AT THE HEART OF BRIGHTON, amidst the quaint winding roads, charming cafes, seaside fairground and the unfortunately frequent bachelorette party, sprawls a garden bejeweled with flowers, and furnished with an exotic palace. The Royal Pavilion Garden is one of a few fully-restored Regency gardens in the United Kingdom, sharing an estate with King George IV's former palace, the Brighton Museum and the Dome Concert Hall. Reinstated in the 90s according to John Nash's 1820 plans, the garden features curving paths, picturesque views and a variety of plants conforming as closely as possible to the original list supplied to the king. Maintained under organic guidelines, the garden uses chemical-free planting techniques that encourage the return of wildlife to the city center.
But wildlife, it seems, is not the only thing the garden cultivates. Functioning more like a public park, the Royal Pavilion Garden sees itself providing a fairy tale setting to contemporary life. People hang out here, play music, stroll, sunbathe, read, take a nap, meet up or have a picnic. They walk through the garden before work, after work, and even come by on their lunch break. On both weekdays and weekends, people come to the garden with their families, colleagues, friends and lovers, with some romances blossoming while others coming to an end. "One couple were obviously trying desperately to sort out whatever problems they had, but in the end they walked off down different paths… it was like a short story." recounted head gardener Robert Hill-Snook to The Guardian. "I’ve been here since 1988 and I’m still fascinated."
I feel fortunate to share some of Mr. Hill-Snook's fascination. Having spent some time in Brighton in the spring, I had a handful of opportunities to visit this exotic world within a world. I would wander along its paths coming back from the shops, and walk through it on the way to dinner. My boyfriend and I also cut through here the night we celebrated his new directorial role. The palace is majestic in the evening.
To behold the garden in its full splendor however, I endorse a visit by day. See the squirrels scurry, the branches sway and the flower-dotted foliage part like curtains to reveal ornate domes, pinnacles and minarets. With gardens known to commonly offer cultivation, observation and relaxation, the Royal Pavilion Garden must also be recognized for offering inspiration. Anything that brings the exotic into the mundane, however momentarily, must have some magic in it.
Royal Pavilion Garden, Brighton. brightonmuseums.org.uk Photos by Lady San Pedro and Jaime Sese.