Within the garden is an observatory which contained a 1930s reflector telescope once owned by astronomer Hedley Robinson and donated after his death to Teignmouth Community School by his son. Fellow astronomer Sir Patrick Moore was firm friends with Robinson and often came down to Devon to consult him. A tailor-made observatory was built within the walled garden to house the donated telescope and in 1996 the observatory was launched by Sir Patrick to local acclaim.
Through lack of funding and serious interest the observatory remains mothballed, but represents a potentially valuable asset both to the school, to local astronomy clubs and to the community as a whole. If a modern digitally enabled telescope were installed along with a new fibreglass dome, astronomical data could be streamed to the school, to a future information centre in the coach house and to community venues both locally and nation-wide. The cost of updating it would be relatively modest at around £5,000, but horticultural training is our priority and until funds are forthcoming specifically for the observatory it will have to remain mothballed.
A number of pupils from years 11 and 12 of Teignmouth Community School have the opportunity to benefit from horticultural training with us giving them the benefit of practical outdoor education and a potential pathway to alternative careers. Their lessons now also include teaching based on data from the garden’s small weather station. The educational benefits of the walled garden could in future be increased to enhance mainstream lessons in natural and environmental sciences.
Gardening courses and events
We maintain close connections with the Cliffden Hotel, which has a long history of providing holiday accommodation for the visually impaired and despite the recent change in ownership still welcomes the visually impaired to enjoy a holiday experience in Teignmouth alongside other holidaymakers. The grounds of the hotel provide a wealth of interesting plants, many specifically grown for their aromatic flowers and foliage, and provide an ideal opportunity to combine an interest in gardening with the pleasures of a seaside holiday. The hotel and its gardens provide excellent facilities for talks and lectures before participants move on to the walled garden. Our aim is for the local community to be thoroughly involved with the project and eventually reap the benefits of a fascinating local amenity. We will increase the frequency of open days – which also serve to raise funds – so that word of this jewel in Teignmouth’s crown can spread far and wide.