Content An introduction
Rebuilding a great garden
Establishing a thriving community
Building the Medicine Garden
How are we structured?
Appendix 1: The site plan
Appendix 2: The business plan
An introduction In 2006 I discovered a derelict Victorian walled garden in desperate need of repair and restoration. As I walked in, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and mystery of the site; from its formidable walls to the broken down and overgrown Victorian glasshouses. I instantly wanted to explore. It was like walking back in time. With a background in horticulture, landscape gardening and a passion for period buildings, I started to imagine how it could be restored and brought back to life. This was the beginning of my quest and the start of a new era in the life and history of the garden. Over the last three years, this initial idea has grown into a two-part vision for: rebuilding a great garden and establishing a thriving community of people and small businesses in the adjacent courtyard.
rate need of repair and restoration. 3
I insta I instantly wanted to explore
Rebuilding a great garden
The largest area of the site is the main kitchen garden, which is approximately two acres in size and surrounded by magnificent walls. During its heyday in the 19th century this site was dedicated to growing produce for the adjacent mansion, built by the Coombe family famous for their London brewery. It would have had a team of gardeners working full-time in the main garden as well as in the many glasshouses, the Hothouse and the Vine House. It was well known for its production of peaches and other exotic fruits and used every inch of all the walls for growing which is why to this day they are still covered in an amazing network of wires. Many of the key features are still preserved and the walls, back-sheds and head gardener’s house are still in remarkable condition. When I found it the site was an overgrown wilderness. The house was derelict and the back sheds were full of junk. The Victorian glasshouses were completely overgrown and virtually unrecognisable, making it impossible to walk into them let alone through them. The roofs all had holes, and the east wall was so overgrown with ivy you couldn’t see it. Yet underneath and behind all of this was a hidden garden that wanted to be revealed and restored. Originally there was an incredible glass Vine house stretching some 80 metres along the main wall. Sadly all we have to
remind ourselves of this is a photograph from 1895. My hope is in time to rebuild this fantastic structure as a focal point for the garden. My ambition for the garden is to regenerate it and bring it into the 21st century, increasing its relevance to people’s lives. I would love for people to be inspired to grow their own vegetables and think more about the power of nature and the magic of plants. Through simplicity of design they can design a bit of ‘good medicine’ into their own gardens and homes. Through this project I intend to make full use of the beauty of the architecture and surrounding landscape. We will be incorporating into the new design the wonder of the four seasons, oxygen rich plants and sensorial experiences, allowing guests of all ages to re-energise and replenish themselves in numerous ways. For example, I have always loved Japanese gardens and especially Zen gardens. For me they create spaces for reflection and contemplation, something we have lost touch with in today’s ever accelerating world. Overall my aim is to create a garden that combines ancient, traditional and modern thinking, so that people can re-connect with nature in ways that enables them to take a small piece of ‘good medicine’, or inspiration, away with them every time they visit. 11
During its heyday in the 19th century this site was dedicated to growing produce for the adjacent mansion, built by the Coombe family famous for their London brewery.
Plan of the model kitchen garden at Cobham Park laid out by Harvey Combe junior, from a survey of 1855.
an overgrown wilderness 14
Yet underneath and behind all of this was a hidden garden that wanted to be revealed and restored.
Establishing a thriving community
In the smaller but equally enclosed courtyard I aim to create a destination zone focused around a thriving community of small businesses, each of which will express a different aspect of the overall theme of ‘Good Medicine’. The different elements of this courtyard have been carefully selected. For example: · There will be learning places, such as the museum and the workshop space where we can show the story of the medicine garden past, present and future. · Our café will offer wholesome good quality nourishment for all the family, with the hope that it will become a regular meeting place for the local community. · The farm shop will supply high quality meat and other food products that have been honestly produced by people who love what they do. ‘Jimmys farm’ (www.jimmysfarm. com) has agreed to run this outlet. It is also very important that we can grow, pick and eat the produce from the garden. Therefore our own fruit and vegetables will also be available in the farm shop as well as being used for the ingredients on the café’s menu. I strongly believe that this sharing of the garden’s yield will help bind the community more powerfully together.
