Herne Bay in Bloom and the Friends of the Downs working together
The Friends of The Downs is a newly formed group of Herne Bay residents, chaired by local ward councillor Gillian Reuby. The Friends are the focus for the future care and management of the Downs area, to ensure that the area is well looked after and continues to support its natural flora, fauna and wildlife for the benefit of local residents and visitors alike.
One of the areas they are particularly interested in rescuing lies at the foot of the Downs, at the bottom of the paths and stairways known as the Hundred Steps. Many years ago there were formally planted beds and a couple of small public pavilions on the raised concrete plinths above the promenade. These are now all long since gone, leaving a rather bleak eyesore… and a great opportunity!
The Friends of the Downs have teamed up with Herne Bay in Bloom to develop plans for transforming this area – we are aiming for the greatest improvement with the least interference. The Hundred Steps Garden will be a showcase for the Downs’ natural flora, and the maritime plants you would expect to find on the Kent coast. With the added interest of mural and mosaic designs from local schools, the Garden will provide an interesting and educational diversion for residents and visitors enjoying a stroll along the promenade.
Because of the sheer size of the plot, each of these is a fairly major project in its own right. This suggests a phased approach, probably spread across a few years.
The display beds would be planted up with bands or clumps of eye-catching flowering and non-flowering plants that occur naturally on the Downs, avoiding the (possibly unhelpful) introduction of new species. This arrangement would help people learn to distinguish between the variety of species we have – not all yellow flowers are dandelions!
The large planter/raised bed as shown in the picture on the left would be about 22 metres by 5 metres by 0.5-1 metres deep, and contain plants that would naturally occur on a stable shingle beach. The retaining wall would be made of driftwood spars and timbers reclaimed from the ongoing replacement and repair of local groynes and breakwaters. This “re-use, recycle” approach would be both environmentally responsible, and in keeping with the location.
The murals could be an animal and plant identification guide – possibly the longest information panel ever! They could also pick up on a theme used elsewhere in Herne Bay and show a timeline in pictures from prehistory to the present day. Another possibility is that, like the pebble mosaic, they could be based on coastal-themed designs contributed by local schools.