I moved to Ramsgate 5 years ago. It was only a few days after arriving in Ramsgate, I found myself walking along the cliff top and passed, what I discovered were the Winterstoke Gardens and Sun Palace and down the Chine to the sea. I was blown away. The area encompasses nearly half a mile of sculpted rock gardens and a grecian type Sun Palace. Whilst these gardens were seriously overgrown with seeded trees, splitting the sculpted Pulhamite pods, it was impossible not to see the magnificence and potential of the area. I could immediately see how the now derelict Sun Palace should be an open air theatre where plays and concerts could be performed right above the sea. The Fountains above the Sun Palace were dry and full of leaves and weeds and some had been filled with concrete. Since that first meeting with this run down beauty, I worked, initially, with just one other motivated local man. Over the past four years, the numbers of volunteers have grown from one or two to now a regular 14-20, and passers-by no longer lament the area's demise but now eulogise over the transformation that we have brought.
The Grade 2 listed Winterstoke Gardens, Sun Palace and Chine, were built in the early 1920's and had been planted with scented plants for the visually impaired soldiers returning from the first world war. In the garden's early years there would have been teams of gardeners lovingly tending this beautiful landmark. However, time passed and Local Authorities re-organised and so the Winterstoke area was passed to the local District Council nearly 50 years ago. Until volunteers began taking care of the area 4 years ago, it had become seriously neglected and very over grown - a shadow of it's original well tended beauty.
With our expanding numbers of happy volunteers the area has seen marked transformation. We have donated thousands of hours of our own time, collected thousands of sacks of waste, and planted many hundreds of plants grown from seed, by some of our own green fingered volunteers. Also, we have benefitted from cash and plant donations from appreciative passers-by, Waitrose and our Town Council.
What we are wanting to achieve:-
Now, we are wanting to repair the many vandalised seats on the Chine and the Sun Palace, we are wanting to paint the gorgeous Sun Palace with anti - graffiti paint (in consultation with our English Heritage advisors) to prevent the mindless and constant damage caused by vandalism (this paint is extremely expensive but necessary as the constant cleaning of graffiti is damaging this magnificent listed building).
We are wanting to purchase shrubs and perennials for all year round colour and interest and to provide good ground cover.
We are wanting to varnish the benches at the top of the gardens, which provide beautiful resting places to rest and take in the magnificent views.
Our volunteers and the thousands of passers by, find the improving magnificent gardens, therapeutic and soothing to the soul, we would love to have more funds to achieve even better results.
Our long term vision:-
is to have the Sun Palace and the fountains above, fully restored. We hope, then, that the Sun Palace can be blessed for civil weddings, licensed for live performances of music and theatre. We would love the fountains restored. We would like the lawn in front of the Sun Palace to be beautifully maintained so that games of croquet can be played.
Thousands of people walk through the area each year. As the gardens become obviously better tended, people notice and are delighted, but they lament the terrible waste and degradation of the formal Sun palace and the fountains. We would like the Winterstoke gardens, Sun Palace and Chine to be recognised as the iconic landmark that it is and as a venue that can generate resources that can help improve employment and a sense of value for local people of all ages.