My village, Wadhurst in East Sussex, has just had its charity Open Gardens weekend and – probably to quote a hundred local newspaper reports on similar events this month, ‘the rain held off’ – just.
The lack of precipitation was indeed a mercy afer last year’s wash out – but for those of us who bravely opened our gates it was a bit sad that the flat, grey afternoon sky and only-just-shirt-sleeve temperatures hardly did our beloved gardens justice – so heavenly as they are, empty of all but us and the birds, particularly in the soft light and summer warmth at dusk and dawn.
Of course an event like this just doesn’t happen without considerable effort.
Someone (in our case the long-suffering Garth) has to organise the whole thing – chivvying garden owners, producing a simple leaflet, maps, laminated signs etc. A dozen or so owners – of as many ‘new’ gardens as possible this year – agreed to spend a day or so sprucing up their lawns and generally tidying away the usual garden paraphernalia that might be hazardous to the frail and elderly, and open their gates for a few hours to let others (from further afield as well as within the community) look around.
There’s no ‘standard of excellence’ – nothing that would possibly put people off participating – and as I’m sure is the case in most villages, there’s a completely mixed bag of much-loved gardens to see – wildly, bravely under construction; formal ‘grand farmhouse’ gardens with swanky pergolas (why do people so often build these so low?) and loads of posh paeonies, on the far flung rural edges of the community; little village cottage gardens with traditional layouts and much-loved veg patches together with heavily planted little oases, belonging to sad obsessives like me… and so on.
The great thing is that a really large number of villagers support us by buying a ticket to see all or some of the gardens, and the whole thing, as it were, rocks – in a very genteel, Wadhurst sort of way, that is.
In my view, the tickets for our gardens, at £4 to cover 13 gardens that were open for either Saturday and Sunday afternoon, many for both, were perhaps too cheap. Why on earth not £5? And why not make that a ‘mimimum’ contribution as a way appealing to the largesse and squeezing just a little extra out of as many of the well-heeled inhabitants of the community as possible – for the benefit of our village charity?
Anyway, for two afternoons the whole village was buzzing with smiley people mostly walking from garden to garden, often meeting several times, comparing notes and just…well, hanging out and chatting. Quite apart from old friends meeting and greeting, more recent arrivals felt newly involved with the village as a result of the event. One establishment in the centre of the village even produced cream teas for the foot-sore and garden-weary. All this, virtually without a glimmer of June sunshine to help the event along.
I shall be interested to see how the village charity’s coffers fared – but it was simply a lovely event and well worth it, even if it didn’t raise huge sums. There were mutterings among certain of my garden visitors that it would be good fun if the 2 village allotments were also to open their gates next year.
I can imagine that this would introduce a certain frisson of amicable competition into the proceedings, allotmenters (especially the older chaps) being what they are…