10 April 2022

The Secret Garden in
Wolverton has transformed
a once derelict canal-side site

The Secret Garden is one of the hidden gems of Wolverton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

During my stroll around the railway town of Wolverton last week, I visited one of the hidden gems of this part of Milton Keynes – the Secret Garden. This former patch of derelict land alongside the Grand Union Canal has been transformed by a group of local residents into a new greenspace for the enjoyment of all the community.

The once derelict site had previously been the site of four villas or semi-detached villas or townhouses built in the early Victorian era by the London and Birmingham Railway Company to house some of the important members of the management of the railway works. One house was the residence of the Station Master for Wolverton.

The houses were family homes from the 1840s. But by the late 1960s they were in a state of neglect and were demolished.

A group of local residents formed a committee in 1999 to pursue the project to turn the land into a community garden. They eventually evolved into the Wolverton Secret Garden Society, and they clubbed together to persuade Railtrack to sell the piece of derelict land to the Town Council for £1.

The council then leased the land to the residents’ group to create a garden and small park that some residents felt was missing from the largely industrial area. The patch of derelict land beside the Grand Union Canal was transformed into a greenspace for the enjoyment of all of the community.

The Secret Garden has transformed a patch of derelict land beside the Grand Union Canal (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The name of the Secret Garden came from the favourite childhood book of one of the group members, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, in which children go through a hidden door and discover an overgrown garden that is mystical and magical.

As this garden has matured, it has become a magical space for children from the age of 3 to 103. The Secret Garden can only be accessed on foot or on bicycle, either from the canal tow path or from Stratford Road near the train station.

In an archaeological project involving schoolchildren, the foundations and cellars of two of these houses have been excavated and they now form a feature in the Secret Garden.

The Secret Garden is maintained by volunteers and hosts outdoor music events in the summer months. It is open to all throughout the year.

The silhouette metal arch above the footpath into this small park features trains, wagons, and people, and the words The Secret Garden. But this Secret Garden remain one of the hidden gems of Wolverton.

A sculpture in the Secret Garden in Wolverton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

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