ALAN ANDERSON, 59, has lived and worked in Weardale all of his life. For the past 14 years he been park keeper at Auckland Castle, in Bishop Auckland.

How did your career start?

I just fancied a total change.

I’d been a supervisor at Durham Industrial Minerals (near Frosterley) and left in 1999 after nearly 20 years with them. It took me a while to get another job, but, as soon as I was offered this, I grabbed it with both hands. I’d worked in the building trade earlier in my life and my hobby is DIY, so that has stood me in good stead.

It’s not a job that would suit everyone. You have to be able to work on your own initiative and turn your hand to a huge variety of jobs. I am one of those very lucky people who just loves their job and I never take it for granted. Fingers crossed I want to do this for the rest of my working life.

What does your typical day involve?

It’s hard to say because every day is a little bit different. It’s my job to keep the park clean and tidy, but it isn’t meant to look perfect.

I can be repairing walls and fencing or even clearing litter, anything that makes the park look as nice as possible for visitors.

At the moment we are planting beech trees.

I really enjoy sharing my passion for the place with people and telling them a bit about its history and encouraging them to visit Auckland Castle.

What is the best thing about your job?

Seeing people enjoying the park is the thing that gives me the greatest satisfaction. In this role I see myself as a bit of a custodian for something that has been here for years and will be here long after I’ve gone. If I can make a small contribution to the upkeep of this place in the short time I am here, then that will do me.

What is the worst thing about it?

This isn’t your standard nineto- five job. I unlock the gates at 6am and close them at sunset, so the hours change with the seasons. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had people knocking on my door (Alan’s house is sited in the park) because they lost track of time and are still wandering around late at night. They see my lights on and give us a knock.

When a job needs doing I do it, which means sometimes I’ve worked seven days a week to get a job finished. I don’t mind. This is more of a way of life than a job. I hardly ever take a holiday because I miss the park if I’m away from it for too long.

How have things changed since the castle was acquired from the Church Commissioners by philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer last year?

I suppose it feels as though things are going somewhere.

No offence to the Church Commissioners, who did a good job, but it seems that the trust has exciting plans and it will be very nice to be part of that.