We need your help to create one of the finest ferneries in Scotland at Victoria Park’s Fossil Grove.
The first batch of ferns to be planted at the Fossil Grove around the pond area are being delivered this week.
Members of the British Pteridological Society will be on site on Saturday 1st June to share their expertise in planting ferns.
We need lots of helpers to turn out. No experience is necessary but please bring spades, trowels or forks if you can.
From 7pm Tuesday 28, Wednesday 29 and Thursday 30 May for site preparation
From 10am on Saturday 1st June to work with the fern experts planting our first delivery of ferns
We will be working just beyond the Fossil House around the pond
The Friends of Victoria Park aim to transform one of Scotland’s most significant ‘lost gardens’ into one of the finest ferneries in Scotland.
More than a century ago in the 1880s, workers clearing ground donated by a benefactor to develop Victoria Park discovered a remarkable collection of tree fossils – dating back 325 million years. With considerable foresight, the authorities undertook to cover these with a Fossil House to protect them rather than have them moved to a museum. The fossils were subsequently designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is thought to be one of the country’s earliest examples of geo-conservation. The Fossil House opened on January 1st 1890.
The quarry area surrounding the Fossil House was developed into a magnificent rock garden with a small pond with a little rustic bridge and meandering interesting footpaths along deep crevasses.
It has been loved by children and adults alike for generations. The gardens were a blaze of colour from Spring to Autumn and were popular with brides as the backdrop for wedding photos. It is said that a team of more than 30 gardeners looked after the area which is still listed in Historic Environment Scotland’s Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes.
All this was maintained throughout the 20th century but over the past decade, the annual planting stopped and the area had become completely overgrown with brambles and other wild shrubs. The pond filled up with vegetation and dried up impacting on the Fossil House itself which depends on the pond to draw water away from the building and prevent the ancient fossils being affected by damp.
Local people have been very disheartened at the poor state of the Fossil Grove gardens which many remember so fondly and with such pride. And for those interested in the cliffs and rocks, the heavy growth has prevented geologists from identifying the various rock strata and put the rockery itself at risk.
The Friends of Victoria Park approached the council a few years ago with some suggestions on how the quarry area could be improved in a more sustainable way.
We identified four main pieces of work that would need to be undertaken.
Glasgow City Council has been very supportive of these efforts.
In 2017 we held a number of volunteer days to clear some of the overgrown site. Impressed by how much was achieved, the Council brought in a contractor to assist. Major clearing work was undertaken to expose the rock faces and further work is being
undertaken this year and next to keep on top of it.
In March 2018, having successfully obtained funding through the Area Partnership, the Friends of Victoria Park were delighted to have the pond re-established. This was done with a clay lining and frogs and palmate newts quickly took up residence. The extremely dry summer has led to some issues with the pond drying out but the Council has worked with us improve this.
In 2019 having raised funds some initial funds from the Area Partnership and Fossil Grove Trust, we have placed the first order of ferns to be planted in June.
Why are we so keen to plant a fernery?
So why do we think a fernery would enhance this area? This idea was originally put
forward by the Friends of Victoria Parks former chairman, Landscape Architect Richard East. It quickly found favour with our members and the wider community, including the many groups involved in the Victoria Park Action Group which is bringing a number of community organisations together to support the park.
We have involved specialists from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, the Glasgow Botanic Gardens and other groups and found there is huge
enthusiasm and support for these plans. It is hard to explain without a visit just how
atmospheric the Fossil Grove.
There are several reasons why it is ideal for a fernery.
“The British Pteridological Society is very excited by this visionary proposal to turn the old quarry area behind Fossil Grove into an outdoor fernery. A more ideal location for this could hardly be imagined. Most obviously, the proposed fern plantings will complement the fern-related fossil history of the grove itself. In addition, it will reflect the site's equally visionary conservation by our Victorian forebears who, as it happens, had a peculiar (if wholly understandable) obsession with ferns. It was this same obsession that inspired the establishment, a few miles away, of the Kibble Palace's tree fern collection in the 1880s, around the same time as Fossil Grove was discovered. We are very happy to endorse this project and our members will be keen to help ensure its success.”
Andy MacGregor, The British Pteridological Society
Our campaign to save 28 historic flower beds has paid off. The Council’s Land and Environmental Services has agreed that although their gardeners can no longer plant these beds several times a year with bulbs and annual plants, they will be planted with more sustainable alternatives.
The Council offered three options and the Friends of Victoria Park and Whiteinch Community Council have both agreed on Option 2 which involves planting the beds with hardy ornamental shrubs such as dwarf hydrangeas and miniature rhododendrons - both popular forms of planting in Victorian gardens. It’s estimated this will save the Council £21,000 a year and cost £2000 a year to maintain although there will be an initial one off outlay of £16,000. Planting the 28 beds with annuals costs £23,000 a year.
