Favourite Front Gardens (12)

Well – not quite – but at the moment it is someone’s front garden – though it’s possible it will be available to all soon.

I’ve been watching the former graveyard at Devonport House for some months now. It always used to be (and frankly, still is at the moment) a case of having to sneak around the back if you wanted to get a closer look at the few monuments that still exist there (most were moved to the charming East Greenwich Pleasaunce in mid Victorian times.)

It was, I confess, with mixed emotions I saw paths and fences spring up in the grounds, in preparation for opening them to the public. Obviously, it will be nice not to have to tiptoe about getting muddy boots and risking a ticking-off just to take a peek at Admiral Hardy’s Tomb and, I’ll give them their dues, they’ve done it really well – with little avenues of baby box which will knit to form low hedges and areas of long grasses and wavy flowers.

But part of me rather liked the fact that there was a little wild-ish area in the middle of Greenwich, a secret area, despite the fact that it was almost entirely on view to the world, but somehow still remained invisible because it was behind railings. I liked the lush green grass, growing right up to the monuments, the peaceful ‘forbidden’ air that made sneaking-in a delicious challenge.
What has been created is lovely, I’ll grant you. It’s tasteful and elegant – and I look forward to wandering through the grounds. It also has the added bonus of softening the somewhat severe brickwork of Devonport House.
But it’s also losing something, IMHO. OK, this was hardly a wilderness – the grass was cut and there was never any chance of it being neglected. But it was somewhere that needed a second look – that didn’t yield up its charms to every visitor that walked past.

Now it’s safe. We have wide (albeit lovely) paths, sensible (charming) streetlights and sturdy (elegant) railings around each monument. It’s well done. But would I have swapped its former secluded peace for the chance to have another formal gardens? I just don’t know.

Of course at the moment, it’s the worst of both worlds. The taming has been done, but we still don’t get to wander the paths in what little watery sunshine that remains to us. I’ve checked the Cathedral Group website, also the rather dull Devonport House site but I can find no reference to the grounds at all, though there’s a large-enough banner proclaiming that they’re creating space for the people…
I’m wondering if it’s some Section 106 agreement – it had to be done – but nothing was said about actually ever opening it.
What do you think? Am I just being a miserable old Phantom? Do you welcome a new park – or are you like me, secretly rather fond of a place you could see, but not actually visit – but that retained a quiet that was somehow away from the hustle and bustle of central Greenwich. And does anyone have any idea whether or not this will ever be opened? If it’s going to be tamed we might as well have the use of it…

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