Is this the end of Liverpool’s secret garden?
It’s survived WW2, Derek Hatton and the Lib Dems — but this time it looks terminal
Dear members — in the heart of Croxteth Country Park hides a gem. Or, to be more specific, roughly 4,000 gems. The plants here have survived the lot; bombing during the war, Derek Hatton’s Militant council, the Lib Dems in the noughties who tossed many of them in the skip. The remaining collection is said to include some of the rarest plant species around, but word is they might be lost for good.
This edition is for members only — a statement that will doubtless strike fear into the hearts of the plant aficionados on our free list. But even if you’re not a botanical-garden devotee, this is stirring stuff. In its heyday, the botanical collection found in the park was considered one of the leading collections in the world — on a par with Kew Gardens, Calcutta Botanical Gardens and the National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin in Dublin. Now, their funding is being cut. So is this the end of the road for one of the most storied (and underpublicised) parts of Liverpool? Intrepid reporter/houseplant serial killer Jack Walton investigates.
Readers on the free list will be able to view the top of this email. Should they decide, on reading, that they would prefer not to join us as paid members, only one conclusion seems logical: they hate plants. Plant-and prose-lovers alike, please feel free to join us by hitting the button below. It works out at £1.25 a week if you pay for an annual subscription, a small price to pay to give Liverpool and the rest of the city region the journalistic standards, exotic greenery and scrutiny they rightfully deserve.
But before this, Liverpool’s street cleaners are fighting back in a pay dispute and an obituary of a key musician in Merseyside’s Beat scene.
Your Post briefing
A 22-year-old man from the Wirral has been arrested over the shooting of Elle Edwards outside The Lighthouse in Wallasey, Wirral on Christmas Eve. Edwards died of several gunshot wounds to the head after the shooting in the pub’s entrance, and it is believed by Merseyside Police she was not the intended target. A 23-year-old woman (also from Wirral) has been held on suspicion of assisting an offender. The latest arrests come “following enquiries in North Wales” according to the police. Three people who were previously arrested over the shooting have since been released.
More than 70 street cleaners and refuse collectors working for Liverpool Streetscene Services (LSSL) are going on strike later this month in a pay dispute. Unite regional officer Brian Troake said the industrial action was a "last resort" prompted by concerns over a decade-long pay restraint and the cost of living crisis. As the BBC reports, the union claimed that roles such as refuse drivers, who must hold a HGV licence and are paid £14.71 an hour, are underpaid. The workers are seeking a pay increase of 4%, with an additional £1000 payment. LSSL said it was "surprised and disappointed" at the move.
“In 1960 there was a burgeoning beat scene around the church and village halls on Merseyside,” begins this Guardian obituary of Kingsize Taylor, who has died aged 83. That year, Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes were playing at Lathom Hall in Seaforth (also appearing that night; a new group called the Silver Beatles – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Stu Sutcliffe). As the Dominoes thundered through a set of much-loved hits, Taylor noticed the Silver Beatles taking notes. For the rest of his days Taylor was no fan of The Beatles, believing their songs were ghostwritten by writers who had reached a deal with the devious Brian Epstein. He believed he should have had the hits himself. Nonetheless, he was “a fine singer and guitarist” who later formed the Merseybeat charity. As the obituary states, when playing rougher venues, ”rather than retreat and go backstage, Taylor was more likely to go into the fray and sort it out.”
🎸 In 2020, NME named “alt-rock gal pal duo” ARXX one of their top 100 essential new artists, on Saturday that sound comes to Birkenhead’s premier indie music venue Future Yard for its first show of the new year. The two piece has played festivals and support slots across the UK, and this headline show should make a great way to kick off the year. Tickets are £9 advanced.
🍾 If that sounds a bit too energetic for you, then why not try something more relaxing? On Sunday at Duke Street Market, the mezzanine is being taken over for a yoga social. The beginner friendly yoga class comes with a hot drink, prosecco, and fresh pastries served up as the hour of stretching finishes. It’s £20 to book your place.
🎨 Ahead of a wider exhibition at Birkenhead’s Williamson Gallery, The Bluecoat Display Centre is showing small works by Micheal Brennand-Wood. The Encirclement of Space shows the influence of lace over Brennand-Wood’s fifty-year artistic career, and the Display Centre will have a number of smaller pieces for sale from today.
By Jack Walton
Tucked away in the heart of Croxteth Country Park is a collection of plants with a history like virtually no other. At its height in the 1800s, the collection was the toast of the horticultural universe. Visitors flocked from across the country, species — some of the rarest of their kind — were shown off at international shows and Victorian plant-hunters trekked the jungles of several continents to bolster their numbers.
But recent history hasn’t been kind to the collection. A decades-long battle between the gardeners and successive councils — who are said to have hidden the collection away, sacked staff, dumped valuable plants into a skip, hardly publicised the collection at all and hired security guards to prevent staff sneaking plants away to safety in the night — has played out. How did we get here?
The collection of plants has a story, steeped in politics, that spans more than 200 years. They’ve seen off the Empire, slavery, the Second World War (in 1940 a stray bomb landed in the glasshouse and shredded many of them), Margaret Thatcher, Derek Hatton and — perhaps most impressively — the municipal vandalism of local authorities. It could be said, in fact, that they rise above the political, that they’re survivors. Though the collection has been eroded in that time, its remains are tended to here in the park by a three-man team with over 100 years’ experience between them.
That is, until now. Before Christmas, the staff at Croxteth Park who manage the collection received word from their line manager at LSSL (Liverpool Streetscene Services) that the council had been in touch. From March they would be ceasing funding altogether. It was a threat the staff had heard before, but this time it seemed final. They were told that they would be re-deployed from their current roles, the only roles they have ever known in some cases, probably to jobs around the park; sweeping leaves and whatnot. Many of the plants would be lost.
The council told The Post that ”unfortunately the botanical collection has depleted over the decades, to the point that only a few rare plants remain.” They added that: “as part of [a] review the council is now talking to various partners to ensure those horticultural specimens of note will continue to be nurtured within the city.” Stephen Lyus, an expert and lecturer on botanic plants from the Wirral, is less sure that most of the collection isn’t worth saving: “it shows the people making these decisions haven’t a clue what they’re talking about.”
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