8:00am Thursday 27th March 2014
A DERELICT walled garden in the heart of the historic grade one listed Leasowes Park will be restored to its former glory with the go-ahead of a £500,000 facelift.
The garden was abandoned 18 months ago when Stourbridge College moved its horticultural centre for students with learning disabilities to Kidderminster.
But a deal is expected to be struck for the sale of the site to the Hales Owen Abbey Trust, by Birmingham Metropolitan College, which took over the Stourbridge campus last year.
College governors are being recommended to approve the sale for an undisclosed sum and trust secretary Mick Freer hopes to secure up to £500,000 of lottery funding to fully restore it to its 18th century heyday.
He said: “This is one of the most exciting developments to hit Halesowen since the 1950s when Lapal Canal was restored.”
After the collapse of plans to turn the 13th century abbey remains into a major tourist attraction last year, Mr Freer hopes the walled garden will become of national significance.
“Walled gardens are of exceptional importance and it would be linked to the national network.
“The garden is 1.85 acres and it is a fabulous site,” said Mr Freer.
The plan is for a trust to be set up to manage the garden, including representatives from the Friends of Leasowes and Dudley Council.
Mr Freer said a restrictive covenant will be drawn up to ensure it is kept for public benefit.
He wants to see the garden open as soon as possible to show people what it looks like now and plans for its restoration, which will be undertaken by horticultural experts.
It is envisaged that around £25,000 will be needed to go towards the purchase and initial costs and then a lottery bid will be made.
Mr Freer is hoping the venture will attract sponsorship from Halesowen companies and organisations and is looking for a solicitor to undertake the conveyancing free of charge.
As well as landscaping and growing produce and flowers, Mr Freer hopes to install period greenhouses and a bothy – where gardeners would stay overnight to protect their produce and light the greenhouse boilers during cold weather.
Leasowes Park is of historical significance because of the landscaping carried out by poet William Shenstone from 1743 until his death in 1763.
The walled garden was added in the 1770s to feed the family and servants of the next owner, Edward Horne, who built a small mansion there – now home to Halesowen Golf Club.
Anyone interested in sponsoring the restorations should contact Mr Freer on 0121 5505440 or mobile 07855473045.
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