's previous owners approached Roger because they knew he liked gardening. He moved to his home opposite the pub in 2003, having lived in a farm house across one of the Norton fields since 1970.

When he is not tending to the plants outside the White Horse, Roger can be found mowing the lawns which line the road in and out of Norton, or making the sure the flower boxes below the village signs are well-kept.

"It is a passion for me," said Roger, who also spends time on his allotment where he grows sweet corn, onions, potatoes, French and runner beans, and fruit.

No matter the season Roger is happy to get his hands dirty, and he's already begun looking ahead to winter.

He said: "Soon I’ll have to start planning for the winter months, we’ll still have flowers but it will be violas and pansies, there won’t be quite so many but there will still be a few to look at."