Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Work and play at The Bohemia Walled Garden Photo ZR

Activity and leisure at The Bohemia Walled Garden Photo ZR

Behind the walls of the garden

Last time I visited the walled garden, writes HOT’s Zelly Restorick, sunflowers were blooming and produce was being harvested. This time, as I passed through the brick doorway, I spied crocuses, rosemary, buds and embryonic bloomings, children playing and adults leisurely preparing the ground for the new season of growth. I’d come to speak to new chairperson, Mary Dawson, to update me on the latest news.

Mary Dawson met me on the edge of Summerfields Woods, to guide me to the walled garden, which is hidden amongst the trees and undergrowth, part of the old Summerfields Manor, once owned by the Brisco Estate (often known as the Summerfields Estate). Walking along the path amongst the dappled leaved sunshine, we discussed where information boards should ideally be positioned for the best advantage of visitors, in search of the natural and man-made treasure troves hidden within the trees.

The Fallen Wall and other goals

The Garden has been specifically developed for educational, cultural and community events. However, the main thorn in the Garden’s side continues to be The Fallen Wall, which is still in need of repair, (the spirit of hope and determination springing always eternal within the Association). A Heritage Lottery Grant application is soon to be submitted in the hope of raising £100,000 not only to restore the wall, but also to create better accessibility – including a path from the grassed area outside the Museum – and better signage. Heritage Days are being planned, with the goals of increasing community knowledge of our rich and diverse heritage, learning and acquiring new skills – and ENJOYMENT, which is a rather splendid outcome to have in sight.

Mary told me of plans for a Sussex Apple Day, an exploration of the history of the Brisco Estate, the general history of gardening, teaching the traditional crafts of spinning and dyeing – for which mediaeval plants are being grown for their colours – and encouraging links with schools and involvement in the 1066 celebrations next year.

Championing environmental awareness

Eco water-less toilet at Bohemia Walled Garden Photo ZR

I was impressed by the eco water-less toilet, which is wind and solar powered, dehydrating and evaporating raw materials. Solar and wind power magic – and all in harmony with the natural environment. And Mary demonstrated the human sun dial, designed using mosaics created by members of the Garden. The area is also used to teach Bushcraft or Forest School Skills, plus there’s a mud pit where, under discreet supervision, children can explore natural and free play and a wildlife area.

Bohemia Walled Garden Photo by ZR

Bohemia Walled Garden Photo by ZR

A very brief history

In the 19th century, the Walled Garden belonged to the Manor House of the Brisco Estate. In 1972, Hastings Borough Council took over the land and plans were made for various developments, including the demolition of the Manor House, which took place. The Garden was used by Summerfield School and later by the Probation Service. However, in 2009, some very determined local horticultural visionaries combined skills and energy to run the Garden as a community project. This led to the formation of the Bohemia Walled Garden Association, which offered plots of land for cultivation, activities and multiple opportunities for both children and adults to relax and enjoy the natural environment. (Please scroll down beyond photo!)

The official mud exploration pit Photo ZR

The official mud exploration pit Photo ZR

People participating

I joined members enjoying tea, cake and chat and met HBC Ranger, Guy Loader, who, emphasized Mary, ‘offers invaluable support and advice for which everyone was hugely grateful’. I asked both the children and the adults why they liked coming to the Garden and here’s the words I heard in reply: ‘very free’, ‘making friends’, ‘growing vegetables’, ‘lots of fun things to do’, ‘fresh air and labour’, ‘fresh air and meeting people’, ‘friendship through doing’, ‘meeting people by doing things together’, ‘chatting’ ‘lovely environment’ and ‘peaceful’.

Interested in membership / volunteering?

The Bohemia Walled Garden is indeed a hidden treasure of Hastings – and well-worth a visit. Interested in volunteering or offering your skills in some way? The members would love to hear from you. To register as a member is free and you can add your name to the waiting list for a plot to cultivate and nurture.

A young volunteer gets to grip with a bucket o' dirt Photo ZR

A young volunteer gets to grip with a bucket o’ dirt Photo ZR

Upcoming events & Opening Times

Tibetan New Year Celebration : 14 March                                                                

Willow weaving workshop : 15 March                                                                              

Book Fair : 21 March                                                                                                        

Easter Event for Children : 29 March 

(For details, times and maps, please check website. See below for link.)

The Walled Garden is open on most Wednesdays and Sundays between 10am and 12pm and is located on Bohemia Road, behind the Law Courts and Summerfield Leisure Centre.

If you are interested in contacting the team or joining in any of the events, please contact them via their website or by email at <>.

Many thanks to everyone involved in the article.

Previous articles on the Bohemia Walled Garden here and here.

More Walled Garden photos:

Human sun dial, demonstrated by Mary Dawson Photo ZR

Human sun dial, demonstrated by Mary Dawson Photo ZR












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Posted 11:53 Wednesday, Mar 11, 2015 In: Home Ground

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