Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Chapelfield history

WI in the gardens
On a cold, dark evening in February, Old Buckenham WI were transported to a much known and now much loved city centre park – Chapelfield Gardens in Norwich. Sheree Leeds, of the Chapelfield Gardens Society, gave an illustrated talk of the garden’s history. It has been described as “a place full of washerwomen and rude boys” and “a united nation of trees.”
These are two contrasting views of the Gardens and, as you can guess, several centuries apart. Originally the field was attached to St Mary’s Chapel and had a fairly undistinguished and notorious reputation until the Victorian city councillors took charge. In 1880 the Gardens were set out very much as they are today. Avenues of trees and flower-beds were planted, all well tended by an army of gardeners. The bandstand was erected and a famous clock built. Alas times change and the Monday evening dances ceased, the gardeners disappeared and the clock was removed to a safer venue. The Gardens were neglected and became one of the less desirable venues of the city once again.
By 1999 the City Council were drawing up plans to turn the Gardens into a skateboard park. Not surprisingly, a pressure group of interested and alarmed citizens was formed to convince the Council that, with their support, the Gardens could be renovated and rejuvenated into a Garden fit for the twenty-first century. The collection of rare trees are, once again, well managed. New plantings of beds have taken place and artists have been invited to provide sculptures. A petanque court is in daily use and the children’s nursery functions at the heart of the Gardens. The House of Fraser, in the new shopping mall, now overlooks Chapelfield. Once again, the Gardens provide a managed open space for Norwich residents and visitors. So, when tired of shopping, rest a while in Chapelfield Gardens. Enjoy the snowdrops and watch the world pass by in this peaceful oasis in the centre of our vibrant city.
From parks to charity, Old Buckenham learnt that members had once again risen to the annual challenge of collecting money for the St Martin’s Housing Trust. During the dreary months of November and December, several WI members manned the doors of south Norfolk supermarkets to help raise funds for the homeless of Norwich. On Saturday 20 February, the Old Buckenham WI President handed over a cheque for nearly £8000 to representatives of the charity. A further £7000 from other collections brought the total handed over to a grand £15000.
At the next meeting on Thusday 25 March the speaker will be Lt Col Chris Taylor who will be giving a talk about the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

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