Wednesday 29 February 2012: Queen's Gardens
Unfortunately, I woke up this morning with the neck-crick back in-situ as I feared. So it was a return to the strategy of having a hot shower, some breakfast and waiting to see if it would go away (it didn't!) and then popping some ibruprofen. Oh well, at least I have another appointment with Corrian the Chiropractor tomorrow.
The weather has been rather cold and threatening rain all day. Immy informed me when I picked her up from school that today is officially the last day of summer.... it certainly felt like it! I have been wearing a fleece sweatshirt over the rest of my clothes today and now, at 10.30pm, the wool scarf that I donned to go out at 6pm is still there!
I had decided to go down and explore the Queen's Gardens in town as our neighbour, a charming and well-travelled Scot, is the Chair of the Queen's Gardens committee. She has been telling me about a controversial matter that has seen feelings running high in recent weeks. It seems that the Gardens share a boundary with the Suter Gallery and Theatre. Two notable trees, century-old oaks, are deemed to have become inconvenient because of their proximity to some buildings that form part of The Suter. The gallery now wishes to extend its premises in order to become what it has termed 'a World-Class gallery' and wants the trees felled. The trees themselves have been inspected by an arborist and both were found to be healthy and capable of living for another century or more. The problem is that one of the trees has now been encircled by a deck outside the Suter's cafe, while the other now stands hard by the gallery's kitchen and manager's office - but only because extensions were built taking the buildings right up to the tree!
The Suter Art Gallery was founded as a memorial to Andrew Burn Suter, Bishop of Nelson from 1866 to 1891 and opened on 31 May 1899. At the time, there were only two other art galleries in New Zealand. Bishop Suter had been a keen artist and his widow promised his art collection to an art gallery if one was established in his name. As one of the first permanent structures built solely for the display of art in New Zealand, The Suter is now the oldest gallery in continuous use in the country. It was designated as a Category II Heritage Building by the Historic Places Trust in 2007. It also houses a much-loved little theatre.
Queen's Gardens opened seven years before the Suter, in 1892 to commemorate the jubilee of Queen Victoria (this must have been her Golden Jubilee of 1887 I think). The Gardens were designed around a detached residual bend of the Maitai River known as the "Eel Pond' which had been used as a food-gathering area by local Maori. There had also been a meat market in the area and the whole place was, at that time, considered quite unsavoury.
The Gardens retain many elements of Victorian-era character including memorial gates and a number of pretty bridges. Having been there this evening, I can say that the gardens are quite charming. They feature formal plantings, a Victorian fountain; a War Memorial to the fallen of the Boer War; modern sculptures including a water wheel and the Huangshi Chinese Garden, opened in 2007, the year the Queen's Gardens were designated as a Category II Historic Place by the Historic Places Trust.
The Victorians were renowned for their thoughtful plantings of both formal gardens and 'woodland walks.' They planted not for the 'now', but with future generations in mind. I feel pretty sure that those involved in the planting of the two English Oaks (Quercus Robur) would be mortified to think that now, more than a century later and having reached their full glory, they are in danger of being felled because they have become inconvenient in terms of a gallery that could, realistically, be relocated. Albion Square Historic Reserve, on the other side of the Suter, houses the Nelson Courthouse and seems to have plenty of available space.....
Nelson City Council will hold two informal meetings tomorrow for information and discussion of the issues. It says on its website that everyone is welcome to attend, and submissions will be received up until March 12th. Watch this space! This picture shows a rather pretty bridge leading from the main part of the Gardens to the Huangshi Chinese Garden.