Abandoned library garden in Sheffield suburb reopens after being rejuvenated by community volunteers

“We want this to be a beautiful place for people to enjoy.” – A library garden in Broomhill has undergone a major transformation thanks to hard-working community volunteers and students from Sheffield University.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 3:20 pm

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle has officially opened the Percy Cane Rock Garden and Pocket Park at Broomhill Community Library, today on June 17, 2021.

This long-abandoned part of the library garden was a jungle when volunteers took over the running of the library in 2014 and it has been brought back to life over the last two years.

Volunteers have worked to clear the mass of self-sown trees, laurel, bramble, and ivy that had taken over the rock garden.

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Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle officially opened the Percy Cane Rock Garden and Pocket Park at Broomhill Community Library on 17 June 2021. She is pictured with Emily and Nathan who designed the garden. Picture: Chris Etchells

Teams from the library, local families, retired neighbours, Sheffield conservation volunteers and students from the landscape architecture department at Sheffield University have all helped with the project.

In declaring the pocket park open, the Green peer has celebrated the work of the library team, ‘who have put in hundreds and hundreds of hours of work - chopping back, weeding, digging, organising teams of workers, applying for funds, planting and watering to create something beautiful for the local community.’

Hard-won grants enabled the library team to bring in professional help for aspects of the project.

Funding has come from the Ministry of Housing, communities, National Lottery Community Fund and the Yorkshire Gardens Trust, as well as the Local Government, which made an award as part of its Pocket Park Plus initiative.

Percy Cane Rock Garden and Pocket Park at Broomhill Community Library: Pictured are Judith Pitchforth, Kathy Harbord, Jill Sinclair, Brendan Mowfort and Natalie Bennett. Picture: Chris Etchells

Chairperson of the library trustees, Judith Pitchforth said: “The funds allowed us to buy in design advice and support from our landscape architects Urban Wilderness, to pay to have the rocks professionally reset, and to purchase over 400 new shrubs, flowers and bulbs.”

The original plans had been to create a courtyard in the rear garden, but these had to be abandoned when a major boundary wall collapsed, making the site unsafe shortly before work was due to start.

A new scheme was then rapidly devised to reclaim the long narrow bed alongside the library driveway instead.

Kathy Harbord, the library trustee responsible for the gardens, said: “It’s not been an easy project. The need completely to change our plans part-way through, when we could no longer work in the rear garden, was a real headache. Then, when we were within a few weeks of completing the new scheme, lockdown meant everything had to be put on hold.”

Percy Cane Rock Garden and Pocket Park at Broomhill Community Library: Pictured in the new garden are Willow Gandhi, six, and Ubeid Saeed, six. Picture: Chris Etchells

But now, having worked over the autumn and winter in socially distanced teams, the library volunteers are delighted that the work is complete and are pleased to share the final result with the local community.

Garden historian, Jill Sinclair said “We’ve chosen plants that reflect the heritage nature of the gardens, and that will attract lots of wildlife to the site. We want this to be a beautiful place for people to enjoy.”

The work is the first part of a larger project to transform the library, backed by the BBEST Neighbourhood Plan, which was approved in the recent referendum by 92% of local people.

The project includes plans to reclaim the rest of the historic garden, designed in the 1920s by eminent designer Percy Cane, and to develop the building to create accessible community space for many different activities and events.

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