· We will create a couple of retail spaces consistent with the overall theme, such as a florist and garden shop, giving our guests other opportunities to take home some ‘good medicine’ as gifts for themselves or their loved ones. With an innovative and recommended ‘wine list’ of plants we will inspire people to create greater harmony and balance in their own gardens and in turn their own lives. · Keeping ideas fresh and exciting is vital to this project and it is therefore a perfect venue to host various artistic expressions. We will turn one of the units into a studio for young and upand-coming artists, who can use the garden for inspiration. These artists will be hand picked and rotated to keep the studio fresh with new talent. For me this is a very exciting element of the courtyard and will create a unique experience for both the visitors and the artists. · The final piece of the courtyard community will be the treatment room. This will be a multi-disciplined centre offering a range of treatments by a group of health practitioners, bringing yet another dimension of ‘good medicine’ to the community. 16
Good Medicine: learning to see the present as a beautiful gift
At the heart of the vision, the Medicine Garden will be:
providing an educational facility for children and adults to learn about the seasons, the power of nature and the magic of plants.
creating an oxygen enriched space illustrating the vital role plants play in our survival and wellbeing. 18
reconnecting us to the natural rhythms and cycles of the seasons.
encouraging and supporting a mini eco-system of insects and other wildlife.
restoring this historic site and creating a beautiful place of harmony and balance for the local community. 19
Building the Medicine Garden
Restoration One of the most pressing challenges was and still is one of restoration. Clearing the site so we can appreciate the space, repairing the buildings to preserve them for years to come, and taking care of the 160 year old walls that completely encircle the site, have all been primary objectives. Now we need to re-build the Hothouse, Stove-House and Vine-House to honour the original characteristics and focal points of the garden and courtyard.
Building a contemporary walled garden The garden is the key to the whole project. For me it is important that we create a 21st century walled garden so that it becomes relevant and vital in todayâ€™s world. At the heart of this challenge is the theme of â€˜Good Medicineâ€™. We aim to bring this theme to life by using a medicine wheel, an ancient map or taxonomy for living in harmony and balance with the world and with each other. This provides the focus point and framework for the overall design. The visual and thematic structure is based on the eight points of the compass. It challenges us to create spaces in the garden where we can re-connect with our own creativity, stillness, curiosity, place, health, ripeness, strength and vitality.
Establishing a thriving community As we continue to restore and develop the garden we also need to attract a community of small businesses to support and nourish the project. They will in turn bring some ‘Good Medicine’ to the local and surrounding communities, ensuring the Medicine Garden is: · a place of natural beauty and interest · an inspiring and evocative place to visit · an innovative project in its own right With the history of the garden and the estate on display the significance of the area becomes evident. It will be a reminder of how we used to live, as well as how we could live in the future. As we move into this phase, we hope to host seasonal and special events, as well as various educational workshops for schools etc, so the site becomes a resource to many aspects of the community.
How are we structured? Right from the beginning a small group of us got together to create the initial concept in order to win the lease. This group has stayed true to its desire to explore creative ways of bringing this project into the world. At this stage we believe the most effective way forward is to have both a not-for-profit foundation alongside a trading arm.
The Medicine Garden Foundation (a company limited by guarantee)
Our not-for-profit company is dedicated to restoring and maintaining the fabric of the site and garden for generations to come, as well as educating the local community on many levels through our horticultural workshops. We aim over time to bring back the key features of the original garden and courtyard as well as carry out important repairs to the structure of the site. Monies raised by the â€˜Friends of the Medicine Gardenâ€™ and other donations and contributions (for example a discretionary entrance fee) will go into the foundation fund, as will a percentage of the revenue from the trading arm. The foundation will also ensure that the site maintains its integrity and keeps a healthy and viable balance between the commercial and community dimensions of the project.
The Medicine Garden Cobham Ltd Over the years the site has been used for fruit and vegetable production, growing new varieties of vegetables for research and more recently as a small independent retail nursery. The challenge now is to make this project viable and sustainable. We therefore believe we need to make it a destination zone, attracting a diverse community of people to enjoy the garden and the courtyard. To do this we aim to establish and support a community of small businesses including: a farm shop, florist, treatment room, artist in residence, garden shop, cafĂŠ and landscape consultancy. We can make this site truly viable through rental and other ways of exchanging value. We can increase this viability further by holding small but regular events and workshops in the Mushroom house as well as occasional, larger events in the garden area itself. These will be run by our own in-house events team and will include seasonal events, special one-off events and private hire for weddings and corporate functions. The commercial side of the project will work in symbiotic relationship with the Medicine Garden Foundation, making more and more people aware of the whole project and exposing the garden and site to a wider audience. It will also provide a fair living for those involved.
The site plan
The Medicine Garden Foundation.
· Initial priorities were to clear all the rubbish and unwanted glasshouses off site along with a huge amount of investigation into exactly what was where and how things worked. In conjunction with this we began to restore the head gardener’s cottage in order that my family and I could move in, enabling me to commit myself 100% to the project.
· This has been a key phase as it is during this period that the overall concept for the project was developed and shaped, based on many collaborative discussions.
