The Peace of Pilley garden

Somewhat north of Sheffield, immediately west of J36 on the M1, sits the quiet little village of Pilley near Tankersley. I was passing near this very place on a cycle ride last Wednesday, when the oppressive heat meant I’d finished all my water supplies. Along with an insatiable desire for flapjack, my need for fluids led me into the village itself.

My three initial encounters with Pilley residents were all very promising: the pair of polite, kind tween boys who saw I was nearing death and pointed me in the direction of the village shop; the shop customer, who chatted with me about the weather; and the owner, who chatted with me too but a red mist was beginning to descend as I contemplated my immediate fizzy-drink future.

But it was the welcome I received from Pilley’s small communal garden that’s stayed with me the most:


The gardens only occupy a quarter of a circle, itself perhaps sixteen metres in diameter. But as you can see above a (edit: birch) tree with a weeping habit provided perfect shade over a bench on which I sat to rehydrate. They were created in 2004 by a team of volunteers and with (in part) EU money that they sadly might not see again now.

There are beds of Alchemilla mollis, euonymous, tiny spruces, geraniums and other plants you might expect in such a garden:


No surprises, perhaps, but a lesson in how to build a self-sustaining public garden, with nary a bedding plant in sight! The garden was backed by hawthorns, tall shrubs, more conifers and a fruiting amelanchier (edit: thanks for the ID, @helenintgarden!):


(Trees aren’t my strong point!)

Although you might not find it anywhere on the web, the title of this blogpost reflects the garden’s own declared name: the same poster board that detailed the garden’s own history is titled “Peace of Pilley”, and explains that the garden is both a local shared space and also a commemoration of the Wharncliffe Silkstone Colliery disaster of 1914, in which 11 local men lost their lives. This explains the sculpture on site:


Nobody in Pilley is likely to say that the Peace of Pilley was a garden that you should go out of your way to visit; nor, probably, would they thank me for saying so! But it’s a neat, caring, sensitive use of what would otherwise be some brownfield site of rubble and brambles, and for a few minutes on a baking July day, it made me feel at home.

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