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Braintree & Bocking Public Gardens: In need of help

PUBLISHED: 12:22 27 June 2016 | UPDATED: 11:59 14 July 2016

Family events are a key part of the fundraising programme, but require extra help

Family events are a key part of the fundraising programme, but require extra help

Archant

The Braintree & Bocking Public Gardens is a unique oasis, much treasured by local residents. But now this special place needs a little extra help in order to survive

Braintree & Bocking Public GardensBraintree & Bocking Public Gardens

The Braintree & Bocking Public Gardens have been a highlight of the local area for generations. Originally the gardens were part of Bocking Place, the home of Mr and Mrs Sydney Courtauld, until the Courtaulds donated the gardens to the townspeople of Braintree and Bocking. Mr Courtauld’s concept was to provide an area where children could play safely away from the dangers of the road and also a garden where trees, shrubs and flowers could flourish and be enjoyed by everyone.

In 1888 the gardens were designed and the layout is very similar to that still seen today, with rose beds, shrubberies, a play area and tennis courts.

Michael Butler, the great, great grandson of Mr and Mrs Sydney Courtauld, explains: ‘Sydney Courtauld had a wonderful vision for a garden in Braintree and Bocking. In his words, he wanted to create a space where busy people could escape for a brief spell from the cares and worries of their lives. He would be proud to know that this beautiful garden today is still a sanctuary in the heart of the local community.’

The total area is about five acres and there are more than 200 trees, many of which are of native origin, planted in the gardens. A number of the trees are of special interest, including a Blue Atlas Cedar, three Deodars, a Wellingtonia, a Lucumbe Oak and a Wollemi Pine.

In the central area of the garden is the John Ray Garden, which was created by the John Ray Trust to commemorate his 300th anniversary. John Ray was one of the town’s greatest sons, a famous philosopher and is generally regarded as the ‘Father of English Botany’.

A memorial to HMS Kite is also situated in one of the flower beds, close to the War Memorial, and is a reminder of the 217 men who lost their lives when the ship was sunk due to enemy action in 1944. HMS Kite had earlier been adopted by the people of Braintree.

There is little doubt that these gardens are a very unique place, and special to Braintree. Brenda Baker, centre manager at the George Yard Shopping Centre, explains: ‘George Yard Shopping Centre is very pleased to be able to continue to support this beautiful and attractive site in the town centre. Few towns can boast a large open park with such a collection of trees so close to hand and we encourage everybody to come and enjoy the interesting heritage and tranquil surroundings.’

The local WI has also played its part in supporting the gardens. Lesley Evans, president of Dolphin WI, adds: ‘We were pleased to be able to add a rose bush, named Inspiration, to the collection in the gardens recently in honour of the national Women’s Institute Centenary in 2015. The beautiful salmon pink and yellow rose should bloom in mid-summer 2016, when we will hold a planting ceremony.’

Cllr Lyn Walters, leader of Braintree District Council, couldn’t agree more. ‘Braintree & Bocking Public Gardens are a gift of beauty to the residents of the town and surrounding areas. The gardens are a peaceful and serene place to rest and relax, to enjoy the wildlife or simply watch the world go by.’

However, sadly, ensuring that this resource remains available for the enjoyment and pleasure of the people of Braintree is no easy matter. A little over five years ago, trustees undertook a financial and strategic review of The Braintree & Bocking Public Gardens Trust. The most notable decision to emanate from the review was to terminate the agreement of the resident gardener, who occupied the Gardener’s Lodge rent-free as part of his remuneration, and to pass the garden maintenance work to a contract gardener.

It was decided, as part of the review, to convert the Gardener’s Lodge into Bocking Garden Café with living accommodation above to generate some much-needed income. The majority of the work completed to-date has been funded by grants, efforts of the trust’s fundraising committee and donations from Friends of the Public Gardens. Nevertheless, the biggest problem confronted by the trustees of Braintree & Bocking Public Gardens is raising sufficient cash each year to maintain the gardens.

The annual cost of maintaining the gardens is £30,000, while an annual income of rents and regular donations covers only a little more than half of that sum. The balance is realised from organising fundraising events such as the Little Legs Festival, family fun days and band concerts. Without the income generated from these events, Braintree & Bocking Public Gardens Trust would encounter serious financial problems.

The major problem with the organisation of these events is that they are all weather dependant and they each require significant manpower to arrange. So the small group of trustees is looking for help.

George Canvin, a current trustee, explains: ‘This is a message to everyone who knows the gardens, who has visited them and enjoyed some of the many features contained therein or is simply a resident of the area and wishes to see this wonderful facility maintained. Please do contact us if you think you can help. Your help may be in the form of working with the fundraising committee, making a financial donation or providing help in the garden and horticultural advice. Please be assured we need whatever help you can give.’

BBC Essex gardening expert, Ken Crowther, has already given his support to the gardens and will be in attendance on June 1 to host a special Gardener’s Question Time.

Ken adds: ‘The benefits of community gardens in our town centres are immense and Braintree & Bocking Public Gardens is a prime example of an open area that has something for every member of the community to enjoy.’

Let’s hope there is still plenty of opportunity to enjoy these gardens for generations to come.

Events for 2016

May 15

Bocking Concert Brass celebrates The Queen’s 90th Birthday Party

June 1

Gardener’s Question Time with BBC Essex’s gardening expert Ken Crowther

June 15 to 17

Little Legs Festival

Family Fun Days will be held, in the gardens, every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (weather permitting) during the school summer holidays. Bocking Concert Brass also give a concert in the gardens on the last Sunday in the month from April 24 until September 25. Tennis Courts are available for hire throughout the year

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