Photo taken from Harrow times website at THIS LINK
Bernays Gardens is at the top of the road where I live in Stanmore, a small town in the outskirts of London at the end of the Jubilee line. It’s located on what was once an extension of a large house called Manor House which is no longer there. (Although confusingly there is another down the road)
The gardens date from the mid twentieth century and are sort of magical, hidden, beautifully laid out secret space behind tall red brick walls and these days are not known about by many people unless they want to secretly take drugs or have a dump in the bushes. Oh and I’ve seen the occasional college student on a bench eating subway and throwing wrappers on the floor. Can you see where this blog post is going?
When I was little. They were stunning little gardens, looked like the old postcard at the top of this post. Someone lived in the church house and cowman’s cottages hired by the council to keep an eye on the gardens and we would go there regularly for picnics with our nanny or just on small walks. Growing up in our teens we would sneak in there and smoke cigarettes because we probably couldn’t get found by anyone who might tell our parents and there were big trees and bushes to hide behind! It was a big part of my childhood. Until the old man in the cottages died and Harrow council decided they didn't give a shit any more.
In recent years the council have allowed it to become a dump. As I said above, people go in there to take a piss, shoot up drugs, take poos behind the bushes and they sold the cottages off to a private owner who has yet to do anything but cordon them off and let the gorgeous grade II listed buildings rot and fall down.
Thanks Harrow Council.
Before I moved to New Zealand, I contacted the Elm Park Residents committee which my mum is a member of, who said I should contact the Stanmore society as they were doing something about it. So I contacted the Stanmore society but no one really answered the phone and their website was a bit pants and you had to pay them money to get involved and get any information from them. That didn’t appeal massively and then of course I got offered a job far, far away and took it and didn’t come back for a long time.
When I did come back, it was much worse. The council have let the new owners of the cowsheds just leave them to the point where it will only take one bad storm now for certain parts to collapse quite badly I’m sure. We’re just waiting for a “mysterious fire” so they can build the residential building they wanted and finally kill off the last of the charm.
All credit will go to the owners if they do something great with it, but I think a lot of us have lost faith and are very sceptical about the future of our local gardens.
A couple of weeks ago mum read an article in the local paper that a group of people were getting together to volunteer and do some gardening up there. Happy to have finally found a group of people who cares, I looked them up on facebook and they were meeting on Sunday, so I said hi and Mark and I took some tools and headed down there at lunch time to join in with some gardening and tidying.
At first we met Lesley and Stuart, some locals and then more and more people turned up. In the end I think there were around 12 of us and although I can’t remember everyone’s names, we all got stuck in, planting, sweeping, weeding, cleaning and made friends almost straight away with one thing in common between us. That we all love these gardens and have memories in them from over the years. I think we ranged in age from 15 to about 70, the variety of people and ages in the group was great.
Hopefully a bit of presence from us and some cleaning up and planting, might make people more aware that we care and are in there all the time. It might make the council sit up and think about how they’ve neglected it and it might just do us all some good. It might make people want to use it again if they know it’s being maintained and it’s a safe place for a picnic and we’ve picked up the needles and fag butts. I know I felt like I had some great physical exercise that first Sunday, but also that I had met some really good people and that it’s nice to give back to a possible future generation.
I will be posting progress reports on here over the coming months and now that I have given up work, I can head there regularly to water and look after things. We may be involved in the fete and some events in the area, so keep an eye out.
If anyone would like to get involved, the facebook group is here: Bernays Gardens Community Group
The gardens are located here on a map:
And you can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Or my twitter and instagram @littlemidge83