Gardens threatened with closure

PUBLISHED: 07:31 01 November 2007 | UPDATED: 21:50 29 May 2010

From left, Brian Creasey, Bella D’Arcy Chairperson of Eastern Lodge Preservation Trust and James Gillies in the sunken Italian Garden of the Gardens of Easton Lodge – Pic: Dick Harding

From left, Brian Creasey, Bella D'Arcy Chairperson of Eastern Lodge Preservation Trust and James Gillies in the sunken Italian Garden of the Gardens of Easton Lodge - Pic: Dick Harding

A POPULAR tourist attraction could be closed to the public unless £25,000 is raised over the next three months. The historic Gardens of Easton Lodge, in Little Easton, Great Dunmow, could be shut to the public and the restoration plans shelved by the end

A POPULAR tourist attraction could be closed to the public unless £25,000 is raised over the next three months.

The historic Gardens of Easton Lodge, in Little Easton, Great Dunmow, could be shut to the public and the restoration plans shelved by the end of April 2008 if the money cannot be raised.

The owners Brian and Diana Creasey, who have run the gardens for almost 30 years and started the restoration project in 1992, are retiring in May.

They will no longer be actively involved in managing, restoring and financing the gardens as they have for many years. Mr Creasey said: "It would be a great shame if the gardens closed, they are over 100 years old and a wonderful place for the public to come and visit.

"Although they are very close to Stansted Airport they have a very peaceful atmosphere.

"We have done a lot of work on the gardens - when we started they were completely overgrown but we just don't have enough money to do the big restoration projects such as the stone work, which will cost about £1 million.

"At the moment we attract about 12,000 visitors a year, which does cover some of the running costs. We need to build a tea room and new toilet facilities which we can only afford with Lottery funding.

"I'm 73 next year, so it's time for me to retire - my wife and I will leave the trust to carry out the next stage of the restoration."

The Gardens of Easton Lodge Preservation Trust was set up in 2005 to take over the running of the gardens and restoration projects from the present owners.

And since that time the gardens have won the Heritage Award, a national competition for the Big Draw, which encourages people to get creative.

Trustee Jim Gillies said: "The gardens are very popular with a lot of people who live in Dunmow and people also come from much further away to visit them. It would be terrible if they had to close.

"£25,000 would mean that we are solvent and can take on the running costs of the gardens. Without the funding then we would not be in a position to do so."

The only source of income is from the members of the Friends of Easton Lodge. Fifteen pounds a year per person guarantees free entry and discounts on tickets to musical and theatrical events.

The trust intends to make a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the gardens to their original design by Harold Peto and to keep them open to the public.

"As a charitable trust we can apply for funding," said Mr Gillies. "But to be eligible we are required to find 10 per cent of the money from other sources."

The trust has launched an appeal and is inviting supporters of the gardens to make a donation or become a patron.

As well as keeping the gardens open the trust is hoping to carry on the restoration that was started by Brian and Diana Creasey.

"Our priority is to restore the Italian sunken garden," said Mr Gillies. "Although this will be our most costly restoration project it should really boost the appeal of the gardens.

"We have enough photographic evidence to restore it exactly as it was."

- THE garden was created by the famous Edwardian garden designer Edward Peto in 1902.

The gardens have a long history and were commissioned by Daisy, the Countess of Warwick who was mistress of Edward VII. The design was the first major commission by Edward Peto and remains one of the finest examples of his work.

In World War II the gardens were turned into a base for many RAF personnel and a monument to these men can be seen in the avenue of the gardens.

The museum contains pictures and artefacts from the period.

For more details about how to make a donation or to become a patron, e-mail enquiries@eastonlodge.co.uk

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