You may jump to the conclusion that this is my abode, but in fact you would be incorrect, this is a bandstand. I cannot say when the last band stood here, one did play one warm Sunday afternoon but lined up out on the grass, but today the older kids collect here away from normal human beings. Our friend Sydney Courtauld is responsible for this. His 'Big Hoose' stood over the road and this was part of his private gardens. However in 1888 he donated the Gardens to the town and since then a trust has run them for the benefit of the townspeople, as long as they wiped their shoes upon entering!
I was sitting there this afternoon resting my show soles and pondering the future when I realised how quaint the bandstand actually was. This must have cost a bit to renovate last year and it looks good now. It has been there since the park was opened and possibly before that. I can imagine the family having a garden party, band playing, smart military suits and all, servants running about, expensively dressed women bitching behind one anothers backs, bright sunshine, and a garden full of colourful flowers, a lovely sight. A great nosh that would be, and he gave it all up and handed the Gardens to the town. Since the end of the 19th century the Gardens have been developed of course, and now sweaty, overweight, fat people can be seen gasping during the summer while playing tennis against cool young people. Children annoy their parents at the playpark, as far away from me as possible, a garden specially dedicated to the memory of one John Ray, a famous naturalist whom I, and probably you have never heard off! There is a large pond which once contained fish, however early this year I noticed a Heron standing there and have seen no fish since!
A pathway or two allows folks to wander among a variety of shrubs, trees and bushes while being chased by squirrels for handouts. I wonder if these squirrels originated in the west coast of Scotland? There is also a noticeable war memorial and I often wonder how many consider the names on the sides. On Armistice Sunday a service will take place here and small crosses with Red Poppies attached will be left to remember individuals alongside the many wreaths from various organisations. 11th November is the date of the armistice and the service of remembrance takes place on the nearest Sunday. A black stone nearby also commemorates the men of HMS Kite who were lost n patrol in the North Atlantic in 1944. Some of those names must have wandered through this garden. Their parents may have brought them to listen to the band and check for fish n the pond and later they may have been checking for the girls in their frilly long dresses and carrying parasols to avoid the sun burning them. William George Ambrose may well have wandered through the gardens chasing the birds, he fell, a serjeant, at Gaza in 1917, he was 21. Alex Easter left his wfe Kate to walk here alone after he fell at Ypes. The Coopers, Bertie and George brothers probably preferred one of the towns many pubs by the time war erupted and the manner of their death, one at Arras and the other a couple of months later at Passchendaele, stands in stark contrast to the childrens laughter and the sound of despairing tennis stars of the future.
When the park is quiet it is possible to enjoy the vegetation and the flowers, the birds in the trees and the buzzing of insects. Gardens are a requirement we need to stabilise the mind. At one and the same time green surroundings are restful and re-creative. The wildlife takes us out of ourselves, unless we get stung, and a variety of birds brighten the day. I was told that a badger or two can appear during the night, creeping in from the wild area outside the garden, also a roebuck does indeed appear at times, I have seen it twice rushing for shelter. Why Courtauld gave the Gardens I know not, although such public spaces were being created in overcrowded cities in those times, and this may have been a realisation that many had no garden or poor housing. This was indeed a useful benefit to the town then, and still is!