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Garden festival site reopens

Larry Neild first through gates to land time forgot

Written by . Published on April 29th 2012.

Garden festival site reopens

IT'S been a long and thorny road, but in just a month's time, the International Garden Festival site will reopen to the public after lying derelict for years. 

The good news is admission to the 90-acre area of ornamental gardens and woodlands will be free. Dogs on leads will also be allowed. 

Star attractions will be the Chinese and Japanese gardens as well as a rocky, cascading waterfall and a hilltop platform with spectacular views across the Mersey and the Welsh mountains. 


The IGF opened for six months in 1984 as a show-piece to demonstrate to the world Liverpool was still in business after the Toxteth riots. 

It attracted 3m visitors and the hope was that come the end of the festival, the site would be allocated for housing and other uses, with the bulk of the gardens being taken over by Liverpool City Council. 

In the event the council said no, and the site struggled after that. For a while, under the name Pleasure Island, it was a playground for young and old alike, with the familiar covered dome at the heart of the attraction.

DerelictDerelictBut it became overgrown, abandoned and vandalised – with the dome being delmolished. The sorry state of the site even generated the anger of high ranking Japanese officials. Their country had gifted a stunning Japanese garden on condition it was cared for ever.

St Helens based development company Langtree came to the rescue a few years ago with a plan that would see restoration of 70 acres of the festival gardens, along with the development of over 1,300 homes on 25 acres centred around what was the original dome, towards the promenade.

Fun while it lasted in 1984Fun while it lasted in 1984While some were critical of apartment blocks fronting a short stretch of the prom, others took the more pragmatic view it was a trade-off to secure a future for the gardens.

Although work has yet to start on Langtree's residential development, the company, true to its word, has ensure the gardens have been restored at a cost of £4.5m.

Even with Langtree's commitment to restoration, the work has hit problems. Both the contractor responsible for transforming the site and Groundwork Merseyside who were to manage the gardens, collapsed.

Langtree Development director Stephen Barnes said: “It's been a long road, with plenty of potholes along the way, but we are pleased and proud to say we have now completed work on the Festival Gardens.”

The weekend preview – the first of several “test runs” – ended with a firework spectacular over the Mersey.

The gardens will be managed by the Land Trust.






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8 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Darth FormbyApril 30th 2012.

I loved this place when it was overgrown and derelict. You could sneak in through a hole in the fence and go exploring!

Lis EdgarApril 30th 2012.

Excellent news

Hadassah GroveMay 1st 2012.

I never went in there when it was open. £6 was a lot of money in 1984, even to those of us who had jobs.

Michael MyersMay 1st 2012.

We all worked on the Community Programme which Thatcher's government introduced.

After being unemployed for six months you got a year's work contract, with decent market rate wages, on all sorts of interesting schemes in the community and marginalised districts: arts, music, charities, youth work, and sports projects - and the IGF.

It made all sorts of sense and a difference to communities - and gave you real skills to put on your CV.

My own career and the fortunes of so many big-shots I know in Liverpool were massively kick-started by those CPs.

This was in the days when we all hated Thatcher, Hezza et al, and with good reason, I add.

Still, you wouldn't get Community Programmes and interest invested in areas now under Cameron and the posh boys. Now there is no hope of climbing out of the rot. I hope everyone who voted them is thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

BobMay 1st 2012.

Mary-former Toxteth resident looking forward to the new IGF.

Do we have to have what promises to be a beautiful space ruined by dogs whose owners will take them to the toilet therefore preventing the rest of us from sitting on the grass. Don't say they clean up after their dogs as it is not possible to make a fouled area clean enough for little kids to play. Take example from Ness Gardens . . no dogs and it is lovely!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jack RussellMay 1st 2012.

Take children to the new museums - there's nothing in them for anyone over the age of ten these days.

Andy MeliaMay 1st 2012.

Let the likkle doggies in but keep the humans on a lead I say

Yaffle ChucklebuttyMay 1st 2012.

Great. But what a tradgedy we lost the amazing velodrome, which would / should have been a fantastic exhibition site. Sadly the timing was never going to be right. We lacked the ability, the will or the investment to make it work at the time. Liverpool is a different place now, still many problems but a better vision of what we could be in the future. If we can get it right.

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