My last post showed the beautiful view from my studio and across the valley towards the sea.
The Cherry Tree pictured was planted in a garden created by Marianne North, who also helped create Kew Gardens in London. The morning after I posted that blog, I was woken up by the sound of chainsaws from this garden who now is partly owned by The Sacred Heart Catholic School in Hastings.
But the area is part of a Conservation Area, and you need planning permission to cut down trees. Besides, who in their right mind would cut down two mature trees covered in ivy in the middle of nesting time?
After having listened to this noise for hours, too stressed out to be able to concentrate on doing any work in the studio, I decided to pop across the road.
I called out to the contractors who told me that they did not need planning permission. I insisted they did, and while I phoned the Headmaster to find out what was going on, they stopped work. They were quite sweet, really.
But instead of the Headmaster, a very irate caretaker appears and he tells us to go away and mind our own business. The School does not need planning permission to carry out tree work, and we are just ignorant , silly women who are making a fuss over nothing.
At this point quite a few people had gathered around and here he is seen laying in to one of them.
He orders the tree work to continue. I phone the Council to find out what is going on, and I am told that of course they need permission to work on trees in a conservation area. They advise me that a Planner will be found who can come to check out the situation and speak to the Headmaster.
I call the school to plead with them to halt the work until the Planning Officer has arrived. But they don’t stop the work.
Instead the headteacher appears at the gates and shouts at us to go away. He keeps asking us where we live, and who we are, and for I while I feel as though I am being threatened by a mobster.
We ask him if he has planning permission, and he repeats the caretakers opinion that we are ignorant women and should mind our own business. We insist we will go away once we know if he has a permission to destroy trees planted by the lady who collected trees and plants with Darwin and helped create Kew Gardens.
We say they’d better stop work until the Planning Officer arrives, or we’ll call the police. The Headmaster laughs at us and turns away to order the work to re-commence. But he is making frantic calls on his mobile…
And so are we; to the police.
But when the police finally arrive; it is too late. Three trees were cut down that day.
My friends and I go for a coffee, and while we are at the cafe’ I pick up the local paper and spot an article about how a Christian organization in a nearby town, Bexhill, is busy creating a community garden where people can find peace and contemplation. There is a certain irony in that two church organizations in neighbouring towns are behaving in such opposite ways – one church creating a garden in Bexhill while the other one, in Hastings, is busy destroying one.
This is a link to the area concerned…
I would like to end this sad tale on a happy note; but I can’t find one. Except this; the Swifts have arrived! Hurling themselves through the air in jubilant celebration of Spring and the beauty of being alive. I’ll settle for that, I think.