The design of the garden has evolved over the past two years.

Most recent plan of the garden.(18 September 2018 - version 27)

It has been influenced by:

  • Funding - and offers of free plants from local gardens - including the Botanic Garden;

  • Ideas from all the garden volunteers, park users, Guy Belcher and colleagues at Streets and Open Spaces;

  • The results of our experiments in growing.

We have started and completed a number of features with more planned (to do list). Some of these are dependent on finding resources (wishlist).

Since late September 2016, there have been lots of changes in the garden, funded by a S106 (‘developers’) grant and also donations from park users. 

We have new ramps down into the green area, new paths, a water supply, a new gate, noticeboard, raised beds and a pond with a woven hazel fence around it. We have also made structures from hazel rods, such as a living willow circle, wigwams and a turf throne. We have also made new spaces for planting and are moving towards having more perennial plants for interest all year around - including to wildlife. In September 2018, we have a new storage shed, funded by a donation from Hill builders. During Summer/Autumn 2018, we are making a new wood store.

Coming soon...

  • We have funding for a new green-roofed veranda to the front of the club hut - expected around Spring 2019.

Working from the soil upwards...

Much of our potential planting area is a former bowling green, so our substrate is quite unusual.

  • From several test digs and lots of working with it, it is heavy clay, with a layer of 'clinker' of varying thickness and sometimes some hardcore and then a spade-depth of introduced homogenous, compacted, sand-rich top soil, full of grass roots. This top layer is easy to cultivate with hand tools but dries out very quickly. It is difficult to wet once dry. It improves with the addition of soil conditioner and garden compost.

  • Around the green area, we have soil typical to this area of Cambridge - lots of clay, chalk with rough turf. This can become waterlogged in the winter but, generally, dries out quickly.

We collect as much water as possible from our club hut. We now have a mains water supply, which we can use with a hose to top up the pond and also irrigate meadow beds in dry weather 'water page'.

Chemical use in the garden

The green will have been intensively treated over the past 50 or so years. Since 2014, we haven't used any chemicals except to prepare the annual meadow beds (see below) and we use a few organic slug pellets for a few days when we have put some baby plants in the ground. We prefer to use our own garden compost, have had some horse manure and also ‘green-bin’ soil conditioner.

  • We have used glyphosate to prepare seeded meadow beds. In 2017, we prepared the seeded beds mechanically, without glyphosate, which was relatively successful but hard work for our diggers. In Spring 2018, we used glyphosate for the meadow beds; there was just too much grass in a small amount of light soil. In Spring 2019, we will try not to use glyphosate before preparing the new perennial meadow beds but this might not be possible.

See Working with nature page.

Early aspirations

It is proposed to create: ‘an informal, natural, community green-space for the inclusive enjoyment and demonstration of biodiversity, sustainability, creativity, gardening and food growing’
— Summary document, circulated to Friends of Nightingale Park members in July 2015 and formed part of two applications for S106 funding in August 2016.

For this project, we had an overall collection of aspirations for the garden (see 'quote') and lots of ideas  from existing and potential park users about what they would like to see and do in the space:

  • Some of these were feasible.

  • Some popular.

  • Some of them could be done without extra funding, using donations and ingenuity.

  • Some could probably be done but not yet.

  • Some, like turning it into an outdoor swimming pool or skate park, we haven't considered because we think more people would not like this to happen and it would be very expensive.

  • Some people just wanted it to be a bowling green again, but we have been advised that this wouldn't be technically possible and there are other clubs with much better (all-year-round) facilities nearby, including at Abbey, 'Brooklands Avenue', Cambridge University Press (about to cease), Coleridge Park and Trumpington (Bowls Cambridgeshire).

Last updated: 18 September 2018