‘Drink more and eat less’: Yanchep gardener shares secret to staying active as he approaches 90


David Wykes (Yanchep). Picture: Martin Kennealey d479200
David Wykes (Yanchep). Picture: Martin Kennealey d479200

DAVE Wykes (89) is not the retiring type.

Due to celebrate his 90th birthday in October, the Yanchep resident still works as a gardener a couple of hours a day, seven days a week.

Mr Wykes said he started working at the Yanchep Sports and Social Club about seven years ago, after 14 years as a volunteer gardener at the Sun City Country Club.

When the Times caught up with him on a summer afternoon, he said he had spent the morning trimming branches at the Yanchep Beach Road club.

“I felt so bloody fit this morning; the adrenalin was going,” he said.

“I don’t know why I’m so fit; the doctor doesn’t know either.

“I’ve never taken any tablets in my life.

“I’ve never stopped work.”

Mr Wykes said he enjoyed cutting the lawns with a push mower, which was easier than walking because “you’ve got something to hang on to”.

His daily diet includes “five cans of beer” and no fruit, and he said the key to staying active might be to “drink more and eat less”.

Yanchep Sports and Social Club manager Helen Caines said Mr Wykes came in each morning to look after the gardens at lawns at the Yanchep Beach Road property.

“He is just amazing; he outworks anyone that is younger than him,” she said.

“It’s like a second home to him; we are all like a family down there. “

Mr Wykes said his working life started with newspaper deliveries in England when he was 11, then worked in a factory.

“Then my life changed – I was called up in the Royal Air Force,” he said.

“The whole world was my oyster.”

After leaving the air force, he returned to England and met his future wife, Hazel (now 86), but before they married his “itchy feet” brought him to Australia in 1956.

“I landed in Australia with five pounds,” he said.

A chance meeting with another Englishman in Adelaide led to Mr Wykes getting a welding job at Maralinga and the “best job” of his life driving for the builders.

“I was there when the atom bomb went off,” he said, referring to the Combined Services Task Force’s 1957 test of components for thermonuclear weapons.

“You looked around and you’ve got this big ball of fire.

“We were only about 20 miles away. It’s lucky the wind was blowing the other way.”

He returned to England and married Hazel later that year.

“I like a beer and I married a publican’s daughter,” he said.

The couple returned to Australia in 1966 and bought a house in Scarborough for $7000, then moved a couple more times before shifting to Yanchep in 1989.

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