Grand unveiling of Harrogate's Japanese Garden

Coun Andy Paraskos with the award-winning volunteers. (1810023AM2)
Coun Andy Paraskos with the award-winning volunteers. (1810023AM2)

It was a mammoth undertaking, but they’ve done it - the Friends of Valley Gardens and Harrogate Borough Council have restored the town’s Japanese Garden to its former glory.

The Japanese Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the UK, Koji Tsuruoka, will be visiting Harrogate to open the Japanese Garden inside the Valley Gardens on October 17.

Coun Andy Paraskos with Jane Blayney, Ann Beeby and Liz Chidlow. (1810023AM3

Coun Andy Paraskos with Jane Blayney, Ann Beeby and Liz Chidlow. (1810023AM3

The ambassador will unveil a boulder carved with the name of the garden, Shijima no niwa, which means garden of serenity. During the afternoon the ambassador’s party will be given a tour of Harrogate's historical buildings, and there will be a best of Yorkshire buffet lunch in the Sun Pavillion for invited guests.

The ambitious restoration of the Japanese Garden has been made possible by the generous support of the National Lottery fund, and wouldn’t have happened without the hard-working Friends of Valley Gardens volunteers spearheading the project in partnership with Harrogate Borough Council’s parks and environmental services department.

The Japanese garden was first created in the late 1920s, and restoring it has been a labour of love for everyone involved. The Japanese Garden Society has been closely involved throughout the project, through their Honorary Vice Chairman Graham Hardman, who designed the restored garden, and Andy Bolton, the Coordinator for Yorkshire and Humber.

Volunteers have put in more than 2,500 hours of work into bringing the garden up to its current standard, alongside head gardener Simon Collier and his team. The garden has also had funding support from the Co-op Local Community Fund.

Robert Grange and Jackie Cooke get stuck in. (1810023AM1)

Robert Grange and Jackie Cooke get stuck in. (1810023AM1)

Community involvement from Harrogate High School’s art department, and students from Rossett School and Grove Academy has been an important part of the restoration - introducing young people to the garden’s heritage and to Japanese culture.

Rossett students have designed the information board and promotional material for the project, and artwork from Harrogate High School has been on continuous display.

The Japanese Garden Society, Batsford Arboretum in Gloucestershire, and a number of nurseries have provided plants, and North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Flower Club have donated the Pagoda and Kasuga Lanterns to the garden.

The Friends of Valley Gardens have organised a fundraising event on October 18 at Ashville College to celebrate the opening of the Japanese Gardens, where there will be a Sogetsu Ikebana demonstration by internationally-acclaimed Ikebana master Deborah Hathorn, who will demonstrate the popular Japanese art.

Deborah has been awarded the ‘Order of the Rising Sun Gold and Silver Rays’ by the Japanese Government for her work to introduce Japanese culture in the UK. Tickets costing £10 are available by emailing ann.beeby@googlemail.com. Tickets can also be found on eventbrite. Doors open for the event at 6.30pm.

About Friends of Valley Gardens

The Friends of Valley Gardens restore, maintain and enhance the Valley Gardens and promote the spa history and heritage of the area.

The group of volunteers has spearheaded dozens of projects over the years to improve our town’s green spaces. Only this year, the Chair of the group, Jane Blayney, was presented with an award at the Harrogate in Bloom awards for making an outstanding contribution to Team Harrogate’s In Bloom campaign.

Under Jane’s leadership, the Friends of the Valley Gardens have received a third consecutive platinum medal in the regional Yorkshire in Bloom awards.

Visit www.friendsofvalleygardens.co.uk to find out more about the work of Friends of Valley Gardens - their current projects, and to find out more about how to get involved with the group.