Well this wasn’t the year any of us planned but here at team South Cliff Gardens we feel we still have a lot of things to celebrate and be thankful for.
We started the year on a rather chilly high by hosting the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch in the beautiful Italian Gardens. Over two days in January we welcomed members of the public and pupils of St Martin’s C of E Primary for a session of spotting our feathered friends who didn’t disappoint. With the support of experts from The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and RSPB we identified a wide range of birds including tree creepers and woodpeckers.
In February, the Spa Stabilisation Scheme was complete and the site reopened. Local residents and passing visitors gave much positive feedback as the landscape started to grow back in. This project offered the unique opportunity to combine intense engineering and heritage restoration. There are further works planned to this area of the site including the reopening of the famous tunnel under the cliff lift, which will take place in 2021, so watch this space.
Next, our attention turned to holding a one-day family book festival in the gardens. Plans were well underway when the first lockdown struck. There were so many amazing people lined up to take part that we took the decision to move the event online. With stringent restrictions in place digital engagement was the only way forward. Fortunately the wonderful authors and story tellers who were originally on-board agreed to try this brave new world. Author interviews were conducted over Zoom, Literacy Champions took to gardens and even a tram to share stories, challenges were set and poems created. Over seven days we explored all things literary and whist it wasn’t the same as hosting an event in the real world it was fantastic to be able to share so much unique content on Social Media.
The summer should have been a packed program of activities but with social distancing in place and uncertainty over changing restrictions we had to go back to the drawing board. Local legends Animated Objects had been due to run some family workshops for us over the holidays. They went back to the drawing board and created a charming adventure story set in South Cliff Gardens, Marigold’s Mini Beast Marathon.
We also teamed up with arts charity Invisible Dust to create an environmental and heritage themed summer activity for young people and their families to enjoy. Garden to Garden encouraged children all around the country to get outside and explore the world of insects and learn about the importance of bees to our past, present and future. It culminated in an art competition which saw entries from all over Britain. The artist behind the project Feral Practice also made a beautiful short film Looking at Bees. https://invisibledust.com/projects/feral-practice-garden-to-garden
One thing that became apparent over the last year is just how important green spaces are to people in a time of crisis and South Cliff has proved to be a very popular place for locals and visitors alike to escape into nature. The gardens are also a wonderful setting to enjoy some outdoor exercise. We welcomed The Frog Project into the sunken rose garden for six weeks of Yoga with a View over the summer. Due to the national restrictions we had to keep groups small and self-distanced but we were able to record the sessions and post them to our YouTube channel for those who couldn’t join us to enjoy at home.
We were also thrilled to be able to welcome back the Friends of South Cliff Gardens for their weekly gardening group. Following government guidance and observing the rule of six they were able to resume their activities helping to keep the gardens in peak condition. The support they receive from visitors is heart-warming and we are very lucky to have such dedicated volunteers working in the gardens.
The launch of our new website has been successful and we have been busily beavering away to create a new map and branding for the gardens which will be introduced in the New Year.
Autumn saw us preparing to take part in the first Digital Heritage Open Days as heritage organisations up and down the country embraced online engagement. We were lucky enough to have the skills and support of local artists David and Angela Chalmers who generously offered to make a short film for us. The theme of this year’s event was Hidden Nature and the Chalmers embraced this by gaining access to a private tunnel which runs beneath the Esplanade and out into the only privately owned section of the gardens. You can watch the finished film on our YouTube channel, This present moment, the past moment…, it’s a thing of real beauty. https://youtu.be/wFnmSj3aIPw
Our Project Officer Victoria Thompson was also hard at work interviewing heritage gardeners around the country for her Heritage Gardner’s Question Time; the panel of experts answered a range of gardening questions creating a unique opportunity to explore this fascinating topic. The panel included celebrity gardener James Alexander Sinclair, local gardening legend Doug Stuart, heritage garden expert Garry Webb and Head Gardener of the Baroque Garden Denise Seckham. It is also available on YouTube.
As the year draws to a close and we enter 2021 we will continued to try and inform and entertain through our social media posts and blog. We are currently in the process of choosing a contractor to carry out the restoration works and we look forward to stating renovation work in the gardens next spring. We will be bringing you regular updates and progress reports both online and through signage within the gardens.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us this year in person or online and to send a special thanks to everyone who has volunteered their time so generously to us. The team at South Cliff Gardens wish you a happy and safe Christmas and New Year.