Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Summerfields (5)

Photo by Colin Foy

Secret walled garden

Visitors can discover the secrets of a hidden garden when the international Chelsea Fringe Festival comes to Hastings in May. Members of the Bohemia Walled Garden Association (BWGA) will celebrate the growing success of their community project on Sunday, 21 May, when they use their annual open day to host Fringe events. Lynda Foy reports.

Photo Colin Foy

Photo Colin Foy

The Secret Victorian Walled Garden open day from 10am to 3pm on May 21 will include talks about permaculture by Anna Locke from 10.30am to 11.30am and on medicinal herbs by Ben Fairlight Edwards from 11.30am to 12.30pm.

A local choir called Sea Tones and musicians will sing and play between 1pm and 2.30pm. There will be plant sales, a seeds swap and a chance for children to make mini gardens in trays. Refreshments will be available all day.

BWGA will also run a stall on Sunday, 28 May in Alexandra Park, Hastings, as part of the Mini Chelsea Festival promoted by the Alexandra Park Greenhouse Group (APPG). Open from 10am to 4.30pm near the Eat @the Park Cafe, events will include plant sales and displays, music, a guided walk, and cream teas in the cafe.

Summerfields (8)

Photo Colin Foy

A sense of community

The Bohemia Walled Garden Association has 250 members and supporters and offers 35 plots for gardeners to rent, plus some plots free for educational organisations.

Chairman Mary Dawson said the site, which lies within the Summerfields Wood Local Nature Reserve off Bohemia Road, plays an important role in bringing the community together. She added: “I think we have lost our sense of community and we feel it’s very important to offer educational opportunities in a fresh and constructive way. We do a lot of work with schools, families and children.”

Mary said the Victorian garden has great historical value and the association is seeking to get the borough council to list the site as an Open Space Local Asset.

Summerfields (3)

Photo Colin Foy

Walled garden’s history

The association was formed in 2009 to bring the walled garden back into use for horticultural, cultural and education events. The garden was originally part of the estate belonging to Bohemia House, home to the Brisco family from 1831 to 1901.

The house, which had various uses during the 20th century including as Summer Fields School, was demolished by the borough council in 1972 and the walled garden eventually became overgrown and disused.

The garden, owned by the borough council and leased to BWGA, is now home to plots where members grow flowers, vegetables and fruit.

Association secretary, Sue Thomson said “The plots don’t remain empty for very long and are of variable size. The central area of the garden is for plots, but the borders are communal. We all look after them.”

BGWA received £97,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund last year, some of which has been used to stage several events for families and children. The lottery grant has also funded a new booklet about the Bohemia Walled Garden. Next year some of the money will be used to rebuild part of the garden’s eastern wall, which collapsed in the 1987 storm – and to improve accessibility. Better signage will also be provided this year.

The garden is open most Wednesdays and Sundays from 10am to 12pm between March and November. For more details about The Bohemia Walled Garden’s open day and membership, check out their website or email

Details about the APPG’s Mini Chelsea from or from to see all events in Hastings.

See previous HOT article about Mini Chelsea Fringe here.

Photo Colin Foy

Photo Colin Foy

Posted 17:18 Wednesday, Apr 26, 2017 In: Home Ground

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