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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 to the public on 31st March 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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About The Group

Friends of the Italian Gardens (FIGS) is a local Community Group, dedicated to looking after the Italian Gardens along The Esplanade of Penarth's Seafront.

They also exist as a way of helping The Community of Penarth better use, understand and appreciate this local green-space and its important cultural heritage significance for the town.

The group will work closely with the Vale of Glamorgan Parks & Open Spaces Dept. to carry out its work.

What the Group Does

FIGS (2024) will look to do both general tasks that help maintain and manage the garden, and also assist in plans for repairs and restoration.

General Volunteer tasks to include:

  • Basic Gardening (e.g. weeding, planting, seasonal management etc)

  • Basic Care (e.g. litterpicking, reporting damage & other issues)

  • Minor repairs

  • Promote the group

  • Assist with group/location related events.

We will also be asking for volunteers to assist us with:

  • Assessing the major repairs

  • Finding the means to complete them

  • Assist with grant funding applications.

  • Helping to plan a 'Restoration' of the garden in a way honouring the original designs, ready for the 2026 centenary celebrations.

  • Assist with the planning and execution of the 2026 centenary celebrations.

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Why their work is important

The Italian Gardens are an important landmark feature of the town and it is important that it doesn't get neglected any further. It is a CADW Grade Two listed location, and so we need to ensure it is kept to a standard befitting this.

While the restoration plans are not looking to return it to its original look (which itself was modified in the 1930s, and several times since, including with the addition of safety features such as lighting and better access), the group is aiming to do something that honours the original intent of having this asset.

Notable Projects

The original FIGS did some useful work in keeping the park tidy and planted.

The rest of this section will hopefully be filled in over the next couple of years while we implement the plans and projects we hope to complete.

Watch this space!

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Formation of The Group

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, due to some miscommunication issues with the VoGC, the group had to temporarily halt work, and the PCS member leading it also stepped down from doing so. The group remained on hiatus until around March of 2024, when another committee member took over the reformation process, and another interested person joined in to assist in managing the group.

 

So in June of 2024 renewed the agreement with the VoGC and started the process of recruiting volunteers once more.

Active Details

Meeting Times & Locations:

TBD - See Volunteer recruitment events listed below for information about how you can help set these times.

The Italian Gardens, The Esplanade, Penarth

Current Leaders

Dan Brown (PCS Vice Chair) - Committee Trustee overseer

Mark Robinson - Project Leader & Coordinator.

Penny Daw - PTF Advisor

 

How to Join:

Use the event links below.

 

How to Contact:

Click here to go to their website's Contact Us page

 

Any other information:

Members do not have to be active volunteers helping out on site-work sessions. FIGS welcomes all individuals, young and old. No experience needed in any of the actions they take, and there are chances to learn and improve related skills.

Date of re-formation: 1st June 2024

Online & Social Media

You can find more details about the group and their activities at the following sites:

Facebook Page: Penarth Civic Society

Facebook Group: N/A

Instagram: N/A

YouTube: N/A

Twittter: N/A

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FIGS Events

  • Penarth Civic Society Exhibition Showcase
    Penarth Civic Society Exhibition Showcase
    Thu, 19 Sept
    St Augustine's Church Hall
    19 Sept 2024, 19:00 – 21:00
    St Augustine's Church Hall, Albert Rd, Penarth CF64, UK
    19 Sept 2024, 19:00 – 21:00
    St Augustine's Church Hall, Albert Rd, Penarth CF64, UK
    A walkthrough Exhibition. A Chance to view the archive materials, and find out more about us and our sub-groups. Also our projects (such as the Heritage Trail) TBC Open Event
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