THE Lost Gardens of Taunton.

We bought a terraced house 45 years ago, but it had a large square shop window built off the front garden concreted over.

The whole window shook when a heavy lorry passed, so it had to come down to be replaced by a traditional bay window.

In the works we discovered the original foundations were widened brick and the main beam across the window opening was a railway sleeper. Our 1904 house was built without any concrete, so it follows all the concreted gardens happened later, perhaps when homes were “modernised”.

Around the bay window we laid Candy buff patterned paving bricks to match our historic front path. The paving laid on sand with open joints works as sustainable urban drainage.

A good thing with old terraced houses - the rain down pipes are far apart and in really heavy rain the old gutters overflow at various points down the street.

In 1904, they did not have Building Regulations that planned for climate change, just like we have today.

Around the perimeter of the paving is band of topsoil. Herbaceous plants love it, there is shelter from the adjoining walls, they spread over the bricks, and in dry times gain moisture from under the bricks. Key plants are a Salvia Hot Lips, a bush which flowers for six months of the year, wild bees love it and for maximum impact we planted a star jasmine which climbs to the roof eaves, but this needs ladder access for pruning, carefully, as BT wires look just like stems!

In Taunton town centre there are around 700 terraced homes with small brick enclosed garden areas, perhaps with an original front door path made of stone slabs bricks or ceramic tiles, but alongside most is recent impervious concrete or slabs. Yes a few with rubbish bins too, but bins will get smaller.

Very different to the frontages shown in our garden town planning documents for new suburban housing neighbourhoods.

In the Priory area today new houses have no real front gardens, just gravel: this does nothing for wildlife. A “garden town” does not need a “gravel town” centre.

In green field developments around Taunton just one new three bed home, with its garage, pavings and estate roads causes 80m2 of lovely topsoil to be removed. Enough topsoil to transform around 20 terraced house small front gardens.

We need to capture some of this, to inspire householders and tenants.

Our council’s evolving garden town planning documents must become more inclusive in improving our oldest terraced streets.

by ROGER HOUSE
Victoria Park Action Group