Hover over 'History' on the menu bar to see more detailed pages - only one to date. This is a work in progress. Contributions welcome.
A brief background Lismore Fields. Archeological digs have turned up evidence of Mesolithic - Middle Stone Age, pre 4000 BC cultivation: there are flints for tools and charcoal in the soil. Neolithic settlement. Fifth Duke - gardens. Seventh Duke, gave the land in 1890 for the benefit of the people of Buxton. The lodge and the workshops behind erected between then and 1898.The Heritage listing for Pavilions Gardens and Serpentine Walks a century later in 1984. The nursery is not within the listing. Some of Paxton’s nursery provision for other parks is included in listings. Advantages of inclusion or not in the listings has been hotly debated at various twists in our tale.
In 2009 the site was a sad picture of decay and dereliction. A group of community activists calling themselves variously Sustainable Guerrillas, Permaculture Partisans and the Veg Pixies went on site to start clearing pots and undergrowth. They knew they were trespassing. Police escorted them off site on their second visit. The site was in much the same state five years later, a sleeping beauty hemmed in by brambles.
In 2012 HPBC had prepared a planning application for residential development. The site was an eyesore, a target for vandalism. Sale for development would be win-win, money for the Borough and a grot-spot problem addressed. The Council hadn’t factored in community feeling against damage to the park. Local opposition halted the plan. The nursery site was saved but vacant. In September 2014 a licence was agreed between Transition Buxton and HPBC for access to the site to clear the ground and prepare for future horticultural development.Clearance continued through 2015 with the support and labour of dozens of volunteers, hundreds of volunteer hours. High ambition was matched by back-breaking labour. As the ground cleared, work progressed on the neighbouring property, Serpentine House.
2015 Serpentine Community Farm Community Interest Company formed. Donations of hard cash as well as time came in. Four Directors led remarkable progress in the project’s first year, doubling up on roles: admin, finance, social media, publicity site management, heath and safety, growers, volunteer coordination, external liaison. Prizes and plaudits flowed including a 2015 award from Buxton in Bloom. Two further Directors joined the group focusing on funding and volunteer coordination. We decided to issue an advert - Chief Grower required, 3 days a week. May be job share. John and Gil Boardman, coming back to Buxton from a few years away in Cambridgeshire, took it on.
Notice to quitA curb on enthusisiam came in June 2017. We weren’t going to get a lease. Instead we were invited to move and make way for sale of the site. We were told that the process of securing planning permission and a purchaser was likely to take until the end of July 2018.As we explored all options for an alternative site we kept our flag flying, pressing all positive publicity buttons. We cropped and shared our harvest and our seeds. We pressed apples.Held our annual Winter Gathering, and launched a petition set-up by Ruth George, MP for High Peak. An online petition we’d set up earlier was approaching the target 1,000 signatures.
End of February 2018 we were given a copy of an indenture document from 1890. The nursery was given by the seventh Duke of Devonshire to the Buxton Gardens Company. (He died a year later, so this was a near final bequest.)
3 July 2018 brought confirmation that the Council wished to have the site returned to them with vacant possession on 31 July. We did all we could to mitigate the blow - find temporary homes for all plants in pots and bags, arrange for hardware to be stored off site, dispersed to member’s garages, gardens and to a farmer’s barn, look to hire or buy a used shipping container, seek agreement on access to water and harvest the crop before any development started. Our focus was on rescuing all we could, including the spirit of the farm. Buxton community and civic groups coordinated a leafletting campaign publicising local opposition.
19 July 2018 meeting communicated a change in our fortunes. The Council had reviewed their asset disposal register and determined that immediate sale of our site was not necessary. We were offered an interim lease to give space and time for negotiations over a longer term future. All our plants and gear could come back. The interim lease, extending to December 2019 would cover the stone stores and also the old Council depot land including the concrete garage. Give Peas a Chance. See the video.
A year later, our fringe event, Summerthyme, was awarded the Spirit of the Fringe 2019 prize. A long-term lease was under negotiation.