‘Shocking’ Water Gardens could still be ‘real jewel’

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THE chairman of the Garden History Society has added his voice to calls for Hemel Hempstead’s Water Gardens to be restored.

Dominic Cole, a landscape architect behind the Eden Project, says the gardens are of ‘international significance’ and could be a ‘real jewel’ if properly revamped.

The Garden History Society, the oldest society in the world dedicated to the conservation of historic landscapes, held a study day on the gardens’ designer, Geoffrey Jellicoe, at Lockers Park School in April, but attendees were stunned when they afterwards toured the site.

“I am sad to see the state of it,” said Mr Cole, who was brought up in Tring.

“During the presentation we had some photographs from just after it was finished. To then see it in that state was shocking.”

However, Mr Cole, who is also a principal at Land Use Consultants, says the gardens are ‘rescuable’ and he has offered his services free of charge to Dacorum Borough Council.

“I have effectively said to Dacorum I would be happy to help,” he told The Gazette. “The original vision by Jellicoe remains intact. All the channels, bridges, weirs, the herbaceous gardens, some of the street furniture, are still his design. “I met him some time after he designed it when I was a student. Half the presentation was explaining how he conceived and laid out the Water Gardens. It has always been close to my heart.”

Last week The Gazette reported how Mr Jellicoe, a highly-regarded figure in the world of landscape architecture, considered the Water Gardens his best project.

These pictures of the original models used by Mr Jellicoe and his wife Susan to plan and build the Water Gardens are available and held by the Landscape Institute.

Mr Cole said: “Once the design is recognised and understood and appropriate management and refurbishment put in place, I think Hemel Hempstead has a real jewel. It’s a very beautiful piece of design as a garden but completely impossible to read at the moment.

“There are a lot of things that need to be considered but the underlying design is rescuable. It would be fantastic for people to understand what it was and see it restored.”

The council has said it is bidding for Heritage Lottery cash to refurbish the Water Gardens and it hopes to set up a Friends of the Water Gardens group of volunteers. The public is also called on not to feed the geese as they damage the banks.

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