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Friday, 18 December 2015

Days of an award winning garden

There's a garden I walk by, walk through, sit in to chat, to think, to get some fresh air at lunchtime. It's paces away from where I work,  and unlike my favourite gardens which have developed and blossomed over many years, this is a brand spanking new one.

The Leicester Cathedral Gardens were opened last year just in time for this year's re interment of Richard III although plans for the space were already afoot at least five years before.

Before last year the area in front of the cathedral was a closed graveyard. And when I say closed, it was a gloomy space, with tall, dark tombstones, trees casting lots of shade and somewhere where I never wanted to linger. Frequently there was the smell of marijuana from some of the dealers who
loitered around, and I always used to walk quickly through.

And the adjoining space was the concrete car park for the old Leicester Grammar School. But when the school moved, the Diocese of Leicester bought the property, transformed it into St Martins House, and there was the chance to amalgamate the land and transform it into a vibrant public garden.

There's still some gravestones, but there's now lawns, a water feature, trees and flowerbeds.

Here's the walkway to St Martins House, planted with spring tulips, in the summer there's white and blue perennials and lavender...

It's a carefully laid out green space in the centre of the city with plenty of seating on benches, on raised blocks

and when it's dry lots of people sit on the lawn in the sunshine

And there's "Towards Stillness," a piece of art specially commissioned to show the story of Richard III's time in Leicester from he time of his death in 1485 to his discovery in the car park just opposite in 2013.


The statue of Richard III has also been relocated to this garden from its previous location in Castle gardens.....within sight of the new Richard III Visitor Centre.

But this is not just a garden for sitting in and wandering through. It can actually sit 800 people for outdoor acts of worship, for concerts, and it really is coming to life and into its own. It's cost £2.5 million which initially made some splutter and some peoples eyes water . But the project was joint funded by both local money and grants coming from Europe.

Yesterday the Cathedral Garden received an early Christmas present - a big national award from the British Association of Landscape Industries  ....and was named as the overall winner in the category for Restoration and Regeneration Schemes.

I'm pleased that the quality and design of the garden is being recognised. The dark, somewhat sinister spaces of yesterday have been transformed into a light, open garden to be enjoyed by everyone , and I look forward to watching the planting schemes mature as I sit , think and watch there during the coming months.


  1. Nice summary Bridget. It is one of the best garden (and associated refurbs) happened in the city for a long time.

    I think one of the main reasons it's evolved as it has done is that the city council haven't had a lead in it - and there is clearly a budget allocated to maintaining the standards expected.

    1. Thanks Stuart, I think the garden works really well!