The History of THE Communal Gardens

The early years 1964-2011


In the summer of 1964, the last house, no 65, was being completed in Maisemore Gardens.  There was still a pile of sand on what was to be the lawn but a tree, a Prunus Amanogawa, had already been planted by the developers, who had completed the landscaping of the gardens.


The land to about halfway up the road from the sea to the square was made-land and the level of the lawn on the square had been raised so that the trunks of the three alders and the large willow all rose at right angles out of the ground.  We were told that this would mean they would soon die.  One alder did, but the other two lasted about fifty years and the willow, which was quite old, was removed much later.  Elsewhere in the gardens three mature ashes had also been retained.  Some planting had been done: there was a flowering cherry by number 39, a silver birch at number 27, two Leylandii cypresses reaching for the sky, one on the main lawn and one by number 16 and the rose bed from West Road to number 70.  Between the shop, number 68, and number 70 was a row of mature sycamores on our boundary with what is now Brent Court.  The appearance was very open and park like, just grass and trees – no beds, except for the roses at the entrance.  Once the Council of Management took over some more trees were bought from the Forestry Commission, the silver birches and scot’s pine by number 46, the weeping elm by number 39, an oak, which has since been removed, outside number 34, an acer, which has just been removed, by the shop, a Prunus Amanogawa opposite West Road and a red sycamore by the electricity sub-station.  After a while it was decided to remove the monstrous Leylandii cypresses which did not suit the gardens.  A small, slow growing, so we were told, cypress was put in place of the one by number 16.


 The developers continued to do the maintenance until we finally managed to get our hands on the freehold.  They generously made over to us their 36” Dennis motor mower.   Various residents tried to keep the grass under and the Dennis was replaced with a sit-on mower which was not very satisfactory and did not last long.  Roy Fairchild, the treasurer, who worked for Colts, managed to find us one of their workers, who did the gardens for a while then introduced another Colts worker, Mike Moran, who maintained the gardens lovingly for more than twenty years.  He was paid a fixed sum over the year and worked to his own timetable.  He did not get on with sit-on mower so we bought him a Hayter which he pushed valiantly for years, always accompanied by a big wheelbarrow and hoe, and with these he kept the gardens looking magnificent.  When it got too much for him his youngest son, Simon, who had done a horticultural training, took over and continued to look after them until about 2011..


Recent Times 2011- the present day


At the 2018 AGM concern was raised about the gardens.  Members were very appreciative of the sterling work done by the garden club but felt the elderly and overgrown shrubs needed some professional attention.  A quick survey of as many members as could be reached revealed that almost all members cared about the gardens, even though they did not play an active part in maintaining them.  The consensus was that they wished to be consulted about any major changes, liked the gardens to be friendly to wildlife and have a natural look;  they particularly loved the alders!


In response to their wishes the Council of Management decided that a professional should be employed to see to the shrubs and that we should engage a garden landscaper to prepare a plan to refurbish the gardens.  With the help of Diana Williams several firms were consulted and we asked Jessica Bateman, of Blooming Lovelies,  to prepare a plan for bed A, alongside number 46.  This plan was presented to the next AGM;  members had various suggestions to make, in particular that the plants that were doing well there should be retained.  An amended plan was made and the work was done in August of that year.   The pruning of the shrubs had been carried out by Jess’s team who also planted  a mixed hedge of locally grown plants alongside the garage yard belonging to the seventies;  one of the complaints made during the survey was that they felt neglected.


The members expressed satisfaction with the work done by Blooming Lovelies.  However, given the amount of our input into the final plan, we decided to do the rest of the designing ourselves.  Bed A, on the lawn in the square, was cut back and filled in with plants in blues and yellows to continue the original scheme.  Diana Williams had suggested we should have a scented  bed, so, when we refurbished bed D, alongside number 16, which was very dull and overgrown,  we planted it with a variety of scented shrubs, retaining some of the privet as a frame.  The planting has taken a long time to establish itself but should soon be showing results. Suzie Daniels had suggested a herb bed, so when the bed on the north corner of West Road needed attention we planted it up with herbs,  which seem to be doing well;  like all the planting, it seems to have developed a plan of its own!


Mark Tapley did the original planting;  everything he put in the ground seemed to do very well so we were dismayed when he retired.  Fortunately the replacement he found for us, Paul Laugesen, was a demon worker and  kept everything looking very neat,  but,  unfortunately,  after a year he developed carpel tunnel syndrome in both hands and he had to retire.  After interviewing several gardeners we managed to find Andy Pearson, our first professional gardener,  who  had lived in Maisemore Gardens at one time;  we are very happy with the way he is looking after things.


The garden will continue to change;  some plants die, others flourish.  At the moment we are thinking about planning for increased summer heat and drought.  In response to the urging of horticulturalists we are setting the mower higher and have left patches of grass to grow in the hope of encouraging wildlife.  It looks a bit untidy, but we are trying to do our bit for nature!


Sarah Harrington (2023)


The Communal Gardens Gallery




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Updated:  Sunday, 18 February 2024