One of the things we always ask our clients to consider is the kind of lives they want to lead when they retire, and the legacy they want their wealth to create. Tom is one of our clients who has seen the impact of effective wealth management and how it allowed him to pursue one of his passions.
In February 2015 and having recently retired, Tom became involved with the Leasowes Walled Garden project in Halesowen, after reading about it in the local newspaper.
Having always had a passion for gardening , he “thought this would be right up my garden path” and joined the volunteers working to restore the formerly dilapidated garden to its former glory.
Tom describes the group of around 10 or 12 irregulars as “mostly retired individuals which makes for a kind of horticultural ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ scenario. Some of the antics are definitely Compo and Cleggish although we have different names such as Country Bob, Fireraiser Richard, Big Phil, Little Phil, Stan the Demolition Man, Billy the Beeman and Clever Trevor (very good with his hands!).”
The site is open four mornings per week so some volunteers put in 15 or 16 hours some may be there for just a couple but its left to the individual to do what they feel they can or want to.
The aim now is to continue to shape up the Garden within the walls to resemble how it may have looked in 1776. This would involve restyling the 20th century potting sheds and tool store and obtaining a glasshouse, the appearance of which would be in keeping with the 19th century.
“So much remains to be done and all this takes money, time and not a little muscle power. Replacing the main wooden gates cost £4,000 alone. But our ageing gang of volunteers remain enthusiastic as ever and we continue to make steady progress.”
A Potted History of Leasowes Walled Garden
Around 1760 the poet William Shenstone began changing the farmland he held to the east of the little village of Halesowen to that of landscaped parkland as was fashionable in those days. This land, was subsequently bequeathed to what had now become the borough of Halesowen, and is in part the grade II listed public park known as Leasowes Park and also Halesowen Golf Course.
After Shenstone’s death around 1770, ownership changed hands with the new owners rebuilding the house that is now the golf club house. In 1776 walls were constructed to form a walled garden as was the custom in those days; for the supply of vegetables, fruit and cut flowers for the household.
In 1900 the house had become a finishing school for young ladies. These girls during summer were encouraged to swim in the lake that was a feature of the park and is still called “The Lady Pool”. Apparently Halesowen lads had to be discouraged from any kind of spectator sports at the pool.
By the 1930s the walled garden had become the base for Halesowen’s “green care department” that managed the parks and green areas of the town and a nursery for supplying plants for floral displays around the town.
Following the creation of the metropolitan boroughs in the 1970s where Halesowen became part of Metropolitan Borough of Dudley the greencare department was also amalgamated with that of Stourbridge and Dudley resulting in the plot of land becoming vacant.
By 1980 the site was being used by Stourbridge Horticultural College, imparting skills to would be gardeners. The college continued there until the early part of this century when the building facilities were becoming too outdated for the site to be viable.
The site was left for four years with the area becoming overgrown and further dilapidation caused by nature and vandals until it came to the attention of a Halesowen Abbey Trust a local conservation group.
Negotiations commenced with local authorities and a sum of monies, over £40,000 was raised to purchase the site.
A group of volunteers began the physical work on the restoration project in November 2014 with the aim of returning the plot to its former glory as seen in 1776.
This area has been cleared of what had become a sea of brambles, overgrown conifers and self seeded ash and sycamore as Mother Nature had set about reclaiming her own. A big effort was required to clear the remains of concrete breeze block coldframes, a dilapidated polytunnel and old tree stumps
The garden now has an orchard of 120 apple, pear and plum trees. A wild flower meadow incorporating a wild life pond which annoyingly leaks (another challenge), an area set aside for members allotments and six beehives. Not forgetting a fruit cage containing raspberries, currants and cherries.
A boundary hedge comprising of over 400 hedging plants has been planted. The varieties were chosen such as Hazel, Blackthorn, Dog Rose and Hawthorn, to provide a wild life pantry as they mature.
Within the Walled Garden itself again a massive clear up operation has seen the removal of old aluminium greenhouses left from the college days most of which were in a sorry state.
Numerous and quite large tree stumps were dug out by hand as well as some 60 tons of concrete were manhandled into skips and taken off site.
Two huge portacabins that had been used as classrooms and catering facilities were in an advanced state of decay but have now been cleared. Easier to say than to physically do it. Much of the timber that was still sound has been recycled for projects such as fencing the allotments to keep out Peter Rabbit and his extended family. Also much of the frame work for the fruit cage was recycled.
If only them pesky squirrels could be kept from scrumping the fruit trees!