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27 June 2022
Helensburgh Hermitage Park Memorial and Garden

Introduction
The Hermitage Park Memorial and Garden is an A-listed feature registered with Historic Environment Scotland. The Memorial was recently refurbished as part of the National Lottery funding award to rejuvenate and improve Hermitage Park. The Memorial Garden surrounding the Memorial remains a work in progress. See early image of the Garden, Annex A.

This report details the present condition of the Garden and the remedial action that will be necessary to bring it back to an acceptable standard. Through no one’s fault, benign neglect over the years has resulted in the shrub beds being largely overgrown and the trees and hedges requiring significant attention.

Physical Aspects

Garden Walls
Ballpark dimensions of the enclosure of the Memorial and Garden are 70x70 metres. The area falls into four quadrants, north, south, east, and west. 

The walls are generally in good condition with the exception of the entire length of the west wall. It is covered in climbing shrubs which have to be removed to preserve the wall. The wall then requires extensive maintenance by re-pointing with lime mortar. The remainder of the walls will also require the removal of climbing shrubs for preservation purposes.

Yew Trees and Hedges
A feature of the original planting was the introduction of yew hedges and topiary. Over the years they have had a patchy existence and now need careful thought as to their future. A significant number have died and need replacement in kind or alternative planting. A diagrammatic layout of the yew hedges and topiary is at Annex B.

Shrub Beds
The beds universally need complete overhaul and refurbishment. Inappropriate or intrusive wild planting has left a situation where only very few of the shrubs, etc. are worth retaining and considerable replacement with new planting will be necessary. It will include soil overhaul and improvement with additional compost. It will also be necessary to remove overgrown trees and stumps.

Plant Bed
A plant bed to the rear of the Memorial is in need of care and attention and requires a 
planned layout of appropriate plants. A tree stump in the plant bed requires removal.

Detailed Investigation
The boundary wall enclosing the Memorial Garden serves as an identifying marker on which to detail the present planting situation and recommended remedial solutions. 

North Wall
The north wall lies directly behind the Memorial and is in good condition. Three separate shrub beds run along the length and are in much need of refurbishment. The first bed from the northwest corner contains a mixture of yew hedges and shrubs. The bed is overgrown. The middle bed is dormant and unkempt and contains a tree stump. The third bed in the northeast corner contains trees, shrubs and a small section of yew hedge. The bed is also overgrown.

Recommendation
Retain trees and shrubs worth saving; clear out the remainder of vegetation; double-dig and refresh the soil of the beds.

South Wall
The south wall encompasses the ceremonial entrance gates to the Memorial. There are shrub beds to the left and right of the gates. The current planting layout is a mix of yew hedge sections and quince bushes. The logic of the yew hedges is difficult to understand but the quince bush layout is quite attractive and should remain.

Recommendation
The yew hedge sections are inappropriate and should be removed. The quince shrub bushes should be retained and the beds given the standard treatment applied to all the other shrub beds in the Garden.

East Wall
The wall is in good condition and has a built-in pedestrian gate in the middle effectively providing a separation of two shrub beds. The first bed from the northeast corner contains a mixture of trees and bushes all of which require maintenance and refurbishment and the bed is overgrown. The second or lower bed has all but vanished and is completely overgrown.

Recommendation
Maintain and preserve the trees and shrubs worth saving and clear the remainder. Re-instate the lower bed; refresh the soil; double-dig and action a planting plan.

West Wall
The wall has a built-in pedestrian gate separating two shrub beds. The wall is in need of extensive remedial pointing of the stonework to preserve it. This will involve Historic Environment Scotland in accordance with the listed status of the Memorial Garden. The entire shrub bed layout along the wall requires significant work. It is almost completely overgrown and requires a major clearance, only retaining the shrubs worth saving. There is a proliferation of climbing plants on the wall that must be removed to avoid further damage to the wall. 

Recommendation
Major clearance of plants and vegetation; The shrub beds will also require double-digging and soil refreshment similar to the other beds.


Plant List
The suggested plant list proposed by Melissa Simpson is as follows; Aster Herbstschnee, Aster White Ladies, Bergenia Bressingham White, Geranium macrorrhizum White Ness, Geranium nodosum Silverwood, Geranium sanguineum Album, Hosta fortune aureomarginata, Hosta undulata (medivariegata), Hosta wide brim, Lysimachia Candela, Polygonatum xhybridum (multiflorum), Vinca minor Gertrude Jekyll, Bergenia Bressingham White 2L, Geranium sanguineum Album 2L, Hosta Fire and Ice 2L, Hosta sieboldiana elegans 2L, Polygonatum biflorum 2L.


Note
Minimum plant quantity – 12 tray
No limit for 2L stock
Shrub list is in Annex C

Action Required
•    Detailed identification of plants and shrubs that can be saved.
•    Planning and agreement on a planting plan between Argyll & Bute Council and the Helensburgh Community.
•    Masonry attention to the boundary wall.
•    Definition of costs and funding the refurbishment.
•    Allocation of work and working parties.
•    Timescale of completion.

Recommendations
The previous park manager, Melissa Simpson, has given the Community Council her thoughts and observations on how a refurbishment could take place and that will be the basis for further discussion on the subject.
 
It is also important that Argyll & Bute Council and the Community including agencies such as the Horticultural Society achieve a consensus agreement on the outcome.

The end result of the Garden refurbishment should be based on a public display of survivable horticulture with a colourful and imaginative planting arrangement, requiring a manageable amount of maintenance.

It is therefore recommended that this report is accepted as a consultative document for the above actions to take place as soon as possible.

 

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