Worthing National Trust Association

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The National Gardens Scheme  

Lesley Chamberlain, Assistant County Organiser for Sussex, delivered a talk in three parts, each illustrated with photographs.

The first was on the origins of the National Gardens Scheme.  Although the scheme came into existence in 1927, its origin lies some 70 years earlier, with the action of industrialist and philanthropist William Rathbone in setting up a school of nursing in Liverpool.  This attracted the attention of Queen Victoria who authorised the Jubilee School of Nursing in 1862; royal patronage continues to this day.

Donations principally go to health charities including MacMillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Hospice UK, Carers’ Trust and the Queens’ Nursing Institute.  Their guest charity this year is Horatio Gardens.  Donations rose from £6,800 in 1927 to over £3.7m in 2015.  In all, donations up to 2015 exceed £45m.

In 1926, Elsie Wragg, who oversaw hospitals in the East Grinstead area, suggested opening private gardens to the public as an additional means of raising much-needed funds.  She contacted some 600 property owners, but received little support initially until her friend Lady Hilda March contacted Queen Mary.  Sandringham was opened to the public in 1927, raising £500 (entry was 1/-) This example was followed very rapidly by hundreds of others, including such august locations as Blenheim Palace, Burleigh and Sissinghurst.

Lesley then moved on to illustrate on screen some of the many gardens now in the scheme, focusing mainly on those in Sussex.  It was surprising how many there are in the two counties including a number in or within easy distance of Worthing.

In the final part of the talk, Lesley told us there are some 3800 gardens currently in the scheme, ranging from the very small - such as Waterworks Cottages near Herstmonceux (one of which incidentally houses a nuclear bunker) - to the enormous – Blenheim Palace.  The main source of income is entry fees, £4 - £5, but about 60% of the gardens also sell plants.

Elsie Wragg

The Grange, Pulborough

In response to questions, Lesley told us most gardens in the scheme are dog-friendly; most owners are on hand and happy to discuss their gardens; the scheme is not a club – just pay the entry fee or arrange a tour.  On a personal note, Lesley revealed that she had gardened wherever her family lived around the world, including that, after settling in Broadwater, she volunteered for the NGS about ten years ago. Her passion for gardening and the NGS show through.

We all came away with a copy of the 2017 brochure listing 146 gardens in Sussex, opening times, parking etc.

Overall a very popular talk.

Photographs by kind permission of Lesley Chamberlain

Text by Tony Ede

Parsonage Farm, Kirdford


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