Quiet Charm (now the rooks are gone)

All dressed up for a family day out

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, 2022

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.

The Rest Is History

In April 2020, as the first months of the pandemic raged around us, I sat on a quiet, unassuming patch of grass just below the Preston Park velodrome, with a woman I had been talking to on the dating app Hinge. We had met an hour or so earlier for a socially-distanced walk/date, and talked about music (we both played the saxophone), pub quizzes (she was arranging an online one for some friends that night and tested some questions on me), mutual friends (quite a few) and the impending end of the world.

After a little while a couple of police officers approached us and, very reasonably, told us we had to move on, as technically what we were doing was against the recently imposed covid-19 lockdown enforcements. We apologised, giggled to ourselves as it was probably the closest either of us had come to getting in trouble with the law, wandered off through the park, and said our goodbyes (from a distance, of course).

Now, whenever I run through Preston Park and past that patch of grass next to a bench (that we for some reason chose not to sit on), I think how special that place is – how that the man I was in April 2020 had no idea that those two people would see each other through the hardest bits of the pandemic, would move in together and, later in 2022, would have a child together. No bit of greenery in Brighton makes me smile more.