Born in Essex and trained as a beautician, Val became smitten with John the first time she set eyes on him (his words, not Val's). They still can't agree if the cross channel boat they met on was the 'Floating Festival of Jazz' or the 'Rock across the Channel'!
Val and John have been together since 1960, and moved into their family home near Gilling East 10 years later. Having spent a brief stint living in Lancashire, they were attracted to the two up, two down Victorian gardener's cottage to the manor house, with 3 acres of walled gardens. Sounds idyllic, and it would have been if it wasn't full of Christmas trees and weeds! For Val and John, the business always came first, so to start with it wasn't all pretty flowers and footpaths. Val was soon tending what most people would consider to be a commercial market garden venture growing and selling soft fruits and vegetables. And it didn't stop there: sheep, cows, pigs, geese, chickens and even the odd goat. Good job they all liked waste bread! Val always got top price at market for her stock, which didn't always go down too well with the local farmers.
A lot has changed since then. Val's in depth knowledge of gardening and horticulture has led to a stunningly beautiful garden, and although she has a little help now, nothing gets pruned without her say so. Until very recently she even had her own breeding herd (Fold) of Highland Cattle.
As usual, Val was in at the deep end and was the first Thomas the Baker shop manager when Malton opened in 1981. As more shops opened Val became quite the expert, and quickly gained a reputation of being firm but fair. One expression that became familiar around Val was: "You can't sell space." You quickly learned not to stand with your hands in your pockets because Val would always find a job for you!
Besides being a proud mum and grandma, she is very proud of the business and of many of the staff that have been with the company for years, a lot good friendships still remain. Many of the original staff that Val trained are still in the business, and have gone on to become shop and area managers.
Val likes to say: "There probably isn't another John." We're not quite sure what she means by that, but he likes to think of it as a compliment!