Working with Historic England to protect Suffolk’s parks and gardens

Volunteers doing research and recording in a historic landscape

Today the Gardens Trust and Historic England formally launch Suffolk’s Unforgettable Garden Story, our project to discover, celebrate and protect historic green spaces in Suffolk. We will be encouraging local communities to champion their local park or  garden, as well as looking for volunteers to research and record undiscovered green spaces. Find out more at an open event on Saturday 17 September.

Postcard of the gardens and fountain of Hardwick House with rose arches
A postcard by Nigel Temple of the gardens and fountain at Hardwick House, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk (c) Historic England

Historic England has awarded us a grant of £36,000 for this exciting project and will be working with us on its delivery.

Suffolk’s historic parks and gardens need your help

Only 23 historic green spaces in Suffolk are protected and included on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE), including Helmingham Hall (Grade I registered), Ickworth House (Grade II* registered), Belle Vue Park in Lowestoft (Grade II registered), and Felixstowe Cliff Gardens and Town Hall Garden (Grade II registered). The list identifies the buildings, sites and landscapes that receive special protection, so they can be enjoyed by current and future generations.

Historic England and the Gardens Trust want to hear about wonderful public and private designed landscapes in the county that should be protected, celebrated and added to the list. We are particularly keen to hear about urban and suburban gardens, commercial sites, institutional landscapes, and 20th century and post-war designed landscapes.

One of Suffolk’s historic parks and gardens at He grave Hall
The garden of Hengrave Hall, Suffolk (c) Historic England

Unprotected, some of these special spaces may be vulnerable to loss, decay, or inappropriate proposals for development. We want to understand these landscapes better and help to ensure their protection and care, so that current and future generations can enjoy them and discover their story.

Volunteers are vital

Christopher Laine, Historic England Landscape Architect, said: “With the help of local people, this fantastic project will help us to learn more about Suffolk’s historic designed landscapes. I’m really looking forward to hearing about the Suffolk parks, gardens and green spaces that people love. I’m sure we’ll be discovering some hidden historic gems that need protection and support.”

Karina Flynn, Suffolk Volunteer Support Officer for the Gardens Trust, said: “This project aims to encourage Suffolk communities to help protect historic outdoor spaces for everyone to enjoy. We look forward to building partnerships with individuals, groups and organisations to whom their local parks and gardens are indispensable. Volunteers are vital to this project, as with all the work of the Gardens Trust, so we really encourage people to get involved and share their local knowledge.”

Volunteers doing research and recording in a historic landscape
Volunteers of Buckinghamsire Gardens Trust doing research and recording at Stoke Park Photo: the Gardens Trust

Claire de Carle, Chair of Buckinghamshire Gardens Trust, explains how vital volunteers are to the success of these projects: “The role of our volunteers was key to the success of the Buckinghamshire project to research and record the lesser-known historic gardens in the county. Not only did they bring a wide range of skills to the project but have also seen the benefits of learning new ones, giving them the confidence to carry out their research and write reports. The volunteers have also brought enthusiasm and renewed vitality to the Trust, engaging the interest of our members and the wider community, by furthering an understanding of the importance of historic parks and gardens. Their work is accessible to all on our website.

Get involved

We’d love people to get involved, to champion and research local historic designed landscapes. You don’t need to be an expert in history, landscapes or gardening.

We’re working in partnership with the Suffolk Gardens Trust, who would love to meet new people from local communities. Alongside training from the Gardens Trust, they will offer the research skills, know-how and support to get involved in the project, which will run for the next 18 months.

County Gardens Trust volunteers during a training day

You’ll be recommending parks and gardens that should be considered for protection, adding new detail to information for sites that are already nationally listed, and raising awareness of sites that are locally important.We want to draw on local knowledge to ensure that Suffolk’s historic designed landscapes are understood and protected.

Why not come along and meet us?

The Gardens Trust is holding an open event in Suffolk on Saturday 17 September from 4pm to 6pm (venue to be announced).

There is also an online (zoom) meet-up on Thursday 22 September from 6pm to 7.30pm, which is another opportunity for anyone interested in getting involved with Suffolk’s Unforgettable Garden Story to find out more, ask questions, and be part of an informal conversation about ways to contribute. It will also be a chance to sign up if you wish to volunteer for the project.

For further information on getting involved with this exciting project, and more details of the open event, please contact Sally Bate: or Karina Flynn:

Celebrating Unforgettable Gardens

Historic parks and gardens are a much-loved part of our shared national story. This project is part of the Gardens Trust’s Unforgettable Gardens campaign (running until the end of 2023) which looks at what gardens mean to us, the threats they face and how you can save them for future generations.

What our green spaces do for us

Never have we appreciated our green spaces more than during the recent lockdown, when we became ever more aware of the importance of open space and access to nature to our physical and mental wellbeing.

The National Lottery Fund’s State of Public Parks report showed that the main users of parks are:

• People between the ages of 25 and 34 (70 % use their park at least once a month)
• Households with children under the age of five (90 % use their park at least once a month)
• People identifying as Black and Minority Ethnic (of whom 71% use their park at least once a month compared to 56 % of people identifying as White)

An earlier survey by the Heritage Fund revealed that:

• 95% of visits are enjoyable, peaceful and relaxing
• 60% of visitors take more physical exercise because they use parks
• 80% say the park helps make their area more attractive and a better place to live

Parks and green spaces contribute to physical and mental health, reducing stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression, combating loneliness and encouraging

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Painswick Roccoco Gardens, the Red House, Photo © Joab Smith