Words Amicia de Moubray Photographs Lisa Valder
A haven in normal times, the Abbey Physic Garden has really come into its own during the Pandemic.
The opening of the new Moon Garden last week by Faversham’s Mayor, Cllr Alison Reynolds, marks the fruition of just one of the many imaginative projects undertaken over the last 18 months by the volunteers.
Stepping through the round entrance to the Moon Garden, one is immediately charmed by the crescent-shaped flower beds and the overlapping paths. Who can ever resist a curve? Sit awhile on one of the curved benches and rejoice in the beguiling atmosphere of this special place.
‘We wanted it to be a calm, soothing, relaxing corner of the garden,’ says Tom Jewell, a volunteer. ‘We asked the horticultural group to put together a plant list.’ The result is a pleasingly harmonious palette of greys, pale blues, silvers and white. Several of the plants were grown by some of the volunteers from seed. ‘It has been a phenomenally positive project involving more than 50 volunteers during Covid,’ says Suzanne Campbell, the Garden’s friendly manager. ‘A lot of people have been scared and extremely anxious. We offer one of the very few places in the area where people can sit outside surrounded by nature.’
‘A garden of singular beauty and vitality,’ wrote Sarah Langton-Lockton in one of the very first articles published by Faversham Life in November 2016. Nearly six years on, the garden has prospered and is looking better than ever. It has proved to be a lifeline to its members and the wider community during these testing times.
Once all the Covid safety measures were in place, the garden reopened and, bar a couple of periods of enforced closure, it has been a hive of activity receiving a much deserved award from the Mayor, in recognition of all the support it provided for some of the most vulnerable in the community. Not surprisingly, it has even recruited new members. It is currently used by between 80 and 125 people each week, participating in a multitude of different activities.
One of the most imaginative schemes was a weekly cook-along. This took place in the garden’s Faversham Community Kitchen (the cooking facilities were outside making it safe) and in people’s homes, courtesy of Zoom. Emails with the necessary ingredients were dispatched a few days before, enabling participants to gather the necessary ingredients. Those taking part at the garden used vegetables grown in the garden.
Other initiatives included a phone line and online chat group, a 50+ seed kit activity packs for families at home with children (hand-delivered to homes in Faversham and towns across North Kent), social media posts, videos and articles with activities and advice on maintaining mental health and wellbeing.
A ‘Memory Tree’ built by users of the Faversham Men’s Shed (located in the garden) was erected in May for members and visitors who can commemorate loved ones with a little wooden leaf inscribed with their names.
Two new beehives, a home for six bantam hens, Men’s Shed Crafting sessions, horticulture classes, a ‘Happy Café’ support group, art groups, Tree Babies, a scheme for new mothers to meet up during Covid are just a sample of what the Abbey Physic Garden offers. It is a remarkable place and Faversham is extraordinarily lucky to have it.
Text: Amicia. Photographs: Lisa