The Monks' Walk Project

Although this was an independent project some progress reports have appeared in the Society's newsletters.

[February 2005]

Some time ago the Committee of Lichfield Civic Society expressed its support for the restoration of the Monks' Walk garden behind the Library. The project is being undertaken by members of the Staffordshire Gardens and Parks Trust, Lichfield College Students Association, a Friary 'old girl' and other volunteers. Sara Ashmead, of Ashmead Price, has also provided valuable support.

2004 has been a very productive year. Funding from the County Council, Lichfield District Council and the College has helped to fund some excellent Burton Conservation Trust Volunteers (BCTV) working parties led by Laurence Oates [who was also involved in the Orchard Project behind the George and Dragon Public House in Beacon Street]. The lack of funding from the Swinfen Broun Trust was disappointing, given that Sir Richard Cooper had contributed to the Trust and had given the Friary land to the City.

Some design ideas and planting suggestions were discussed at the latest meeting, on 5th February 2005, as nothing of note is recorded of the former garden layout - other than a very colourful herbaceous border and evidence of trees on the 1884 Ordnance Survey map.

An early idea was to create divisions with historic plots reflecting the rooms of the Geffrye Museum. This concept has been developed by Patricia Magee into a 'time line' of three sections with sign boards indicating historical events in both the City and the world beyond. Starting with the 20th century the visitor would be drawn through the centuries towards the wildwood at the end of the garden.

The garden has been neglected for many years; it is at least ten years ago that a former student suggested its development as a memorial garden dedicated to the memory of past students and staff. A bench in memory of John Sanders is planned ... at least some of his aspirations are being realised. Further information from former Friary School pupils would be appreciated.

Members of the Civic Society are able to visit the walk at any time to watch the progress of the design, or to join in working parties or meetings. To access the garden, walk behind the Library and follow the boundary wall heading towards the grounds of St John's Hospital.

Reported by Lorna Bushell

[April 2008 - Easter Egg Hunt]

Usually the Monks' Walk garden is a place of peace and relaxation, but on the morning of Maundy Thursday there was some noisy activity in the garden. This day was also the first day of Spring and a great time to hold an Easter Egg hunt. The group was also celebrating as winners of Lichfield District Council's Community Prize of 2,250

Children from Queens Croft school boiled and painted the eggs and another group from Rocklands School searched for these, after members of the Group had hidden them. Each egg, duly found, was swapped for a 'Maltesers' egg kindly donated by Waitrose.

The egg hunt was a traditional feature of the Friary School year and has now been revived - do any former students or teachers have stories or photo's of the event?

The Group will have completed its Spring working party day by 14th April so please visit and enjoy the old Magnolia tree which still delights with its waxy blooms, and much more.

Reported by Lorna Bushell

[April 2009 - An Update]

The Monks' Walk has a new bench, carved and constructed by Queens Croft Community School students and the environmental artist Anthony Hammond during a summer term of art residency. The bench is made from green New Forest Oak and depicts a friar, reminiscent of St Francis, with animals of the garden on the back panel and night and day on the other.

The Group obtained funds for the project from a Lichfield District Council Community Prize. There was a Mercury 'photo shoot' on the 2nd April to celebrate this, with students from the school given Easter Eggs. The carving is in low relief and is highlighted by sunlight in the afternoon - well worth a visit and to enjoy the tranquillity of the garden.

Further projects include the development of a medieval or monastic garden area and completion of a sundial. Volunteers work in the garden each Wednesday evening from 5:00 pm onwards.

Reported by Lorna Bushell

[July 2018 - An Update]

Work has continued on the Monks Walk throughout the year. Lorna Bushell and Martin Wilson, from the original group, have led several residents from Chapter House to continue the restoration of the garden.

The main job to date has been clearing; especially the ivy and abundant weeds that have become established since the garden was neglected during the building of Chapter House. The aim of this clearance was also to discover what plants have survived and to begin to plan how the garden is to be restored.

During the year many existing shrubs and plants that had survived grew and flourished. Early in the year there were bluebells (sadly of the Spanish variety), and snowdrops; then a carpet of wild garlic with white flowers and familiar smell filled the woodland area. The trees and shrubs in the centre of the garden are doing well with much of the ivy being removed, leading to a splendid show of rhododendron this May.

The hellebores, especially, gave a wonderful display with a long flowering season.

Work has continued on the path to try and keep it weed-free, with a variety of methods being used; even a flame-thrower was seen in action!

Work has also continued to restore the benches and the artwork. The seat in the woodland area was cleaned and waxed, benches were mended and the Monks Walk sign re-positioned. The "Stone Letters" are awaiting a final position and "The Shed" has acquired a rack for hanging tools.

The compost area has been defined and space for garden debris has been established at the bottom of the garden. A wormery has been located at the North end of the garden. However, the ancient wall continues to be a concern, with no action being taken to restore this important feature of the garden.

The original plan by Sarah Ashmead has been used as a guide and has been followed to a certain extent. It was thought interesting to incorporate a vegetable patch that had plants from the mediaeval period; beans and orache have been planted but the skirret is proving more difficult. Attention has been given to labelling and a variety of labels are being considered; plant identification is ongoing.

Recently the two lavender borders have been replaced with plants provided by the Chapter House gardener, but planting generally is 'on hold' until finances are released.

Our thanks go to all residents who have contributed to "The Monks Walk Restoration".

Footnote:
The entrance to the Monks Walk is now via the St John's boundary, through the college car park if the gate by the sign is locked.

Reported by Wendy Arblaster