From Peel’s Secret Gardens to our lost railways.

By John Slater

Peel’s Secret Gardens is a non-competitive event held every two years since 1996. You wouldn’t think there were any more secrets to discover but there were and more are lined up for the future.

This year we had seventeen gardens in the brochure with a couple more ‘guerilla gardens’ we were delighted to welcome. They asked very nicely if they might jump in at the last minute and looked after their own signage. We would avoid this normally, but we can be persuaded. These might well become repeats another year.

If you were one of the fortunate two thousand or so visitors over the glorious weekend of the 7th and 8th July, you will appreciate why it’s impossible to do the event justice in a brief article. However. I must make mention of a late entry, Mylchreest Court. This is phase one of a new development replacing Westlands sheltered housing complex. The residents have only been there a few months, yet have transformed a strip of land, some of it on a slope, into a beautiful range of gardens.

When I first visited the development, I was greeted by a chap with a great big smile. He cheerily dismissed any help as he lifted a park bench over the arms of his wheelchair and skilfully manoeuvred it into position, apparently ignoring a missing leg! The positivism of the residents and the unifying effect of gardening seems to have further enhanced community spirit and provided a great lift to the emotions as it does for us!

One of the late entries was a small courtyard. I was much amused to see that it contained a roof garden. A low shed had its pointed roof beautifully planted out with alpines and other miniature plants. So imaginative! Every surface in this small courtyard was full of interest. This really stimulated those I spoke to. Most of us have unpromising areas that could benefit from this flair. We learn so much from each other.

Of course there are some delicious large gardens with sweeping lawns and great swathes of beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees. Each one enhances its setting and responds to our coastal climate. It’s interesting to see how different gardeners deal with wind and salt. What impresses is how nature has evolved to thrive under such a range of conditions.

The truly incredible gardens around the cathedral blew people’s minds. Guidebooks to these are just inside the cathedral by the bookstall on your left. The open-air theatre to the east of the cathedral has taken many by surprise. This will be in use early in September plus dancing on the labyrinth. What a wonderfully exciting place Peel is!

Our thanks to gardeners, advertisers, our small, superb sub-committee and our wonderfully appreciative visitors.

Coming events – support Manx Transport Heritage Museum at 3.30pm in the foyer of the House of Manannan on Friday 7th September when Peter Kelly will help us to wave off the last train from Peel – to the second!

On the 9th September, the museum will be leading a 1.25 mile walk along the old Knockaloe railway line. Meet in the car park opposite the water tower for a 2.00pm start. This will be repeated on 7th and 14th October. See posters.

Our next event, in the Centenary Centre is on Wednesday, 19th September at 7.30pm – ‘The History of Manx Coins’.