Award for transforming garden at former top-secret World War Two listening post in Chicksands

Captain Vicki Gosling and her volunteers have transformed the garden at the home of the Joint Intelligence Training Group

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 9:34 am
Updated Thursday, 8th April 2021, 9:38 am

A Chicksands army officer who lovingly brought back to life a walled garden in the home of a former top-secret World War Two listening post has been awarded two prestigious Ministry of Defence conservation awards.

Captain Vicki Gosling won the 'Silver Otter' and the 'Social Value, Community and Heritage' awards at the annual Defence Sanctuary Awards, which recognise outstanding conservation and sustainability effort across the MOD estate.

The community walled garden is part of Chicksands Priory which is today home to Defence Intelligence. The Priory played a huge part in World War Two by intercepting and logging

AFTER: the walled garden. Photo: MOD.
AFTER: the walled garden. Photo: MOD.

coded enemy transmissions which were sent directly to the world-famous Bletchley Park to be decoded and analysed.

A group of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers carried out an action plan to rescue the community walled garden, designed and led by Captain Vicki Gosling.

Captain Gosling said: “The team is extremely proud and thrilled to have won the awards. It is a fantastic testimony to the commitment of the team.”

The group began working on the project in November 2019 and the first few months saw them rigorously clearing what had become a wilderness due to years of neglect.

AFTER: the walled garden. Photo: MOD.

Waist-high grass was chopped down to reveal memorial plaques to members of the Y service, a unit of radio operators who operated secret radio-listening stations here in the UK and around the world during World War Two.

Plants were propagated and sold in the gardens, raising over £500 to purchase tools for the community of volunteers to use. As the garden grew in beauty, so did the pool of volunteers,

corralled by head gardener Annie Bamber, who could see its potential and wanted to help.

Multiple allotments have been created using old railway sleepers which were destined for landfill and vegetable beds have also been restored. Tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers and squashes are just a few of the vegetables that are flourishing and the borders and flowers are also thriving.

BEFORE: the walled garden. Photo: MOD.

Volunteer Katie Greenwood has worked to restore the Black Hamburg vine which now has a burgeoning grape crop where last year there was none. The plan is to produce a Walled Garden Muscat wine that will be auctioned to raise further funds.

However, there is still work to be done, the next stage is to restore the glasshouse. In the meantime, the military and local community can enjoy this beautifully restored garden.

Speaking about the walled garden the Minister for Defence Procurement, the Honourable Jeremy Quin MP, who presented the virtual awards, said: “The judges were impressed with the stunning garden transformation photographs, which were like finding a secret garden. The project has great social value, a community project, with heritage, volunteering, wildlife, green space, community well-being and also, not to be forgotten, military benefit.”

BEFORE: the walled garden. Photo: MOD.
AFTER: the walled garden. Photo: MOD.
AFTER: the walled garden. Photo: MOD.