The recent fires within Rivington were featured heavily in the national headlines and brought the community together, working alongside the firefighters, other emergency services and volunteers to save the historic Terraced Gardens.
This prompted vivid memories of my time as a child, where I spent many hours in the Terraced Gardens within The Leverhulme Estate at Rivington. It transported me to a magical place, filled with intricate pathways, where beams of sunshine reflected off the still waters of the lake.
I can still smell the heady scent of the exotic flowers that filled the air, as my little legs clambered up the seemingly endless steps, archways and intricate pathways where we played endless games of hide and seek.
The succulent glistening fruits which came with war wounds - as the best were always deep within the brambles - were quickly forgotten, made their way into blackberry pies which I can still taste if I close my eyes.
I hadn’t been up to the gardens for a very long time - partly because I have complex health conditions which have now made the route up to the gardens impossible.
Recently I had re-engaged with the gardens when I volunteered with the Research Group that is specifically looking at renovating the Japanese Garden as part of the Lottery Funded renovation, and as part of a project developing inclusive experiences within the overall renovation.
As a sign of their appreciation, the Emergency Services who worked so hard to save the gardens from the fire at Rivington Heritage Trust put on “The Big Thank You “ https://www.2br.co.uk/news/local-news/2673079/rivington-terraced-gardens-to-celebrate-the-end-of-winter-hill-blaze/
This really was a truly spectacular event, made all the more special by the inclusive nature of the event and the practical responses - both prior to and at the event itself.
I have to admit to overcoming a last minute wobble and nearly didn't attend, but I am so glad that I took that leap of faith. On arrival at the designated parking area, there were friendly faces who were well informed about where to go and how I would be transported to the event on The Great Lawn, in what at the time sounded like a rather daunting journey in a mountain-rescue vehicle.
I needn’t have worried! I met with a group of volunteers who escorted me to what I now know to be mountain goats disguised as motor vehicles which navigated the route up to the gardens with ease, and it was actually really exciting to see the gardens emerging on the incredibly smooth ride, considering the Terrain.
Once at The Gardens, the usual apprehension kicked in - How far was it now?.. I needed to be careful so that I didn't fall (- I did want to avoid a third 6-week spell in a cast on crutches)... Would there be somewhere to sit? How do you navigate crutches and a pastie, never mind trying to carry a drink?
And yet, all of these fears just melted away! The Team had thought of everything - a pathway had been laid from the entrance leading to a viewing platform with seating positioned just right.. not too close to the stage, not hidden away out of sight, but right in the heart of the activities... and for those who needed it, an “ Accessible Loo “ was close by too.
It wasn’t too long before another volunteer popped up asking if I needed any help. It was all so refreshing and great to see the responses which had been promised, all put into action in such a positive way.
I spent the next two hours taking it all in - Yes I know, when your whole world revolves around creating inclusive experiences, it's hard to switch off and just enjoy it. It was an intimate event, with just the right balance of food, drinks and activities for the families of the firefighters and others who had literally battled to save this magical place from the raging fires that threatened to engulf it.
The entertainment was great a mix of bands, thank-you speeches and entertainers.
I met some lovely people there. The universe works in mysterious ways and in particular, with the Nan of one of the performers. She is definitely his biggest fan. She started chatting to me about her grandson who was performing at the event, who is from the deaf community, and who will now be taking part in an event I am hosting in November, which I can tell you all about another time.
Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to see it out till the end. In true Cinderella-fashion - as those of you reading this who experience chronic pain and fatigue will relate to - I made a timely exit. Once again I was introduced to the delights of the motorised mountain goats, which really did hang onto the hill at times, to see me to my car.
The perfectionist in me picked up on a few points that could have been added to the event to make it a more inclusive experience. Yes of course there is still a way to go to get wheelchair users up to the gardens - unfortunately they could not transfer into the Land-rovers - I can see some type of zip-wire lift in the future, or a trailer contraption) - and to make this response available at all times. But you know what? Hand on heart, it won me over purely on the efforts made and the continuity of response, from first-point-of-contact till the end of my time within The Gardens that day.
Out of sight, I have to admit to being quite emotional and shedding a few tears as it brought back so many magical memories, alongside the overwhelming sense of honour I felt at be part of such a wonderful renovation project which truly has inclusion at the heart of it.