The Council will continue to plant bulbs and flowers in the 30 remaining flower beds and the Friends has asked that the scheme should be planned so that the shrubs and flower beds complement each other to maintain the high impact of the gardens.
The view from ‘the No 1’ bench on the hill above the large expanse of formal flowerbeds was featured on the well loved TV series Still Game.
Both the Friends of Victoria Park and Whiteinch Community Council felt the alternative options offered of ornamental grasses or wild flowers would not work well on the formal flower beds but the commemorative arches surrounding the flower beds may be filled with more wild flowers where this won’t upset the habitat for the rare Andrina bees that are nesting there.
Elizabeth Brown, Vice Chairperson of the Friends said: “We would like to thank the three Councillors for Victoria Park Ward, Ade Aibinu, Feargal Dalton and Maggie McTernan who all gave us their support. We would also thank Land Services staff for looking at this issue again as we know they are under enormous pressure to reduce their costs. We would also like to thank everyone who supported the campaign and turned out to our demonstration in June.
“It is still sad to lose the colourful annual planting on 28 of the 59 flower beds to save just £23,000 a year, but this option at least means we will keep the formal historic layout of the park. It gives us the heart to press on with our efforts to obtain funding for a fernery at the Fossil Grove which has been going downhill since annual planting stopped almost a decade ago.
It transpired during discussions with Land Services that 80 percent of the colourful annual planting that was done in the City has already gone. We are seriously worried about the lack of investment in parks across Glasgow.”
The Friends of Victoria Park, community councils and other groups are working together on the Victoria Park Action Group to form a Trust that will seek to work with the Council to improve the park.
A meeting requested at the beginning of June by Friends of Victoria Park about the City Council's plans to grass over 28 of the magnificent formal flower beds finally took place on Monday 20 August at Whiteinch Centre.
Officers from the Council's Land and Environmental Services explained that the plan to grass over 28 of the 59 beds was due to lack of operational resources - staffing and materials. They explained that the Council has been reducing flowerbeds across the city - a cut of almost 80% in the past decade. For the most part there have been no protests like the one held in Victoria Park on 28 June (see blog below.)
The officers acknowledged that the formal Victorian Gardens in the park which are listed by Historic Environment Scotland as a designated landscape are unique but argued that this can't be used as case to continue planting.
They intend to plant all 59 beds with hyacinth bulbs once this year's summer bedding is lifted. If the proposal goes ahead as they expect, 28 of the outer beds will be grassed over next April when the bulbs are lifted.
All three of Victoria Park's Councillors attended the meeting, Ade Aibinu, Feargal Dalton and Maggie McTernan.
Land and Environmental Services were asked to provide more information on what they expect the savings to be and agreed to look at alternatives such as herbaceous planting that would need to be maintained but not replaced every season - however they gave no guarantees.
Another meeting has been set for Monday 17 September for Land Services to report back on the savings and the alternatives to grassing over.
In the meantime, can we appeal to everyone who loves the park to contact their councillors and give the Friends of Victoria Park the show of support we need as the flower beds are still very much at risk. We know how concerned the city is about the loss of our heritage in the wake of the dreadful Mackintosh fire - these wonderful flower beds are part of our heritage too. You will find contact details for Council Leader Susan Aitken and all the other councillors including those for Victoria Park Ward here.
There was an excellent turnout for our Flower Power demo on Sunday 24 June when an estimated 160 - 200 people showed their opposition to council plans to turf over 28 of the main flower beds 'unless volunteers take them on.'
Friends of Victoria Park Chairperson Michael Herrigan said he was horrified by the proposals. The flower beds have been a key feature of the park since it was built in the 1880s.
Councillors Ade Aibinu and Maggie McTernan attended the protest to show their support and together with Councillor Feargal Dalton they have been seeking a meeting with Land Services to discuss other options.
Unfortunately, the Friends of Victoria Park have been told this meeting will not take place before mid August at the earliest but the councillors have assured us that any plans to grass over will be put on hold pending these discussions.
The Friends of Victoria Park are seeking a solution that will treat the 59 flower beds in the planting scheme in a planned, coherent way and while appreciating their financial difficulties, we believe the council could consider alternatives such as herbaceous planting. The Friends has committed to seeking funding to plant a fernery at the fossil grove which the council gave up planting some years ago and we simply don't have the resources to take on the main flower beds on top of the fossil grove project at this time.
Many of the attractive banners produced for the event have been stored in case further protest rallys are needed.
The event was covered by the Evening Times and Glasgow West End Today.
A flower power demonstration to appeal to Glasgow City Council to withdraw its threat to grass over 28 of the main flower beds at the park at the end of this season is being held on Sunday 24 June at 2pm at the flower beds.
