Ramparts row: No permission

A Berwick businesswomen has spoken of her dismay after a thousand daffodil bulbs planted on the town walls were removed by English Heritage.

Friday, 24th January 2014, 5:22 am
Elizabeth Middlemiss with daffodil bulbs dug up by English Heritage and returned to her after planting them in memory of her mother along a section of walls

Elizabeth Middlemiss, owner of Deyn’s Deli, said the “spiteful” move by English Heritage felt like another nail in Berwick’s coffin.

Ms Middlemiss planted the bulbs along the walls between Scotsgate Arch and Cumberland Bastion in December, in memory of her late mother Margaret Deans. But, as she did not have written permission, English Heritage has now removed them, charging Ms Middlemiss up to £500 pus VAT to do so.

Ms Middlemiss said: “My mum died in July last year. She had worked tirelessly in the community, and I decided that I would like to plant some daffodils in her memory. I phoned English Heritage and explained what I would like to do. I said I’d like to donate the bulbs and pay for them to be planted, and that they wouldn’t require any maintenance.

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“They said it would need to be checked, but the man I spoke to, Robert Pickles, seemed keen. He asked me to send pictures down to him, which I did, together with a detailed letter of what I’d like to do, and a map showing where.

“I sent it recorded delivery but I didn’t hear anything back.”

Not envisaging a problem, and aware that the bulbs would need to be planted as soon as possible to flower this year, Ms Middlemiss planted six sacks from Scotsgate Arch to Cumberland Bastion.

“Mr Pickles then phoned, apologising for taking so long to get back to me, and said ‘no you can’t plant them’,” she said. “He came up from Newcastle and was furious!

“The walls are neglected, I just wanted to do something to brighten them up and bring them to life. But the way I was spoken to was terrible, it was like I was a criminal. He sent two men to dig up every single bulb and he has billed me.

“It had cost them nothing and the daffodils are totally harmless - I think it was done purely out of spite.”

Mr Pickles has since written to Ms Middlemiss, stating that in order to plant flowers she would need consent from the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport.

But Ms Middlemiss says she will fight to get daffodils right round the walls in the future. “I won’t give up,” she said. “I’d like to get a committee together and ask once again to plant bulbs for next year.”

She added: “The area desperately needs some love and attention, but English Heritage don’t seem to care.”

A spokesperson for English Heritage said: “We are not against the principle of memorials on the ramparts and we are certainly not against flowers. But this is the wrong place for such planting.

“It is close to a sheer, unprotected drop and we were worried that the flowers would attract children towards it. Despite warning her that it was likely her request would be unsuccessful and the confirmation of this fact less than two weeks after her request, the applicant went ahead with the planting of around 1000 bulbs.

“These have since been removed and we are happy to meet with the applicant to help find a more suitable spot for a memorial.”