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Friends of  The Italian Gardens (FIGS)

An actual Garden by The Sea...
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This public garden on Penarth Esplanade was laid out on the site of old boathouses and opened in 1926.

In the 1920’s two forward thinking women developed these wonderful Italian Gardens. Constance Maillard; then chairperson of the Penarth Town Council (1924-1925), had the idea. She consulted with Ursula Thompson, the first female gardener to graduate from Kew Gardens. Constance based her design ideas on gardens she had been restoring in Italy.

She then approached Wilfred Evans, designer of a rock gardens in Llanishen, Cardiff, to complete the final design.

The Gardens now are a small, seafront green-space designed to offer tranquil seating area where visitors can look out over the Severn Estuary, surrounded by exotic plants, trees and shrubs.

 

You will soon be able to read more about the history of the gardens, and those who created it on our website soon as part of our

Penarth Town Heritage Trail Project.

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The Friends of The Italian Gardens

Over the years the yew trees have grown and spread and the Cordylines* (Palms with sword-like leaves) need careful management.

In early 2020 the rear banking succumbed to a land slip following continued heavy rain. The local authority were swift to resolve these issues but the work was costly.

The gardens were also in need of restoration, weeds having spread throughout the flower beds, repairs necessary to paths and other stonework, and a general programme of improvement being needed.

In December 2019, a  group of 25 volunteers made the first inroads into this work, clearing all the dead plant material from the garden in just 2 hours!

Unfortunately the Covid pandemic of 2020-2021 meant that work was unable to continue during this period and, when things started to return to normal in 2022, the group wasn't able to immediately get going again, so it sat in abeyance.

However, towards the end of 2022 a new focus to help restart the group was put forward to the PCS Committee and a new sub-group of the Society was formed as the Friends of The Italian Gardens (FIGS) in early 2023. This group, with the support of officers of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, began undertaking routine maintenance and new planting, with the objective of remaining in keeping with the original design intentions. Improvements to the stone paths were also commenced.

Unfortunately, after the sub-group had been in operation for only two months, the Vale of Glamorgan Council announced that they were considering introducing street food sellers on the Esplanade and in the Italian Gardens.

The FIGS group advised the Council that having commercial food businesses in the Gardens would be incompatible with the concept of the listed Gardens and with the fact that ongoing routine maintenance was being carried out by unpaid volunteers. The Council made it clear, however, that any decisions on the future of the Gardens rested with them and the approaches by the FIGS group were rebuffed. This being the case, the volunteers making up FIGS felt there was no option but to close the group.

A sad end to what had appeared to be a very promising heritage project.

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