A SOUTH Tyneside man is seeing the green shoots of recovery after his life was put on hold by major surgery.
Tony Trotter, 46, has swapped shipyard work for seeds after taking part in an innovative horticulture project at Finchale College in Durham.
Mr Trotter, from Biddick Hall, South Shields, started off in the shipbuilding industry at 18, his career taking him everywhere from Jarrow to Holland, before he was forced to undergo back surgery two years ago.
He had four bolts and two metal rods inserted in his back – but now all is looking rosy in the garden again after he wowed judges at a prestigious flower show.
Tony and fellow college trainees scooped a Silver Gilt accolade for an eye-catching display, called Waste Not Want Not, at Harrogate Spring Flower Show.
Finchale College is a specialist vocational facility offering employment-focused training and support for unemployed adults with a range of physical, mental and medical health issues.
Programmes are customised to address individual needs and bring together a wide range of specialist support to achieve employment.
Mr Trotter, who is now hoping for a career as a groundsman, said: “I can’t say how much being on the course has helped me.
“It has made such a big change to my life. Being involved in Harrogate Show was just amazing.
“To get the award was one of the best days of my life.
“I was over the moon to hear the comments from the public about how good they thought our garden was.
“It has really spurred me on to learn more and more.
“I would recommend anyone to come along to the course and see how this experience can help them too.”