The Friends Committee is asking everyone who wants to ensure the future of these magnificent gardens to join us, if possible wearing colourful, flowery clothes, face paints and carrying placards.
We would also ask everyone to contact the Council or their local councillors to appeal for the gardens to be saved.
The text of our letter to the councillors who represent the Victoria Park ward setting out what we want to achieve with their help is given below. Please do all you can to support us and use all your influence in local organisations to raise awareness. This is not a done deal. If enough people show they care we can get this decision changed. Contact us to help with the campaign.
Dear Councillors for the Victoria Park Ward
Land Services Plans to grass over 28 of the main flower beds in Victoria Park
On behalf of the Friends of Victoria Park, I hope you don’t mind me writing to you as a group but I have spoken to you all and had emails from you individually and I know that you are all keen to provide whatever support you can to resolve this issue.
As you know, a few months ago we were very disappointed to hear that Land and Environmental Services is planning to grass over 28 of the main flower beds in Victoria Park ‘unless volunteers can take them on.’
At our recent AGM on 16 May, the Friends voted unanimously to oppose this move and campaign against it. We are planning a Flower Power Demo at the Gardens on Sunday 24 June at 2pm to which you are all invited.
The flower beds are the jewel in the crown of Victoria Park. You will see from the attached aerial image taken by one of our facebook members Charlie Miller (and used with his permission) just how high impact these beds are on our landscape - even in the depth of winter when there is no planting. It is recognised by Historic Environments Scotland and is listed in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes (the only other listed landscapes in the city are the Botanic Gardens, Kelvingrove, Glasgow Green and the Necropolis). You will note from the ordnance survey map dated 1892 that they have been there is this format for well over a hundred years and are part of our heritage.
The gardens provide a peaceful sanctuary and bring beauty to the lives of so many people. There is no better way to relax than to sit for a while in our magnificent gardens.
The option of finding volunteers who could for example ‘adopt a bed’ is extremely problematic and simply would not work at this stage. As you know, the Friends of Victoria Park has committed to developing a fernery at the Fossil Grove quarry area of the park which used to have magnificent seasonal gardens that the Council has stopped looking after. We will need all the volunteers we can find to achieve this over the next year or two. Being asked to take on or lose the flower beds at this stage seems like a slap in the face for us.
The point of such a large high impact garden is that it needs to be planned in fine detail to give beauty, colour and coherence. Random bedding surrounding the beds that the council will continue to maintain simply wont work. However we recognise the severe financial restrictions facing the council and appreciate that traditional seasonal bedding is labour intensive and not as environmentally friendly as other forms of planting.
So what do we want?
In the shorter term, we want Land and Environmental Services to continue seasonal planting. We believe that there are rota issues in the way staff are deployed that are making this difficult but this is not insurmountable.
We would like to sit down with our councillors and Land Services and convince them that with a different approach, we can retain the integrity and scale of the gardens in the long term while reducing the recurring costs associated with colourful seasonal planting. I know that the City still employs a number of highly talented horticulturalists who could be encouraged to come up with a planting scheme for all 60 beds that would be more sustainable and environmentally friendly and provide interest throughout the year. I am no gardener and have no way of knowing how soil conditions and levels of exposure on the site might affect the choice of plants, but there must be other options than annuals. I have been advised by a gardener on our committee that across Europe and indeed in some British Parks, annual planting is being replaced with herbaceous planting. Other possibilities might be placing low specimen trees such as acer in the centre of a flower bed and surrounding it with seasonal planting. Some beds might work well with colourful heathers. I know that your horticultural staff could use their knowledge to draw up something that would enhance the underlying pattern of the gardens and be very pleasing throughout much of the year.
This approach may well require a substantial upfront capital sum but thereafter, maintenance would be less onerous - weeding, tidying and cutting back at the end of the season. It may well be possible given time to get some of this work covered by volunteers. If the design, planning of plant types and layout are well considered, this could be as effective as the seasonal bedding and would have the added advantage of supporting biodiversity in a way that seasonal planting does not. Indeed this is something to consider in seeking funding for such a project.
Finally, I know that you have all been supporting developments in the Victoria Park Working Group (now Action Group) which is seeking to form a new charity that will implement a development plan to improve the park. The news of this drastic cut to service just as this is in embryo comes as a real blow. How can we plan improvements when it seems the Council can no longer even support what we have. Grassing over the flower beds will sap the morale and enthusiasm of many members of the action group. The timing could not be worse.
We passionately believe that the layout and beauty of these flower beds is worth preserving for our children and our grandchildren. We have a wonderful park that has been our legacy and we can all work together to keep it that way. I hope you agree and can offer ways to assist us to take this forward.
