Marine Cove, a Burnham-on-Sea garden rescued and restored

PUBLISHED: 09:03 28 February 2013 | UPDATED: 19:51 05 April 2013

Marine Cove Gardens

Marine Cove Gardens

Sarah Ford meets an award winning gardener and the hard-working Friends of Marine Cove in her home town of Burnham-on-Sea

A garden rescued and restored

Sarah Ford meets an award winning gardener and the hard-working Friends of Marine Cove in her home town of Burnham-on-Sea

Sarah Ford meets an award winning gardener and the hard-working Friends of Marine Cove in her home town of Burnham-on-Sea

As a child I often played in Marine Cove Garden which sits nestled under the leaning tower of St Andrews Church in Burnham-on-Sea.

I loved the small yet perfectly formed garden with its art deco style fish pond and pretty flower beds.

Inspired by the work of Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll at Hestercombe, Marine Cove first opened on the Esplanade in 1927. Sheltered from the nearby breezy seafront, the walled garden provided a peaceful setting for locals and holiday makers for decades. It was a place for quiet contemplation away from busy life in the seaside resort.

Sadly Marine Cove began to fall into disrepair in the 1980s. Its shelters were boarded up and features such as the pergola, sundial and fountain were in desperate need of some care and attention.

Thankfully, a 320,000 project to restore the site began in March 2011. The scheme received funding from the Heritage Lottery, from Sedgemoor District Council, Burnham and Highbridge Town Council and the environmental company Viridor Credits.

Craftspeople including stone masons, water care specialists, electricians, painters, carpenters, fencing and landscaping contractors worked on the site for eight months, recalls Harley Cook, Sedgemoor District Councils Parks and Open Spaces Policy Officer.

The official opening was delayed by a few months due to the main contractor going into administration after completing 95% of the works. Fortunately, local contractors rallied and helped us complete the final 5% in time for a Christmas 2011 opening event.

Our vision is for this to be an example for others who need a model of how to restore a small historic garden. We also envisage the importance of Marine Cove for the future as a place for education, meditation and gathering people together as well as a place for growing plants. This vision is being led by our enthusiastic community gardener, Jacqui Strong, with well-received assistance from the Friends of Marine Cove.

Jacqui says its been rewarding to receive positive feed back from visitors. She said: The majority of people who visit the garden think it is a little gem. A lot of people like to come here because its so quiet and others will come in off the beach, brush the sand off their feet and have a picnic here.

Since reopening in 2011 the garden has been awarded the prestigious Green Flag an award which recognises well-managed, high-quality green spaces, while in 2012 Marine Cove won Outstanding in the RHS Neighbourhood in Bloom for a second year running.

And for her effort towards Burnham-on-Seas entry in Britain in Bloom Jacqui was awarded the Mayors cup.

She says it was an honour and surprise to receive the award but that it wouldnt have happened without the support and assistance from the volunteers.

They work hard to make it a relaxing place to visit as this is very much a community-led project, she says.

The Marine Cove site was once part of the Old Vicarage Estate until its sale in 1922 and the plot was gifted to the then Urban District Council in 1926.

When the gardens opened the following year, the grand event attracted hundreds of people.

The recent restoration work is very sympathetic to the 1920s design even down to colour matching the lime mortar to the original colour in the walls.

Pretty much everything in the garden had some work done to it, Jacqui adds.

Wood struts were replaced across the pergola, there is a replacement sundial and a new pump system for the lions head fountain. The pavement was levelled with disabled access put in. The pond was relined with 200 fish re-homed in Dorset. We had a dozen back but we do have a baby heron which visits us!

Events staged in the garden last year included the Queens Diamond Jubilee Celebration which brought more than 400 people to Marine Cove following a parade and World Record sand castle attempt on the beach.

Future projects are set to include a second craft fair and a May Day event for the schools. Local pupils have already made the most of the garden with a history picture quiz and nature trail activity in the neighbouring church yard.

On 2 February between 10am and 3pm, Marine Cove will play host to its first story telling event, with a tepee and professional story teller, to celebrate national story telling week.

We are improving links with tourism, trying to pull together to put our town on the map, says Jacqui. Marine Cove is part of the history of the town and if we dont look after things like this then in time we will lose them.

To become a volunteer or Friend of Marine Cove, contact Jacqui Strong by email on

For more details about events in Marine Cove in 2013, visit the website at or contact the Marine Cove Events Coordinator by email:

Discover more about the history of Burnham in The Book of Burnham-on-Sea by Winston Thomas and Bob Thomas published by Halsgrove.

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