Volunteering in the Royal Pavilion Garden
When I moved to Brighton in 1996 I knew only two people here, one of whom suggested that I try to join the recently formed volunteer group.
I was happy to be accepted, and 27 years in, count it as one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’m part of the Friday morning group, and try to make most weeks; there’s also a Tuesday afternoon group.
Something to look forward to
One of the things I really appreciate is that there’s no ‘typical’ session; the garden changes day to day, season by season. A couple of weeks sees new things flowering, and others fading, or new vistas opening .
There is always something to look forward to, even as the regular tasks – tidying, weeding, trimming, pruning, seed gathering, etc go on unabated.
Audrey Hepburn, I think it was, said
A vital and living garden museum
We are very much involved with the public and are often asked about particular plants or trees, and the reason things look the way they do.
Because of this we have a most interesting weekly plant ident, and discuss the prime elements of Regency Garden style. We are not a park, as a lot of people think, but a vital and living garden museum, something not always appreciated.
I’d love to see visitors understand the importance of that, and the way the garden functions as the setting for the buildings on the estate.
Gardens At Risk register
Not only is it a garden, but it’s open 24 hours a day in the centre of a busy city, which brings its own problems for volunteers and staff.
We heartily welcome all the garden lovers, dreamers, families, solo travellers, and well meaning visitors, but success means day time erosion through sheer numbers.
It was a sad day when the garden was put on the Gardens At Risk register. Sadly too, this is because of night time damage.
As volunteers we have to deal with the dark side of the open all hours policy. At night the garden becomes a no go area for most locals, with fighting, drug taking, and toilet use adding to the difficulties of keeping a Listed Historic garden looking great.
It’s very disheartening when you see a bed trampled, which you’d spent time restoring to order and floral beauty, and to have to call security to deal with needles.
The majority of garden visitors are benign, but night visitors generally not. There are two roads either side so no one actually needs to use the garden pathways as a route after dark.
The Heritage Lottery bid
However, our group is very excited to be involved in the consultation process for the Heritage Lottery bid.
Being on the ground, we see these distressing issues are being addressed, and new outcomes looked to. There are plans for wider paths, which will save the lawns, new entrance ways, upgrades to existing entrances, replanted areas, revived vistas, and a plan for rather lovely railings which should allow the gardens to be locked, after dusk.
After all, if an area the size of Greenwich Park can be closed at night, it shouldn’t be a huge leap to protect our small jewel like communal site. Restoring access from other buildings of the Estate in to the gardens, like the Dome and Pavilion theatre, will reinforce the ‘wholeness’ of the grounds, adding to the sense of a truly precious space.
Amusement and the fulfilment
I only have a small Brighton garden so value this bigger canvas.
I also guerrilla garden a plot in London, and have helped at London Open Gardens, so this is my prime hobby, along with theatre, gallery visiting, textiles and art courses.
I get such a lot out of being outdoors with a group of lively like minded souls and would heartily recommend being a Royal Pavilion garden volunteer. I have made fast friends, and deeply value this. Sadly the recording for Woman’s Hour which we did is no longer available as it showcased what a fun, and funny lot the gardeners are.
Stand out moments would include getting married at the Pavilion, and having an honour guard of rakes and forks to walk through.
But every week throws up amusement and the fulfilment of being in nature, human, animal and plant.