I’ve always been a fan of Norwich city. In fact, I’ve lived all over the UK, and have turned my back on career prospects and relationships alike to return to the city I love. Norwich boasts some obvious selling points with its shops, castle, cathedral and not forgetting a pub for every day of the year, but it’s the lesser known hidden charms that make people fall in love with the city beyond a shallow level.
The Plantation Garden in Norwich is one of these charms and is a city centre secret. Imagine it, a large Victorian formal garden in a gorge, slipped in behind a hotel on a road bordered with nineteenth century villas, you would never know it was there unless you were looking. And that’s how it was lost for over 30 years until it was rediscovered and restored. This dramatic folly, created in an old chalk quarry, all built from the ingenious imagination of it’s Victorian creator, Henry Trevor, prosperous cabinet maker and upholsterer.
Every time I visit the gardens I see how the magic impacts people as they take in the beauty and the enchantment of the place. Children run around, hiding behind gothic looking statues, creating stories of wonderment; and as a writer I can see how novels like The Moonstone, Tom’s Midnight Garden or The Secret Garden could be inspired here. For the non readers, imagine the Game of Thrones Lanister family walking around here plotting the fall of the realm before sitting down to tea and lemon cakes. In reality, families come here to picnic, lovers share a kiss in the summer house away from prying eyes, just married couples at the next door church have their first photos as husband and wife and elderly couples sit on the many benches, appreciating the array of flowers and shrubs and romantics lose themselves in history, imagining how things used to be.
For me, Plantation gardens has always been a special place for me. As someone that suffers from mental illness it was a place of comfortable solitude that always soothed my soul. Once I was in a bad living situation where my home wasn’t a ‘safe’ place so I would come to the gardens to cry, to read and to lose myself in their beauty. I’ve made many big decisions in those gardens, I’ve accepted a job offer, rekindled and ended relationships and talked myself off a metaphorical ledge when at my lowest ebb. The garden is full of magical moments for me, watching outdoor movies with my now husband as the sun sets, dancing to live music with my friends, drinking tea while looking round a vintage fair and I watched two foxes playing in the snow, chasing each other in the early morning sun, unaware of my presence.
Why am I writing about this? Why am I telling you about my moments? Well, the gardens has always struggled to make money for the constant upkeep require, though through funding and the charity it instills in the community, its still here. Recently a local ogre/businessman has threatened to cut off access to the gardens so it’s time for this secret botanical beauty to be outed in order to protect it. There is a sinkhole under the property that could pose a danger but rather than support the charity to get this investigated and sorted, this man seems focused on closing the garden down, giving the charity unreasonable deadlines to sort the issue. I’m not going to ‘throw shade’ at this guy but I do wonder if he has a soul or like Doctor Faustus, sold it for a plot of land for one of his questionable hotels.
I visited the gardens this morning with my husband to take, what could be the last photos as the deadline approaches. If the garden closes then Norwich will have a perfectly preserved piece of it’s history buried. The closure steals away future first kisses, future smiles with friends and future and continued sanctuary for others. Help keep this beautiful place alive and available for all, sign the petition here and help keep some magic alive in Norwich.