Peace in the Garden
The Peace Garden in Alexandra Park is a beautiful space, open to everyone. Somewhere to explore and sit, contemplate and ponder life – and now some new benches have been installed, which will only add to the overall serenity and sense of peace. HOT’s Zelly Restorick asks Charles Neal, Founding Chair of the Hastings Peace Garden Committee, about how the garden came into being and who has contributed to its evolution.
What catalysed you to get involved with the Peace Garden?
In conversations following the appalling attacks on New York on 11th September 2000, the late Kevin Murphy, a very popular local healer, myself, Sally and John Cole, Rowanna Web and some other people talked about creating a beautiful space for personal, national and international peace here in Hastings. He had already talked with the Hastings Fountain meditation group before that event. We wanted ours to link with other peace gardens throughout the world and to provide visitors and residents here with a reminder of how fundamental peace is to human happiness.
I understand that the garden has been handed over – in perpetuity – to HBC. Is that true?
A small, dedicated group of locals worked very hard for five years, designing, planning and raising charitable funds for the final garden, which opened on 11 September 2006 and was then handed over to the care of HBC in perpetuity for the benefit of all. Sadly, Kevin, whose vision it was, died suddenly, just before the garden was finished.
What’s your connection to Hastings?
I moved to Hastings twenty years ago and have a lifelong commitment to activism in world peace movements going back fifty five years.
Which artists and people have been involved in the project?
With a generous contribution from Hastings Round Table, the brilliant local metal artist, Leigh Dyer, made the fantastic organic gates and railings with many ‘hidden’ messages about peace, especially ones on rotating metal balls below the handrail by the stream of healing water which delights children. My son, Sam Neal, another talented metal artist, made the tall signs and his brother, Jago Neal, a graphic artist, designed the logo cut into wooden signs at the entrances. Angie Biltcliffe and Debbie Antonowitz worked with lots of children from Hastings’ schools to create the mosaics for the flowerbeds and several times on Armistice Day we’ve held children’s bulb plantings.
Joc Hare, a local wood sculptor, made the original old oak seats, which sadly perished, so Hastings Quakers commissioned Alan Wright to create a fine seat in honour of conscientious objectors. The 200-year-old chestnut plank is from Appledore and local blacksmith, Jake Bowers made the large white feather backrest.
When will the new benches be unveiled? Who made them and from what materials?
Three new ‘Purbeck’ benches made by Cranborne Stone are now in place and, once the grass regrows around them, will be splendid for peaceful contemplation or gentle conversation. They echo the ancient and mysterious ‘holdstone’, from the centre of Bodmin Moor, which is aligned with local ley-lines at the centre of the garden.
The Peace Garden can be found next to the rose garden near to Dordrecht Way in Alexandra Park.
Also in: Home Ground« Transition Town Hastings news
A Band of Brothers in Hastings »