THE woman who was behind a project to create a biblical garden in Golspie to celebrate the millennium has said she is “gutted” at the state it is now in.
The once beautiful garden at the south end of the village next to Seaforth House Resource Centre for the elderly is now overgrown and unsightly.
It was left to go wild after members of the group set up to look after it, decided they could no longer continue because of increasing age and no one else was willing to take it on.
Founder group member and retired teacher Anne Barclay (79), who came up with the garden idea, is bitterly disappointed at its demise – it was once described in Scotland’s Gardens as “one of the best community-run gardens in Scotland”.
She said: “I do not even like going there now.”
Concerns are high that the garden, which is on local authority-owned land, could be turned into a car park for Seaforth House and nearby Lovat House, a sheltered housing complex.
The garden project was launched in 1999 by Mrs Barclay and others from St Andrew’s Church – sited across the A9 opposite the garden – to celebrate the turn of the century.
The group raised £1500 towards the project and secured a £5000 grant from Awards for All.
A Tree of Life theme was chosen for the design with a paths representing the main branches of the tree. A circular, all-abilities path was added.
Features included a seated area sheltered by a dry stone wall; map of Scotland; dry well; empty tomb and replica Celtic stone standing on a hillock above the tomb as well as sandstone tiles inscribed with plant names and an arch with a vine and crib.
A herb garden was also planted with herbs mentioned in the bible.
The garden initially went from strength to strength with a 22-strong group established to look after it.
Mrs Barclay took on the role of garden coordinator, a post she said she would fill for three years but in which she stayed for 13. She was replaced by Janet Harvey.
A peaceful place to visit, the garden was used by many youth organisations in the village as well as residents and visitors to Seaforth and Lovat houses.
It gained an entry in Gardens in Scotland after one of the publication’s editorial team noticed the garden by chance when passing through the village.
The entry stated: “When we visited in June, this was a blaze of colour, with lavender, lupins, delphiniums, valerian, poppies etc.......this is one of the best community-run gardens in Scotland.”
However, as the years went by, age, infirmity and death took its toll on the garden group.
Mrs Barclay, said: “Of the original group only six remain and they are in their 70s, some hovering on 80.
“It became a fight against rough grass and weeds.
“It was too labour intensive – if more of the area had been turned over to grass it might have been easier to maintain but it was very heavily planted.”
And efforts to pass the baton on to younger gardeners proved fruitless.
The group, which is registered as a charity with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), has handed the ground back to the council and is now in the process of winding down.
Mrs Barclay said: “There are items in the garden which could be relocated, such as the wooden arch and the pergola with bench seats, a commemoration stone, the map and the stone tablets with plant names.
“The group would be pleased to hear from any organisation who could make use of these items.”
And she added poignantly: “It was started with high hopes and lots of volunteers and it is painful for those of us left to see it in such a state, but it needs younger people to take over the reins and responsibility.”
Highland Council was asked if it had any plans in place for the garden or if it was intended to turn it into a car park, but had not responded by the time the Northern Times went to press.