Sunflowers were planted by a local playgroup at the May opening of the garden - with the wet summer they grew to over 2.5 metres tall!

Sunflowers were planted by a local playgroup at the May opening of the garden – with the wet summer they grew to over 2.5 metres tall!

A renovated garden is moving towards maturity in what were once exercise yards for tramps and unmarried mothers at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum, Norfolk.

The garden occupies what were once two exercise/work yards for inmates of the Victorian Workhouse. The footings of what was once the dividing wall between these two yards can still be seen, emerging as the lawn above is worn away.  In Victorian times these yards joined two blocks of accommodation:

  • for so-called  ‘casuals’ or tramps who used to travel between workhouses earning ‘a night’s board for 2 days hard labour’ – possibly crushing stones for use in road building
  • for unmarried mothers nursing their babies – they wore distinctive uniforms to mark them out from the other workhouse inmates.
The refurbished 'Education Garden'

The refurbished ‘Education Garden’

These buildings today provide the Museum’s Learning Centre and space for occasional groups and events. Until last year the garden area between the two buildings was kept maintained as grass and a range of mixed borders which is an important picnic/ rest spot as well as being used by school and pre school groups for art and learning activities. In 2012 funding from the Friends of the Museum as well as the Museum itself and donations from a range of local businesses were secured to refurbish and redesign it. A number of design issues were tackled, including:

  • Providing further paved terrace space with new picnic tables and some renovated paving
  • Introducing a number of planting containers to add interest to the paved terraces
  • Realigning paths to follow ‘desire lines’ and make access easier
  • Deepening borders to provide more visual interest and unified planting
  • Creating a new ‘curiosity corner’ to provide a space designed for under 5’s which contains a range of features to encourage children to explore.
Mary and Derek Manning plant a tree to mark the opening of the garden

Mary and Derek Manning plant a tree to mark the opening of the garden

The newly renovated garden was formally opened on 6th May 2012, and two of the original gardening volunteers, Mary and Derek Manning, planted a ‘Paper Handkerchief Tree‘ to mark the occasion. Local children also played their part and cut ribbons to open ‘Curiosity Corner’.

One of the new residents of the Garden!

One of the new residents of the Garden!

The Curiosity Corner proved to be very popular in its first season last year and included some giant sunflowers planted by a local play group as well as a turf seat; a willow tunnel and arches; hazel wigwam; mirror; ‘fossil slab’; various ‘animals’  hidden away in the planting and a range of different path surfaces and planting. There is also a half barrel filled with stones,water and pond plants, so that youngsters can ‘get up close’ to this watery habitat.

 'Curiosity Corner'

‘Curiosity Corner’

The coming year will see the garden mature further and hopefully there will be sunny days so that visitors can really enjoy this lovely picnic area at its best.

New planters with sweet peas on conical obelisks

New planters with sweet peas on conical obelisks

Quizzicals:

Two more cryptic clues to the names of plants, fruit or veg…

  • The scourge of female chickens
  • Cheap goods in a pile of dung

Old School Gardener

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