Kearsney Abbey and Russell Gardens Fly the Flag as Two of the Country's Best Parks

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Kearsney Abbey and Russell Gardens have been awarded The Green Flag Award®, the first parks owned and managed by Dover District Council (DDC) to receive the prestigious recognition. 

The Green Flag Award® scheme recognises and rewards well managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of recreational outdoor spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world.

Achieving The Green Flag Award® was one of the aims of the ‘Parks for People’ project with the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund.

‘From Mills to Mawson: Uncovering the Hidden Heritage of Kearsney Abbey & Russell Gardens’ saw £3.1m invested across both parks to conserve and interpret heritage features, deliver high quality and accessible visitor facilities and activities, and to manage them to high heritage and horticultural standards.

Key elements of the three-year project included: 

  • Restoring Thomas Mawson’s Grade II Listed landscape in Russell Gardens
  • Restoring the Grade II Listed Billiards Room in Kearsney Abbey to provide a new community space
  • Improving visitor facilities, including a café extension in Kearsney Abbey
  • Making the parks accessible to all with new pathways and a Changing Places facility
  • Enhancing wildlife habitats, such as opening up culverts to improve fish migration and spawning in Kearsney Abbey, and re-planting the orchard in Russell Gardens
  • Restoring the circular lakeside walk in Kearsney Abbey
  • Providing a new natural play space in Russell Gardens
  • Creating opportunities for people to volunteer in the maintenance of the parks
  • Providing facilities for people to learn about parkland heritage and biodiversity
  • Developing a range of educational resources linked to the National Curriculum
  • Providing apprenticeships for young people to gain horticultural skills
  • Bringing new audiences to the parks with events and workshops.

Commenting on the news that Kearsney Abbey and Russell Gardens have both achieved the Green Flag Award standard, Green Flag Award Scheme Manager Paul Todd said: “I would like to congratulate everyone involved in making the Kearsney Parks worthy of a Green Flag Award.

“To meet the requirements demanded by the scheme is testament to the hard work of the staff and volunteers who do so much to ensure that Kearsney Abbey and Russell Gardens have high standards of horticulture, safety and environmental management and is a place that supports people to live healthy lives.”

Cllr Oliver Richardson, DDC cabinet member for community and corporate property, said: “We’re delighted to receive The Green Flag Award for Kearsney Abbey and Russell Gardens.  It’s recognition of all the hard work that has gone into improving the parks.

“Our thanks to the National Lottery for helping to fund the improvements, and to the many partners who supported the project.

“I’d also like to thank all our park users and volunteers who continue to support Kearsney Abbey and Russell Gardens.  They too play a key role in maintaining the park.”

Jennifer Coller, Kearsney Parks project manager, said: “The Green Flag Award is the culmination of ten years of work from preparing the initial National Lottery bid in 2012. 

“It’s been the biggest investment in the parks since they came into public ownership and has involved a huge amount of detailed research and planning.  Throughout the project our top priority has been to protect and enhance the parks’ wonderful habitats and heritage.

“Thank you to the park users and neighbours for bearing with us during the works.  We hope that the community too will be proud to see The Green Flag flying at the parks.

“The work doesn’t stop, however!  We now have a ten-year management and maintenance plan to help keep standards high.”

Notes to editors:

About The Green Flag Award Scheme

The Green Flag Award Scheme is run by the environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, under licence from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, in partnership with Keep Scotland Beautiful, Keep Wales Tidy and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.

About the Kearsney Parks

Kearsney Abbey and Russell Gardens are the most popular, historic parks in Dover. They are located 2.5 miles north west of Dover town centre in the Alkham Valley, part of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 

Both parks are carefully designed landscapes. The River Dour, a spring-fed chalk stream, flows through the parks. Combined with ornamental lakes, this gives the parks a picturesque landscape style. 

The origins of both parks can be traced back to grand country houses and estates built for prominent local industrialists in the early 19th and 20th centuries.

Russell Gardens

Russell Gardens is Grade II Listed in the English Heritage Register of Parks & Gardens of Special Historic Interest.

Originally part of Kearsney Court, the landscape was designed by the renowned Edwardian landscape architect, Thomas H. Mawson (1861-1933). Kearsney Court is believed to be one of the first independent commissions by Mawson and is a very rare example of his work in the south east.

Several set piece photographs of Kearsney Court were included in Mawson's book, The Art & Craft of Garden Making, which became a standard reference in its day.

The challenging steep terrain of the Alkham Valley provided Mawson with the ideal opportunity to create his signature design features - great terraces, pergolas, and architectural features in a garden context.

The magnificent 170m long canal pond, and Palladian-style pergola bridges and boathouse pavilion form the central architectural features of the park.

Kearsney Abbey

Although never a monastic estate, the history of Kearsney Abbey can be traced back to the Norman Conquest.

The park as it exists today can be attributed to John Minet Fector, a local banker and merchant, who built a grand mansion on the site between 1820-1822.

Two adjoining ornamental lakes on the course of the River Dour provide a haven for water fowl. Kearsney Abbey also has a fine collection of specimen trees, including Beech, Lime and Yew. A prominent feature is a Cedar of Lebanon which is believed to be one of the oldest specimens in the country.

Posted on 14 October 2021

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