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Old School Grounds blossom in Anglia in Bloom competition

The gardens of Ashton Grove, aprestigious residential conversion of a Victorian school in Dunstable to 113 newly built and converted homes by leading developer Weston Homes, has received a Certificate of Nomination in the Best Commercial/ Industrial Area category in the Anglia in Bloom competition.

Ashton Grove, once Ashton Middle School originally founded in 1728 with high profile alumni including Gary Cooper and Kevin McCloud, was recently restored by Weston Homes. The Ashton Grove gardens are the old school playing grounds which Weston Homes has rejuvenated and modernised into beautiful green spaces, flower/planting beds and sculptures providing a tranquil garden in which residents can relax and socialise.  Weston Homes have also retained the original, red brick Victorian school buildings, built in 1887-1888, which are complimented by new-build apartment buildings and townhouses designed to harmonise with the architecture of the original school buildings.

The competition, Anglia in Bloom, ­­covers all six regions in the east of England including Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, and Suffolk. It is part of the Royal Horticultural Society’s wider ‘Britain in Bloom’ competition and was established in 2014 in the hope of preserving Britain’s villages and towns. This year, other categories to win included Best Community Project, Best Sustainable Garden, Best Young People’s Project and Best Public House.

On the day, a volunteer from Anglia in Bloom gave the judges a short presentation on the Ashton Grove gardens before embarking on an outside tour. After viewing the gardens, the judges discussed their verdicts at Priory House and Gardens in Dunstable and met John Kane, the Mayor of Dunstable, and other dignitaries.

Bob Weston, Chairman & CEO of Weston Homes, commented: "With the striking Grade II listed school building at Ashton Grove, it was important to design gardens that paid homage to the school’s history. Our landscapers worked hard to retain the history of the garden and the playground it had once been.’’ 

Before Weston Homes revived the gardens, the former playground was mostly hard standing and featured an infilled swimming pool and other, more modern, lower quality buildings.  Weston Homes removed these features to create a smart green garden that flatters the elegant surrounding red brick facades. Specialist landscapers chose diverse plants which would further promote a range of ecological benefits and provide a pleasant space for the residents to use, engage and socialise together.

An interesting artwork feature of the Ashton Grove garden is the World War One memorial located in the centre of the garden. The original sculpture was created by school pupils in 2014 who were inspired by Frederick Chapman Clemesha’s Canadian Brooding Soldier statue, which is located in the Saint Julien Memorial Site in Belgium. Clemesha’s sculpture resembled a serviceman standing in ‘reverse arms’, with his gun barrel pointing to the floor and his hands resting on the stock. The students took this image and created four wooden soldiers back to back in the same ‘reversed arms’ pose. 

The students left the sculpture at Ashton Middle School after vacating the site and Weston Homes reconstructed it from sheet metal and mounted it in a stone plinth. Weston Homes also thoughtfully inscribed the statue with the names of the school pupils who gave their lives during World War One, a touching tribute to the history of the school. 

The former Victorian school buildings consist of the retained main Victorian school building, science building and gymnasium, all built in 1887-1888. Weston Homes added four newapartment buildings which contain 93 one, two, and three bedroom apartments and 20 three and four bedroom houses to the site. All the buildings were all designed to complement the Victorian school.

Each individual home within this new community features modern and luxury fixtures and fittings, including outstanding designer kitchens with quartz stone worktops along with remarkable high specification bathrooms with porcelain tiling, all finished to the highest quality. 

Ashton Grove is located off the High Street North (A505), 32 miles north of London, 15 miles south of Milton Keynes, and 9 miles west of Luton. From Luton, it is just a 23 minute train journey to central London making Ashton Grove ideal for city commuters. 

Prices for homes at Ashton Grove start from £185,000 for a one bedroom apartment and £372,500 for a three bedroom house.