After thinking what places are truly my favourite in Brighton, this little community garden in Brighton would probably be the one.
It’s so tiny, literally on the corner of the road, but it’s nicely maintained and you’re allowed to enter and take what you need (not like the Preston Park garden, where there are signs not to forage). It has been an inspiration for garden ideas for the last few years for me. Me and my partner always step in when we pass it and it was one of the things that I noticed when I first moved here that made me fell really welcome.
On the opposite side of the junction they plant wild flowers for the bees.
I attach a photograph of myself, my mum and my aunt taken in 1962 in the Preston Park Rookery. Although better known now as The Rockery, in those days the trees at the top of the garden were filled with large nests and the rooks were very loud!
We’re wearing our Sunday best clothes in the photo as the Rookery was felt at that time to be one of the ‘posh’ places in Brighton, suitable for visiting as a special treat. My aunt had come from Littlehampton and we spent a long time travelling from our home in Moulsecoomb on public transport, a difficult journey to make in 1962 so we didn’t do it often. I was so excited to walk across the big stepping stones and, as I got a bit older, to be allowed to climb up the rocky path to find the source of the waterfall. It was a real joy to gaze over at Preston Park across the road from the high bridge spanning the grassy hill.
I’m now 63 and lucky enough to live within walking distance of todays Rockery. The rooks are much fewer but the garden is as beautiful as ever. Somehow over the years it has remained the quieter sister to the noisy park on the other side of the road. Across the 60 years I’ve visited whenever I had a hard decision to make, to cheer me up when sad or for a quiet celebration. Ten years ago dad and I sponsored a bench at the side of the pond near the waterfall in honour of my mum. I often go there to sit on it and enjoy the peace, even in the winter. The dragonflies are beautiful in the summer and the goldfish are greedy all year! Every spring I marvel at the giant gunnera leaves growing up anew from almost nothing and remember how I used to play hide and seek under them when I was young. Occasionally there are parents with small children who seem as captivated as I was then and I love to see their enthusiasm!
The garden has been a truely magical place for me my whole life and I hope by raising its profile others will come to value it’s quiet charm for many years to come.
Karen’s story about the Preston Park Rookery has been included in the walking tour at Brighton Festival 2022. You can read and listen to the other 11 stories that have been included by clicking here.
Despite growing up in Brighton I’ve never been a big fan of the beach in summer and became even less so with a baby in tow. Whilst he was little my favourite place to take him was the shady gardens of the Friends Meeting House, we would tuck ourselves in to a quiet corner with the flowers and bees all around and enjoy some peace in the centre of the city.