At our recent AGM, Neil Lovelock from the Dumbarton Road Corridor Environment Trust outlined work that has been going on since the City Council's Place-Making exercise on Victoria Park consulted with local groups at the end of November 2016.
Since the Place-Making published a Draft Action Plan and Development Plan in February 2017, a working group was established comprised of local groups and community councils, including the Friends of Victoria Park.
In February 18, an Action Group was formed that is seeking to establish a new charitable organisation to take forward a strategic development plan to improve the park.
You can read more and download the Victoria Park update report here. There is also a questionnaire that we would like everyone to complete.
Ultimately the aim is to improve he park as a whole and improve neglected areas including the former Blaes pitches.
If you would like to learn more about the birdlife in Victoria Park, come to our Wildlife Garden Festival events on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 May.
On the Saturday, local bird enthusiast Susan Harris who supplies many of the wonderful photos on the Friends Facebook page (including the heron above) is leading a walk and talk. Susan is down at the park most days and follows the nesting season with great interest.
To join this event just meet at the big pond adjacent to the play area on Saturday 19 May at 10.30am. The walk will last for an hour or so if you want to head home in time for the Royal Wedding!
The next day from 10.30 to 12.30, Dr Paul Baker will demonstrate bird ringing at the small pond and explain why it’s done and what we can learn from it.
The Friends of Victoria Park has arranged these events in support of the RSPB’s Glasgow Wildlife Garden Festival 2018. You are welcome to bring your children along. Both events will be weather permitting.
What can be done to ensure a better future for Victoria Park. What’s been happening at the Fossil Grove and what’s planned now? And should The Friends of Victoria Park campaign against Council plans to grass over almost half of the formal flower beds at the end of this year?
These are three of the important topics to be discussed at this years AGM on Wednesday 16 May at 7pm in St Thomas Aquinas.
Over the past year, the Victoria Park Working Group has brought together community councils, councillors, the Friends of Victoria Park and wide range of other groups with an interest in the park to discuss how we can get organised and agree the best way forward to improve the park. Steps are now being taken to set up a SCIO - a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation that could raise funds from the Lottery and other charitable bodies to improve the park. Neil Lovelock of the Dumbarton Road Corridor Environmental Trust who has provided a lot advice and support to the group over the past year will explain what’s been happening and where we are now.
In recent months, the Friends of Victoria Park has succeeded in having the overgrown pond at the Fossil Grove cleaned out and relined in clay. This followed extensive work to clear tons of overgrown vegetation around the rock faces. Our next goal is to establish a beautiful fernery on the site - a more sustainable option than the annual planting which is no longer being carried out by Land Services. International fern experts are very excited about the proposals which reflect the fact that the tree fossils themselves were originally ferns. Funding applications are being submitted to buy the plants and equipment for volunteers to plant up the area. Former Chair of the Friends, Landscape Architect Richard East will give a short talk on what’s happening and the help we will need from you.
Finally, Glasgow City Council’s Land Services has told us they intend to grass over 27 of the seasonal flower beds totalling 374 square metres at the end of the season unless volunteers take them on. That is almost half the beds in the above photo. Removing the beds will destroy a very striking designated historic landscape and an important part of our heritage. Will you join forces with us to appeal to Glasgow City Council to continue the annual planting?
Finally, while the Friends Facebook group is followed by almost 550 people who love the park, a much smaller number are actually paid up members of the Friends. Membership has been maintained at just £5 a year per person. Please join us. All memberships bought now will be valid through to our 2019 AGM. You can join on the night or through the website here.
A project to clear and line the little pond at the Fossil Grove that got underway just before the snow storms at the start of the month is now almost complete. And the Friends of Victoria Park are delighted to report that the pond will continue to provide an ideal home for newts and frogs discovered during the clearing work.
Richard East, Chair of the Friends of Victoria Park explains: “The pond has now been drained and cleared and the most worthwhile plants were moved to improve the natural edge of the big pond. The newts discovered during the clearing work have been taken into care by the council but will be safely returned along with the frogs when the pond is refilled in a week or so.
“All the pipe work at the back of the fossil house has been jetted and is now running cleanly and the outfall to the pond from this pipework has been located and cleaned. This is also running well.
“The inner clay liner will be laid this week and thereafter the contractor will tidy up and complete some path repairs. A large stone has also been moved out of the gorge."
The project was funded by grants made to the Friends of Victoria Park through the Victoria Park Area Partnership Committee and the Garscadden/Scotstoun Area Partnership Committee and matched by the Council’s Land and Environmental Services.
“This is another stepping stone on our way to improving the land around the fossil grove that began with major clearance work to expose the overgrown rock faces last year” added Richard.
FoVP's next goal is to win funding for a beautiful fernery at the Grove, reflecting the fact that the fossils themselves were tree ferns. It also hopes to reinstate the little bridge at the pond that so many people fondly remember.