In the second of a two-part feature, Sidmouth in Bloom's Lynette Talbot explains what's been happening at Sidmouth's Old Boat Park
PUBLISHED: 13:18 10 November 2017 | UPDATED: 13:18 10 November 2017
The Old Boat Park behind the Ham is being transformed into a 'sensory garden', an area of wellbeing for everyone to enjoy.
After completing phases one and two, a Tesco ‘Cash for Bags’ grant of £10,000 to Sidmouth in Bloom in early 2017 enabled us to start phase three of the project in May.
This was a great bonus as we could move on from the initial beds one, two and three in phase one, and really complete the work to a high level with beds four to eight.
Project manager Peter Endersby, with the advice and help of East Devon District Council’s Streetscene, commenced the daunting task of removing the overgrown vegetation of pampas grass, phomiums, onion weed and dead plants – all beyond their useful life in these narrow borders.
He arranged for contractors to remove 12cm of weed-filled soil from the remaining five beds and replenished them with 22 tons of top-soil and two tons of grit-sand.
New plants and shrubs – grown locally if possible – were sourced and volunteers were enlisted to help to dig soil and plant.
SIB assessed the plants needed for the five senses and decided to keep what could be ‘recovered’ or still add some useful height to the project.
Three nice camellias, previously hidden by pampas, were revealed.
A small holly and bay, yet to be reshaped, and a cherry were left. EDDC Streetscene helped by composting the clearance waste.
Toucan were called in to paint and improve some areas for health and safety reasons. Benches were to be ordered and many plants brought in to start planting in May. There was also a problem over the next three months as all the beds needed watering during the very dry period.
Bed four is now the ‘Artemesia bed’. Dr John Twibell, who holds the National Collection in Sidmouth, kindly donated some plants and others were added to complement them.
Tarragon (taste) belongs to the Artemesia family. These plants have beneficial properties for human health.
Bed five is called the ‘Prairie Bed’ although it does contain non-prairie plants along the hedge side – heucheras, ferns, herbs and the camellias. The grasses, heleniums, knophfia and penstemons all emit ‘sound’ with wind.
Bed six is the ‘Mediterranean’ bed with its three olive trees, some already with fruit. Cannas, eryngiums, thistle, curry plants, santolinas and lavenders fill this bed. There are again grasses, echinaceas, herbs and dianthus to touch and smell.
Bed seven is behind the Pump House and is principally the ‘sight’ garden. It has a Magnolia ‘Susan’ planted in it. This small tree suffered from the dry weather but is now growing well. Hopefully it should get its roots down over winter and flourish in 2018. Dahlias, coprosmas, penstemons, chrysanthemums, dianthus and other plants will benefit in this more sheltered site, attracting birds and insects. A callicarpa, with its winter purple berries, helps carry the season along.
Bed eight is at the end of the site. It is the ‘Woodland’ area. Ferns, hostas, epimediums, correa and geraniums are currently planted. A chestnut-paling fence has been installed to encourage young explorers to follow the path into the bamboo woods. This is working well and SIB would like to thank people for keeping off the plants.
Five white stem birches are now planted to complete the ‘woodland effect’ and give a wonderful white colour to the otherwise green area. Sight and touch of leaves predominate.
Over the past few months, the plants have grown beyond all expectations.
Colour and movement abound and insects are already busy among the flowers. Birds are coming down to feed on seeds, grubs and worms. The public are using the seats: reading or eating and enjoying a quiet moment away from the hub of Sidmouth. Most benches give views to the sea or playground.
The beds are not all complete. As the weather takes its toll on some plants, the design will need to be reassessed and more plants will need to be put in. All plants will need to learn to cope with the seasons, the salt air and summer dryness. Mulch will be laid on the beds to preserve moisture and cut down weeds.
In late February, there will be a general clearing of spent foliage and pruning. Information boards are being designed and will be installed in 2018. A list of plants will also be available via the website.
Volunteers are always needed to maintain this site. Four benches have been installed with more to follow. Michael Krysztofiak from Arizona kindly donated a bench in memory of his uncle Derek Salter.
More will be done to improve this area – bird boxes, bug hotels, more benches, even a table, may be donated. SIB hopes that people respect the area and leave it free of rubbish (currently the nearest bin is in the nearby playground). It is not a playground nor skatepark. People with sight problems, or any health issues, or those needing a quiet time are welcome to enjoy a moment to take in the five senses from this area. n
Any assistance or queries, or to arrange a guided tour of the site, please email email@example.com