A visit by a U3a Group in June 2015

Despite a rainy morning our visit to the Plantation Garden was a huge success.  My group [Beeston U3a – Ed] really loved it and were astonished that such a garden existed in Norwich. The leaflets and booklets were most helpful; thank you. I posted  a cheque into the honesty box and hope that  this will help fund your continued good work . We enjoyed our coffee at the Garden cafe at the Narthex before moving on to Will Giles in the afternoon. Again a super experience adding to  our lovely weekend in Norwich. Kindest Regards, Sandra

The Plantation Garden, A Sanctuary

By Jo Donaldson

A watercolour by Georgina Bennett

Watercolour by Georgina Bennett

Having grown up in the area, we moved back into the locale with our young family in September 2012. I swiftly set about finding places of ‘recreational interest’ that I could walk to from home with my two pre-school boys.  We were home one day and the boys had a bad case of cabin fever.  Summer was turning into Autumn, it was an overcast, grey day and I was wracking my brains for something interesting to do.  I remembered The Plantation Gardens so we put on our wellies and set forth for Earlham Road!

I had visited The Plantation Gardens years ago, and vividly remember thinking ‘how had I not known about this treasure tucked away, before’!  I wasn’t sure how to describe it to the boys as it had been so long but the look on their faces said it all.  The dramatic contrast of leaving the noise, the busy road and city behind, that makes it feel like you’re walking into ‘The Secret Garden’.  They just ran and ran, so excited to have discovered this amazing new place.  There was so much to explore; spotting fish in the fountain, climbing the terrace steps, hide and seek in the summerhouse, following the paths leading through the trees and foliage and playing ‘trolls’ across the rustic bridge.  We visited often from then on.

As the nights drew in I heard rumours of a Plantation Gardens bonfire night and eagerly got us tickets.  The boys were thrilled to stay up past bedtime and head out into the dark, wrapped up like Eskimo.  We were warmly greeted by a huge crackling bonfire on the palm house terrace, mugs of piping hot tea and coffee, smells of BBQ wafting through the cold air, and lots of excited children!  The finale of watching the Plantation gardens lit up by fireworks made for a bonfire night that we’ll always remember.

We have visited in all weathers and seasons, and always experience something different; a new flower in bloom, a hidden path revealed.  Winter into Spring was a joy and Spring into Summer was another wonderful transformation.  When visiting one day in the heatwave of July this year, I paused for a moment to take in my surroundings.  The humidity and heat of the balmy late afternoon sun coupled with the flowerbeds bursting with hot pink and tropical orange left me speechless.  I think this was my favourite Plantation Garden moment to date.  As always, the boys raced around, we looked up the names of flowers on the maps, and enjoyed the gardens in its most exotic form we had seen.

A few weeks later, we enjoyed a fantastically sunny Sunday event, a children’s afternoon with Puppet theatre, perfect!  The boys had their usual run around first and then we found a patch of grass amongst our fellow audience, made a picnic of our tea and homemade cakes and (adults and children alike) were delighted by the show.  We were taken ‘under the sea’ in a clunky submarine and dived for creatures imaginatively fashioned from salvaged materials and household objects.  Sitting in the shadow of the steps and balustrades of the Italian terrace was magical.  The unique setting made for a dramatic backdrop.

Looking through the archive photographs on The Plantation Garden website, Henry Trevor’s original transformation from an abandoned chalk quarry to Victorian garden, the sad disrepair it encountered after the Second World War and the immense effort to restore it in the 1980’s, it becomes evident how much work, dedication and care has gone into preserving this beautiful space.  Anyone visiting the gardens ought to be proud that their donation or membership supports the gardens and the group of people who manage and maintain it and, above all, ensures the gardens stays true to its original purpose of a peaceful and spectacularly beautiful Victorian town garden for us all to enjoy.  A sanctuary.”