What started as a simple lockdown ‘tidy-up’ of an outdoor space at The Halls in Norwich, has resulted in an inspiring garden redesign, which pays homage to the buildings’ history.
As with other venues across the city, The Halls in St Andrews Plain closed its doors to the public when the first national lockdown was announced in March. At first the venue was turned into an emergency food delivery hub, making sure supplies went out to vulnerable and self-isolating residents in Norwich. But once that was up and running, some staff were able to spend some of their week making improvements to the venue – both inside and out.
Matthew Packer, cabinet member responsible for The Halls, said: “What was intended to be a simple tidy up of the front garden, which had been overgrown for about 15 years, gradually became a greater project.
“As some of the overgrowth was cleared by staff, this historic space – once the site of the City Arms pub - started coming to life and everyone at The Halls felt we had to use the opportunity to create something lasting for this magnificent area.”
The Halls enlisted the help of experienced garden designer Sally Toms, who has worked at the National Trust and has designed a garden at Blickling Hall. Her love of historical gardens meant she donated her skills to the project free of charge, researching medieval garden spaces and drawing the final design for the front garden to reflect the history of the buildings.
Sally said: “With the building having started life as a friary, this space was screaming for a medieval garden. One that featured the plants the monks would have used to make people better and one with religious connections.”
The main garden is based on a medieval physic garden, an area planted with herbal, medicinal and edible plants. Inside this will be a hortus conclusus – an old enclosed garden with religious history, which already contains a fig tree.
One staff member at The Halls worked on the project for months during lockdown and is still helping uncover hidden gems, like a stone seating area that was completely overgrown.
Adrian Fordham was helping with the food deliveries at the start of lockdown, but his passion for gardening saw him become heavily involved in the project. He continues to work on the garden and will be responsible for maintaining it in the future.
Mr Packer said: “This has been a tremendous achievement by staff at The Halls and Sally, who have worked together to create what will be a stunning space seeped in history.
“The plan we have in place will naturally increase the biodiversity of the space. We have also left a ‘wild area’ which will be managed, so bird nesting space is still available in the garden. No trees were removed and we have retained the largest fig tree in the garden, as this fits perfectly with our new scheme.”
To date, just £50 has been spent on the project, with Norwich Norse helping to clear waste that was collected from the garden. The area has been sown, but staff are looking to source funding and or donations for the planting stage of the work.
For more information about The Halls visit thehallsnorwich.com