Marianne North used to live across the road a century and a half ago.
She was a famous botanical painter who traveled with Charles Darwin across the globe collecting rare plants. She helped create Kew Gardens in London, where there is a permanent gallery showing her botanical paintings.
She also created a beautiful garden here in Hastings. It is now protected in a Conservation order.
Edward Lear used to visit, and there is a story about how he would paint her fig trees and other exotic trees and plants, pretending to be somewhere else entirely. He wrote the poem ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ for Marianne’s niece.
During the last year or so, the Headteacher of the Sacred Heart Catholic School who occupies part of her former garden has, without proper consultation, allowed contractors to cut down many of the trees Marianne North planted.
The neighbours, who live in the other part of the garden in a small estate called Marianne Park, involved local councillors and our M.P, Amber Rudd, to try to put a stop to this and save what remained of this precious legacy.
A meeting was held there in November 2013 when the Headteacher, Joe Hellet, told Amber Rudd, the local councillors and us neighbours (and the T.V cameras!) that he was now moving ahead with plans to create a Marianne North Woodland and Gardens area in the school grounds.
He told us all how grateful he was for this excellent teaching opportunity, and he was given a copy of Marianne North’s excellent book ‘ A vision of Eden’ as a token of friendship.
Representatives from Kew garden were contacted by one of the neighbours and offered to come and help promote a new planting scheme to replace some of the trees that had been lost. There would be a planting ceremony involving all the children at the school.
During the last few days the chainsaws have been back across the site. The Headmaster went back on his words. I went across to the School parking lot to take some pictures of what was going on, and Joe Hellet tried to wrestle the camera out of my hands. He then pushed and dragged me out of the school grounds.
I can hear the chainsaws as I write this. It is Sunday the 12th of January 2014, and the time is 9.02. The fires have been blazing since dawn.
Hastings Council have great plans to enhance Hastings international image in the coming year, using our very unique and fascinating history. I wonder what this is doing to help. I also wonder what this will do to the last few Turtle doves living in the area. Their numbers are down by over 90% in the country.
Meanwhile, I have been summoned to the local police station for a meeting today at 10.30. Apparently I have been trespassing on to school property.