Tender care and determination from a band of volunteers has reclaimed an oasis of tranquility in the heart of Alnwick.
A labour of love over the last five years by several organisations has transformed Green Batt Gardens and there are plans to make it even more attractive to visitors.
Alnwick in Bloom is hoping to install an armillary to celebrate Alnwick-born Sir George Biddell Airy, who, in his role as the 7th Astronomer Royal, established Greenwich as the location of the prime meridian.
The armillary, a model of objects in the sky using spherical rings, is planned for the centre of the lawn. Alnwick in Bloom is investigating its feasibility and funding.
But the history of Green Batt Gardens is not quite as illustrious.
In the spring of 1964, the garden came under the umbrella of Alnwick District Council, rented from Northumberland Estates, to be maintained as a garden and open space. It was known then merely as ‘land adjacent to St Paul’s Parish Hall’.
Since then the names The Garden of Tranquility, The Peace Garden, The Rose Garden, St Paul’s Garden have been tagged to this parcel of land. Now it is simply Green Batt Gardens.
In May 2008, after many years of neglect during which the garden slid into disuse as less socially-minded minorities began to take over the space, Alnwick in Bloom (AiB) approached Northumberland Estates prompted by a local resident’s dismay at the deterioration she saw.
AiB was seeking permission to make changes to the Estates land – small but essential improvements.
“The Estates was prompt and positive in its response in repairing the crumbling walls and replacing the long-gone seats with benches,” said AiB volunteer Elizabeth Jones.
“AiB also went ahead with an assessment of the trees still growing from Alnwick District Council’s initial planting. Some were dangerous and ADC, after the correct conservation area permission had been granted, felled them, completing the job speedily and spotlessly.
“It also levelled and seeded over the exhausted rose beds,” said Elizabeth.
The next task was to replace the absent entrance gate. AiB felt that a smaller facsimile of St Paul’s old Sunday School gate on Prudoe Street would fit the bill and local blacksmith Gordon Wilson was commissioned to make and fit the new iron gate in March 2009.
“All very well and good but all gardens need maintenance and Green Batt Gardens is no different,” said Elizabeth.
Churches Together, which had meetings in Percy Street Hall, had noticed and become concerned about the garden’s plight and stepped in with a schedule of March to October monthly clean-ups and these still continue.
Led by David Archer, the Baptist Minister, The Friends of Green Batt Gardens, some eight to nine volunteers, go in on the last Saturday morning of each month in season, to tidy, weed and titivate the plants. Now Alnwick in Bloom fund fortnightly grass-cutting so the turf has a polish which lifts the whole atmosphere of the open space.
The attached video was filmed at the last tidy-up of the season at the end of October.