Monday, 29 May 2017

St Leonards Gardens


We are, indeed, very lucky in Hastings, with beautiful countryside within easy walking distance, the seafront, and 2 excellently designed gardens; Alexandra Park (see previous blogs) and St Leonards Gardens. Pictured here is the South Lodge, Grade II listed, and divided by the doric arch with its fluted doric columns, half private residence, half home to the Burton St Leonards Society, and open to the public at these times:
Wednesdays, 11-2pm;
Saturdays, 11-4pm;
Sundays, 1-3pm.


Situated behind what was James Burton's St Leonards Hotel in 1828, but renamed the Royal Victoria Hotel following the young princess's visit. Burton bought part of Gensing Farm for his dream of a seaside resort for wealthy visitors, and so, Burton St Leonards was created. Burton was strongly influenced by John Nash for his design of the gardens, which were designed for those inhabiting, or visiting, the nearby villas or hotel that he built, consequently, the gardens were not free for public access, but could only be enjoyed by subscription payers, as they were the property of the Burton family!


They remained 'subscription' gardens until Hastings Corporation bought them in 1880, opening them up to the public, and renaming them St Leonards Gardens. Happily for me, and yourselves, they remain owned by Hastings Borough Council, were more recently renovated with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and are a pleasure to walk through, and spend time contemplating, whilst sitting on one of the many benches.


Whilst sitting by the pond, chatting with the gardener, Dennis, who was busy planting young shrubs and herbaceous plants, I spotted 2 moorhens and their 6 chicks walking across the lily pads, though they shot off every time I approached to try and take a photograph! The pond has a very interesting wildlife, and Dennis said they get a monthly visit from a heron, and every now and then a cormorant may enjoy a visit too...


So, I wandered uphill, after thanking Dennis for the information he had shared, and promising to pass on a message to a friend we have in common. When I looked back southwards towards the sea, I had to take another photograph, though the sea view is blocked by the South Lodge and Royal Victoria Hotel, whatever, such a beautiful day!


Still lovely walking uphill, so, another wee stop to enjoy the peaceful environment...


St Leonards Gardens has an interesting wildlife presence, and within the exquisitely designed beds is a mixture of exotic, and more local, trees and shrubs, herbaceous plants and flowers, indeed, you can enjoy a mixture of colours all the year round.


On leaving the gardens onto Maze Hill you come to the North Lodge, just below St Michael's Hospice. This is another building with an interesting history and list of visitors, notably with a blue plaque celebrating Sir Henry Rider Haggard, who authored King Solomon's Mines, Allan Quatermain and She: A History of Adventure, amongst others, and who lived here from 1918 to 1923.

If you want some peace, give St Leonards Gardens a visit!

For more information about the gardens and St Leonards try this website.

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