July 06 - June 07 (Investment made: £100k)
· Once all the debris and broken structures had been removed, and the site had been made safe, we got started on clearing all the weeds, ivy and other undergrowth that had been allowed to take over for the past 40 years, as well as begin to cut our way into the old glasshouses. · Running along side this was the negotiation on the lease with the managing agents, as well as developing relationships with the local historian who has a wealth of knowledge about the estate. · Any interesting finds were kept during these works with more discoveries being made each week, including a fully functioning well, grape storage shelves and the working mechanisms on the old glasshouses. · We learnt a great deal about walled kitchen gardens during this process and started to develop ideas for the overall project. 30
June 07 - Feb 09 (Investment made: £300k)
· The lease was also finalised giving us a secure position and allowing us to seek funding for the next phases. · The garden area was levelled off and a new design visualised to see what the garden could look like. A small area was designated to vegetables to see how they would grow and also to get things started, even if on a tiny scale. · A full planning application was submitted and approved with overwhelming support from the local community and work was started on the car park area. · An additional planning application was put through and approved for more A1 retail space on the site. · Extensive, sympathetic renovations of the back sheds and other outhouses were running through this period. We have now replaced all the roofs, made progress with many other essential repairs and improvements whilst still retaining all the original character of the buildings. Our vision of the site is now beginning to become a reality.
A plan is now fully developed and my networking continues with the aim to build excitement and support for the next phases of the project. The project now needs additional funding or investment and this is my main focus. The first hard slog is done, the planning is secured and as soon as funds become available this project can move into the next phases.
· In this next phase we need to sympathetically replace and complete the building refurbishments of the Hothouse and the Stove house.
· In this phase the building work will focus on restoring the main Vine House, putting it back at the heart of the garden.
Feb 09 (Funding required: £150k)
· Probably the most exciting stage of this phase is the construction of the new garden, creating the next part of the site’s history. · The educational programmes will then be developed and finalised so that everything is in place for the opening of the garden or shortly afterwards. · It is our intention to secure the funding required for these works as well as continuing with our on-line community and expansion of our local networks. We do this in order to remind people of what we are doing while building the excitement.
2011 (Funding required: £400k)
· The educational programmes will be expanded and the underlying infrastructure developed so we can make full use of the garden’s potential. · We are currently investigating a heritage lottery application for this phase.
What we need now...? I funded Phases 1 & 2 entirely myself. I feel that I have proven my commitment on many levels to myself and to other key stakeholders. However, to take this project to the next phase, we now need to secure a further £150k through sponsorships, donations and investments (including potential directorships in the foundation). This will open the project to the public taking the Medicine Garden into Phase 3 and beyond.
The business plan The Medicine Garden Cobham Ltd.
July 06 - June 07 (Investment made: £10k) Having secured the lease for the next 40 years, our initial priorities were to develop the overall concept and business model. Even in these early stages we received a lot of interest from potential tenants for the courtyard units.
June 07 - Feb 09 (Investment made £100k) · During this period the planning was secured for the initial scheme with overwhelming support from the local community despite going to committee. All the details of the lease were finalised and were signed within a year of taking on the project. · Talks with potential tenants are still continuing. Jimmy’s Farm has confirmed their position for the farm shop, as has the florist and the treatment room and we have had a lot of interest in the café. · Working with a very experienced events consultant we have now worked out an exciting plan of events and regular workshops. We have carried out a full feasibility study to insure that this income stream is led both sympathetically and professionally. · The full business plan is now complete and a brand has been developed, including a comprehensive website www.themedicinegarden.com
· During the restoration works provision has been made for some additional services and facilities, in preparation for the trading company, such as upgrading of plumbing, phone lines and electrics. There is now a permanent office on site in one of the buildings allowing me to keep a close connection to the project. We are gathering different prices for the remaining works such as the glasshouse reconstruction and garden landscaping. · A range of products for the shop has been selected and we are looking into different scenarios for the management of the café. · The main priority now is seeking the extra funding required to progress as swiftly as possible to phases three and four of the build. Alternatively, we could develop the project in a more piecemeal way, which of course would take much longer.
What we need now...? Above and beyond the ÂŁ150k to take the garden to the next phase, we need a further ÂŁ100 - ÂŁ150K to complete the building upgrades, landscape the courtyard area and set up the trading company to include stock, marketing, working capital and shop fitting . This will then allow us to open the site to the public and start trading. Once trading we intend to continue upgrading and expanding the businesses.
Interested? If you are interested in supporting this project I would be delighted to give you more details and show you around the site.
Please contact me on 07774 259570 or at
email@example.com so we can explore how we might together bring this amazing site back to life and back into the community.