Plans to develop the quarry area of the Fossil Grove as a magnificent Victorian fernery took a great step forward last month.
Bill Peebles, Deacon of the Incorporation of Gardeners met with the Friends of Victoria Park to present a cheque for £2300 for their fernery fund. Members of the Gardeners Guild had met with the Friends group at the Fossil Grove in November and were impressed with efforts being made to improve this area of the park which had become quite run down.
Bill Peebles explains: “The parks are very important to the city and when we visited this project we were keen to help. I used to love visiting the Fossil Grove as a boy - it was magnificent back then. It’s very sad when our parks are not maintained the way they used to be. We wish the Friends of Victoria Park every success with the fernery.”
Cathie Russell, Secretary of the Friends of Victoria Park said: “This is fantastic news and came as a great surprise. It comes only a few weeks after the Glasgow West Area Partnership awarded us £3000 which has enabled us to order plants for planting early Summer. We are hoping the funds from the Incorporation will allow us to do more planting this Autumn or in Spring next year. The redevelopment of the fernery will take up to ten years or so and all the work is being undertaken by volunteers. The plantinq scheme is being drawn up by landscape architect Richard East and the fernery is also supported by the British Pteridological Society.
Work scheduled to take place on the fernery in Spring 2020 has had to be cancelled because of the Coronavirus lock down but we will reassess what can be done if restrictions are eased.
Please note the photo above showing Cathie Russell, Secretary of The Friends with Bill Peebles, Landscape Architect Richard East and Friends Vice Chairperson Elizabeth Brown was taken early in March before the current restrictions,
Join members of the Friends of Victoria Park this Saturday 14 December to help decorate the little Christmas Tree near the Oswald Clock.
We will be meeting at 11.30am and would encourage everyone to bring any spare decorations or ribbons that will give the wee tree a Christmas makeover.
Once the tree is decorated we usually sing a few carols and share some mince pies. Everyone is welcome!
The Friends of Victoria Park will once again be hosting a simple Remembrance Service at Victoria Park's beautiful Cenotaph on Sunday 10 November at 2pm.
After an introduction from Michael Herrigan, Chairperson of the Friends, Gillian Mawdsley will pay tribute to some of the local people involved in World War 1 and World War 2.
The service will conclude with the reading of the citation followed by the last post, played by Jordanhill's Euan Aitken.
The Friends of Victoria Park reinstated the service several years ago. The Cenotaph is a major feature of the park and was erected in 1922 to commemorate all those who lost their lives in World War 1.
The monument by sculptor Francis William Doyle consists of a bronze female figure with outspread wings standing on a globe and holding out a wreath with both hands - a symbol of peace crowning the heroes..
The inscription on the cenotaph reads: Our /beloved dead/to the glory of God/and in/Grateful & everlasting/rememberance/ of the men of /Partick & Whiteinch/ who fell in the Great War 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.
The sculptor Francis Doyle was from Yorkshire and graduated for the Royal School of Art South Kensington. Following the Great War he undertook a number of commissions for English War Memorials but we believe this is his only Scottish War Memorial and it bears many similarities with ones he produced for Brighouse, Yorkshire, Cockermouth in Cumbria and the South African War Memorial in Saltwell Park, Gateshead.
More than 18,000 men from Glasgow were killed in World War 1 alone - too many to name on local war memorials. It was for this reason that a cenotaph where everyone could remember their own relatives and friends was built. You can see all their names listed in Glasgow's Roll of Honour
This youtube video shows just how well attended the Victoria Park Remembrance Service once was.
From 10.30 this Sunday 27 October, there will be a clean up at Victoria Park's Fossil Grove pond and fernery. We want to give the place a good tidy before the winter and try to cut back the overgrown pond.
We need as many volunteers as possible to come and join us in this challenging work!
The clocks go back next Sunday morning so a 10.30am start wont feel too early - but just come when you can. Wear sturdy shoes or wellies, clothes that you don’t mind getting mucky and bring any tools you have that you think might help. (Make sure you mark your name on them to avoid confusion.) We have some tools available for people who don’t have any and also have litter picking equipment.
Young people are welcome but under sixteens must be accompanied by an adult.
We have had some additional funds from Glasgow City Council’s Community Safety, and we are hoping to get some more from the Area Partnership and other funds so we can have another substantial fern planting day next Spring/Summer. It’s too late in the season now to plant as there are signs of frosty mornings already.
So please turn out and help us with our ambition to turn the Fossil Grove Quarry Knowe area into one of Scotland's finest ferneries!
The Friends of Victoria Park are taking part in this years Doors Open events. We are hosting two guided heritage walks around the park on Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd September at 2pm.
Just meet at the Jubilee Gates on Victoria Park Drive north and our guide will be on hand to tell you more about the history of the park, its Victoria benefactors, the Memorial to those lost on the Daphne, the Fossil Grove, the Cenotaph and much more.
The walks will last about an hour, finishing down at the Fossil Grove museum which is open on Saturdays and Sundays form 12 till 4pm. On Doors Open weekend there will be guided tours of the Fossil Grove available on request.
Here is a link to Glasgow's Doors Open day website.
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.