Friday, December 21, 2007

Stoke-on-Trent Garden Festival
The Stoke-on-Trent National Garden Festival was the second of Britain's National Garden Festivals. It was held in the city from 1 May to 26 October 1986, and involved the reclamation of one half of the site of the Shelton Bar steelworks (1830-1978), about two miles north-west of the city centre, between Hanley and Burslem. The other half of the area remained a working site for British Steel's Shelton Bar steel rolling mill.

Commemorative memorabilia
The main site was completed in 1995, and is now known as Festival Park. It was, for the most part, sympathetically treated by St. Modwen Properties who had taken on its management and development. Much of the parkland, pools and trails have been retained as public open space, and are maturing very well. Some of the gardens, such as the Moorlands Heather Rock Garden and The Rocky Valley, survive with their planting scheme relatively intact. Although most wooden structures have been left to return to nature, Festival Park is actively maintained by groundsmen. Some sculpture and a large Welsh slate water feature still remains, as does the full-size stone circle. The huge wooden suspension bridge across a wooded ravine remains and can still be used. The complex network of paths is maze-like, there is no signage, and it is very easy to get lost.
There is now a large 'out-of-town' retail park on one side of the site - on what was the Festival's car-park and public market area - that now merges into the lower reaches of the city-centre. Elsewhere, numerous low-rise offices nestle in the parkland and around the pools of Festival Park. There is a large marina for narrowboats. Along the main road on the western edge of the site there is now a large pleasure baths, a ski-slope, a ten-screen cinema, a ten-pin bowling alley, and a toboggan run. Festival Park's large four-star hotel incorporates Etruria Hall, former home of Josiah Wedgwood.
Groundwork UK created a £1-million cycle-path along the bordering Trent and Mersey Canal in 1998, which is now part of the National Cycle Network.
At the northern tip of the site, the large complex of Festival greenhouses has been retained and these now operate as the City Council's plant nursery for the entire city..