*** Updated June 2020 – see lower down page ***
The original “Blind Garden” in Astley Park was built in the 1953 for the blind service men returning from the war to use. The garden was re-planted in the 1990s as a commemoration to the former Mayor Keane, however it then fell into disrepair.
The Friends first put forward a proposal to rejuvenate the area seven years ago, however progress was initially slow until late 2011 when, in consultation with the Council, it was decided to submit a grant bid to Veolia for around £30,000 with additional funding from the Council to make up the balance required.
Two Friends members, Jan Sanderson and Sarah Hunter spent many hours drawing up extensive planting plans and plant lists for the designated area.
Unfortunately the Veolia bid was unsuccessful however the Council surveyed local opinion on various proposals for the Park and the garden scored very highly, therefore, thankfully, the Council decided to fund the project.
Work started in April 2014, once again Local craftsman Jack Ashurst from Adlington Dry Stone Walling was employed to rebuild all of the stone walls, create new French oak benches and install stone plaques depicting the history of the garden.
Local sculptor Thompson Dagnall was commissioned to design bespoke oak carved benches and the Astley mole.
With the work completed in early June volunteers from the Friends, Galloway’s Society for the Blind and Council employees planted the garden, spread bark chip and installed braille plant labels. The Council also undertook to water the Garden regularly until it became established.
The finishing touch was added with the installation of two interpretation boards detailing the history of the site, planting and the effect on senses.
The Garden was officially opened on 23rd July 2014 with all the parties involved in the project present.
In order to create further colour and interest we planted over 2000 Spring bulbs in November
The Friends are very proud of their achievement in bringing this area of the Park back to life, we hope the people of Chorley and visitors to the Park will appreciate and enjoy visiting the Garden for many years. In conjunction with the Council we are committed to regular maintenance with weeding, tidying and pruning when necessary.
We also wish to express many thanks to Lindsey Blackstock – Parks and Open Spaces Officer and Jamie Dixon – Head of Streetscene & Leisure Contracts at Chorley Council for their unflagging support throughout the project.
When looking at John’s new photos of the Sensory Garden taken during the Covid-19 lockdown, I realised how the garden has changed over the last six years. When the plans were first drawn up to restore and improve the garden, plants were chosen for a north facing site, which was fairly shady and had clay soil. This is not the conditions that your typical Sensory Garden Plants require! In 2016 Chorley Borough Council removed two large trees, which allowed the sunlight to flood into the garden. The structure of the clay soil has been improved by the addition of compost and bark and also the cultivating done by volunteers in the garden.
As with any garden you get some plants that flourish and other that don’t. Some of the shade loving ferns did not grow so well once there was additional sunlight in the area. Fragrant plants such as Lavender and Thyme and other herbs have struggled in the clay soil. We have overcome this to some extent by planting them in their favoured gritty mix of soil in terracotta pots and have sunk these into the borders.
We have had some amazing successes to with the planting as you will see in John’s photos. The Acers have grown into beautiful young trees. You can see the lime green leaves of Acer shiraswanum Aureus, the deep crimson leaves of Acer palmatum ‘Crimson Queen’ and Acer griseum with the beautiful peeling bark. The shrubs have grown well and give good structure to the garden. This time of year you will see the red flowers of Camellia willamsii ‘Ruby Wedding’, the Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’ with it’s branches full of white flowers, the crimson and cream flowers of the Magnolia liliflora Nigra and the azaleas Rhododendron ‘Coccineum Speciosum’ and Rhododendron ‘Narcissiflorum. with their yellow and orange blooms. There are a variety of other shrubs which are in flower at other times of the year.
The ornamental grasses such as Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ and Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ continue to look stunning every year. They are very tactile and make a lovely rustling sound . Ground cover plants such as Ajuga reptans ‘Mahogany’ with its dark foliage and blue flowers and the black ‘grass’ Ophoipogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ have spread well over the central bed.
Each year we have tried to add plants, which will improve the garden. We have added Roses, Rosa ‘Amber Queen, and the species rose Rosa ‘Dupontii’ , Herbs, Strawberries. Paeony Buddleja, and this year in the central bed a weeping cherry Prunus ‘Snow Showers’. Last year we bought and erected two metal obelisks and planted two Honeysuckles Lonicera ‘Sweet Sue’ and Lonicera ‘Heaven Scent’.
Our volunteers will work hard to ensure that the garden continues to develop and improve. So we hope you continue to enjoy your visits to the garden. Jan Sanderson