Friends of Meads Parks and Gardens
Thursday 27th July 2017 was a very special day for the Friends because it marked our first significant achievement - the planting of two stone pines and the installation of a board celebrating the lives of two remarkable Meads residents, Elizabeth and Molly Sedgwick.
What started out as one of our short-term objectives in 2016 – the sorting out of a sad looking flowerbed - became a journey of discovery at the heart of which is a story of courage, heroism and a daughter’s devotion.
It begins in 1902 when the sixteen-year-old Elizabeth got a job as a waitress at the Alexandra Palace – fondly known as the Ally Pally. Overhearing two men who needed someone to be a target for a Wild West Act in which an apple was shot off a girl’s head, she volunteered on the spot. That thirst for adventure was to play a major part in shaping her future.
Elizabeth went on to become Dolly Shepherd, the Edwardian Lady Parachutist, thrilling the crowds by descending from a balloon filled with hot air, thousands of feet up. She would hang from her parachute gripping a trapeze bar, with a safety-belt round her waist and her legs in a sling.
But one day in 1908, aged just 21, Dolly proved that she was not just a shallow thrill seeker when she carried out the world’s first ever mid-air rescue. She and another parachutist, Louie May, were about to perform a double descent when Louie May found that she was unable to detach herself from the balloon. Dolly could have left her to her fate and descended safely on her own. Instead, she released her companion’s safety belt, told her to take her legs out of the sling and put them round her own waist and let go of her parachute. Dolly then released her own parachute, pulled the rip-cord and they crash-landed together.
Louie May survived without a scratch but Dolly was paralysed and told that she would never walk again. Needless to say, she confounded everyone by not only walking but also parachuting again eight weeks later!
Then, in 2004 at the age of 84, Dolly’s devoted daughter Molly performed a 13,000ft parachute jump with the Red Devils to commemorate her mother’s selfless and heroic act. When Molly died in 2005 she left £1,000 to be used in memory of her mother. Here the story turns full circle as that bequest had been spent to create the flowerbed which the Friends set out to improve in 2016.
The beautiful stone pines which have now been planted in honour of Dolly and Molly are sometimes called ‘Parasol Pines’. Perhaps, given time, these particular trees could become known as the ‘Parachute Pines’.
We hope that over the years, when people stop to read the interpretation board and learn about these two extraordinary women, they will find their story truly inspirational.
The Friends would like to thank Meads councillors Kathy Ballard, Robert Smart and Barry Taylor for making funds available from the devolved budget and to Christine Aldous, EBC Senior Specialist Adviser, for her expertise and advice in helping to make it happen.
The photo below was taken on 27th July after a brief ceremony attended by Councillors Robert Smart and Kathy Ballard together with Meads Community Association (MCA) Chairman Dennis Scard, FMPG Chair Terrie Rintoul, members of the MCA and FMPG Committees, Christine Aldous and Dolly Shepherd enthusiast Debra Wallace.
A new addition to the Helen Garden - July 2017.
Following the planting in January of the two stone pines to celebrate the lives of Elizabeth Sedgwick, also known as Dolly Shepherd, and her daughter Molly Sedgwick, an interpretation board has been placed close to the trees. This tells the story of Dolly and Molly and gives more information about the two trees which perhaps over time will become known as the parachute pines.
The information board will be formally 'unveiled' later on in the month. We will publish the date when this is confirmed. In the meantime here are some pictures of the board and the trees in the background.
Thanks again to Meads Councillors for making funds available through the devolved budget to create this beautiful addition to the Helen Garden.
Great news for The Helen Garden
We have just heard from Gareth Williams, Senior Specialist Adviser at Eastbourne Borough Council that his capital bid to replace three pieces of play equipment in The Helen Garden has been successful.
Fellow Council Specialist Christine Aldous will now be obtaining quotes for new equipment. The top three designs will be taken into local schools where the children will have the final say by voting for the equipment that they like the best.
Gareth tells us that the Council has been using this method for over ten years and it has proved to be very successful. The children feel a sense of 'ownership' having been part of the decision making process creating play areas that are less prone to vandalism in future years.
Terrie Rintoul, Chair of the Friends is delighted by the news: "Of the three parks and gardens within our remit it is The Helen Garden that is particularly loved by families with young children. The replacement of these three tired and outdated pieces of equipment in the play area will provide them with even greater enjoyment. This will also tick a big box in our strategic plan which is just brilliant."
The pictures below show the equipment to be replaced. Bring it on!
Regular visitors to The Helen Garden may have already noticed the two beautiful Stone Pines that have been planted either side of the path leading to the centre of the Bowling Green fence - see photos.
Our thanks to Meads Councillor Kathy Ballard for making the funds available through the devolved budget and Lee Michael (the Council's tree specialist) and his team for doing a great job planting and staking the trees.
Also known as Umbrella Pines because of their habit of forming a full high canopy, the trees have been planted to celebrate the achievements of Eastbourne residents Mrs Elizabeth Sedgwick, also known as Dolly Shepherd, the Edwardian Lady Parachutist, and her devoted daughter Miss Molly Sedgwick.
When Molly was in her mid eighties she completed a freefall parachute jump with the Red Devils to commemorate a daring mid-air rescue carried out by her mother in 1908.
Molly raised over £6,000 which she donated to St John's Church Meads, St Wilfred's Hospice and the Poppy Fund.
As these stunning trees continue to grow in The Helen Garden it is hoped that they will become known by another name: The Parachute Pines.