Some features of the Great Ground sensory garden, built by teenage volunteers last year, will be removed. Residents living near the green space attended Shaftesbury’s Town Council meeting on 2nd July to urge councillors to restore the space to its previous state.
Last summer, volunteers on the National Citizen Service programme painted twelve car tyres either blue or fuchsia, before positioning them around the open space to act as plant holders. The group of 15 to 17-year-olds undertook the transformation as part of their community project with the authority of the Town Council.
“These are horrendous. These tyres are a disaster,” said Christine Stott, who lives nearby. Christine told the Council meeting that the tyres prevent toddlers from enjoying the green space. “You used to have the mothers coming in here and children used to play on their little balance bikes or play football. They were the little ones, preschool children. Their first steps were taken here, crawling on the grass. They can’t do that now. These tyres are full of cat poo. It’s a danger,” said Christine. “It’s very sad because five years ago when we came here, it was lovely. I would hear the chatter of the kids and the mums giggling. Now, nobody ever comes here.”
When Christine contacted the Town Council, their staff removed the tyres. Then, to her surprise, the tyres were re-instated. The Council’s arrangement with NCS requires the teenagers’ project to remain in place for a year. That 12-month period expires later this month.
The Great Ground green space was the second choice for the thirteen youngsters enrolled on this NCS scheme last summer. The group had wanted to create a sensory garden on Castle Hill, but its heritage status prevented that work. At the time, the NCS spokesperson told Alfred that they were working against the clock and had, “one week to plan and one week to execute” their project.
Marguerite Brady lives opposite the open space. She says that rusty wire is exposed on the site and that sharp edges of a decorative wooden design feature are dangerous. Pallets, which could have caused splinters, have already been removed.
Marguerite is disappointed that the teenagers have not returned to care for their creation. “We haven’t seen them come and do anything. Not a weed picked. We have been the gardeners,” Marguerite said.
The women say that they have personally subsidised the site maintenance with their planting and watering. “We’re metered! Christine and I are spending our money watering the garden,” said Marguerite.
Town councillors on the Recreation, Open Spaces and Environment Committee moved on to discuss the budget they would need for restorative works. Christine, who had been shaking her head in disagreement at the sums suggested, interrupted the debate to say such expense was unnecessary. “They were saying about spending £2,500. Margaret and I have been going to sales and buying up packets of plants. I said, ‘can you let us have less than £100 and we could put a trellis across there and paint it white?’ We would put honeysuckle and growing climbers across there.”
The neighbours have already bought and planted ivy, nasturtium, lilies and an acer. “We will look after them. We don’t mind that. It just needs to be taken back to what it more or less was,” said Christine.
Their passion for this green space appeared to make an impression on councillors. When the meeting moved on to setting a date to inspect the site, Cllr Pete Yeo instead suggested that everyone went for a visit immediately following the meeting. In an extraordinary move, councillors agreed and most of them headed to the Great Ground garden just after 9pm, before daylight faded.
“I can see the ladies’ point,” said Cllr Peter Yeo, as he looked at the brightly coloured tyres filled with weeds. “This project had a very good intention and they obviously did a very good job of it but maybe it’s not the best thing for the long-term future of the site,” he added.
Since the site visit, Shaftesbury Town Council has agreed to remove the picket fence and any sharp edges. They will clear away all but one of the tyres, which are considered to be trip hazards. Although Cllr Phil Proctor had suggested removing the teenagers’ decorative wall murals and text through power washing, that artwork will remain.
Collages formed from seashells and plastic bottle tops affixed to the wall won’t be taken down either. Maguerite said she has been repairing these decorations with glue.
Christine, who is a member of Shaftesbury in Bloom, says she has plenty of ideas for new features for the green space and she wants to start with a section of wildflowers. “Birds and bee-type flowers, a little hedgehog hut and a little bug house so that children would know what happens in gardens when they are naturally growing,” said Christine.