Beeston bids to save spice island plants

Both places have seashores where the climate and pace of life are a magnet for holidaymakers - but that is where the similarity ends.For one is the tropical Caribbean spice island of Grenada.

Both places have seashores where the climate and pace of life are a magnet for holidaymakers - but that is where the similarity ends.

For one is the tropical Caribbean spice island of Grenada. The other is the humble Norfolk village of Beeston Regis near Sheringham.

But a garden centre boss from Beeston has just completed a deal which will see him helping

to regenerate the paradise

island's hurricane-hit economy, using his plant and landscaping expertise.

Grenada's homes, hotels and cash crop nutmeg trees were obliterated by Hurricane Ivan nearly three years ago, but the country is aiming to bounce back by making more of its other role as an exclusive tourist trap.

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As the authorities and investors get set to build high-quality hotels and holiday homes, they will be helped by Mike Tacchi, who has already used a lifetime's experience in the gardening world to develop the Priory Maze and Gardens which lie in the shadow of the landmark Beeston Hill.

He is setting up nurseries to grow plants needed to landscape the holiday developments, as well as doing consultancy work on a new golf course, growing fruit for local supplies and setting up a plant waste recycling scheme to help with soil enrichment.

It means he will split his time between Grenada and Beeston, a 5000-mile, nine-hour commute - which comes four years after he moved to Norfolk looking forward to semi-retirement.

He had run a garden centre at Huntingdon for many years with wife Liz, supplying and landscaping major projects such as Legoland, Disneyland Paris and 60 new supermarkets.

The quiet life lasted just three weeks until they saw the Priory Maze for sale, bought it and have

raced through a 15-year development plan in five. Then along came Grenada.

"One of the developers out there was stumped for a landscape project, and we were contacted out of the blue through a contact who recommended me, which was flattering," said Mr Tacchi.

After a consultancy visit and negotiations for leasing 40 acres of cocoa bean and banana plantation, the deal has been finalised.

Planting will start in June, to grow palm trees, bougainvillea, feature shrubs, frangipani and neem trees which give off a natural mosquito repellent.

And because of the hot and humid climate, there was no need for expensive glasshouses to help things grow, he explained.

"You don't have to create a growing environment, just control it with corrugated plastic roofs."

Mr Tacchi said despite its past political and hurricane troubles, the sailing mecca of Grenada was a beautiful island, which he had fallen in love with at first sight.

"The people are also so friendly and appreciative of what we are trying to do for them."

The holiday developments were aimed at keeping the area unspoiled and exclusive, with hotels, villas and low profile homes blending in with the surroundings but having palatial interiors.

"It is a great privilege to have a major influence on the outcome of this island", said Mr Tacchi, who admitted his plans to take it easy when he moved to north Norfolk were probably misfounded.

He added: "I am someone who can never slow down. I guess I just wanted one last challenge, and this opportunity of a lifetime came up."

The Grenadian venture is scheduled to last 10 years, when Mr Tacchi, now 56, will think about retiring - again.

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