There can be few greater delights than a wander through a wood on a cold winters day, and sadly, few more dispiriting than a visit to a municipal park on the same day.
Fairchild’s Garden may be fair of name, but hardly of nature, which is a huge pity as it’s named after an important horticulturalist.
Thomas Fairchild was an English gardener and writer of many books on plants based in Hoxton who is noted for helping to discover that plants have a sex – in that they have males and females.
When you think about it, hayfever is just humans suffering when plants have sex.
The park was renamed in 2017 from the Hackney Road Recreation Ground to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Thomas Fairchild’s birth.
This desolate park, the former Shoreditch Burying Ground, was established in the 18th century and was superseded by a range of 19th-century almshouses. One memorial stone survives within the burial ground marking the grave of Thomas Fairchild, who according to the Worshipful Company of Gardeners, was buried ‘by his own request in the furthest corner of the churchyard of the Parish of St Leonard in Shoreditch’, where the poor were usually buried. Late 19th-century records describe an ‘ancient watch-house’ in the burial ground that was later used as a cholera hospital, prior to the site being redeveloped as recreation ground in 1892.
Although its framed by some London plane trees, the rest of the space is very run down, even by winter standards. It’s not helped by the fact that most of the park is actually tarmac — with a large central space a sea of barren gray.
The council is fundraising to try and do something with the park, and it needs it. Then an important gardener may finally have a garden worthy of his name.