It was a mighty job to move the millstone that commemorates the work of Botanic Garden staff past and present from its original position at the far eastern end of the Garden to a more prominent, central location close to the new Garden Cafe. Once manoeuvred onto the forklift, the estimated 2 tonne weight was trundled along the paths to its new home. The millstone is backed by leafy shrubs to set off the rough-hewn stone, while in front whorls of Phlomis russeliana, lime Euphorbia and Aquilegia will make a light woodland planting.
The millstone removal was a much swifter experience compared to its first installation in 1990. Pete Kerley, Demonstration & Display, recalls: 'We discovered the millstone after some elms were felled due to Dutch Elm disease. It was partly buried in the ground with a wild cherry growing through the square shaft hole and we had no idea how much it weighed. We cut down the cherry, and as we dug away the surrounding soil the stone just kept getting bigger! We lifted it with the tripod, block and tackle used for building the Rock Garden at the end of the 1950s - no forklift in those days!! The stone was then lowered onto a trailer and manouvered into place before being lifted off the trailer using the tripod, block and tackle once again and lowered into its final position. I guess it took us well over a day to move it, whereas with the forklift this time round, the whole operation was completed in just over an hour!'
It is thought that the millstone must have been left behind after local masonry company, Rattee and Kett, vacated their once extensive premises at the top of Station Road, which included a works yard that became part of the Botanic Garden.
Former Garden Supervisor, Norman Villis had the idea of placing the millstone in the landscape as a tribute to the work of staff former and present, and former Garden Superintendent, Peter Orriss, composed a fitting plaque.
In its new position, the rough hewn stone is backed with Danae and Lonicera while in front, a light woodland planting of Euphorbia and Aquilegia, giving way to Phlomis russeliana, will provide a nice airy transparent contrast to the solidity of the stone.
The millstone will be rededicated in its new position at the 60th anniversary meeting of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden Association for current and former members of staff on 12 May, when a new plaque will be installed to commemorate all those who have contributed to the development of the Garden.