Celebrating a major milestone

Words by:
Steffie Shields
Featured in:
September 2021

Steffie Shields highlights the work of Lincolnshire Gardens Trust.

Three cheers for Lincolnshire Gardens Trust, first founded in 1995! The Covid virus pandemic, amongst other much more serious consequences, put paid to its 25th birthday celebrations. However, last month, thanks to the kind hospitality of the charity’s president Annetta Turner, and her husband Simon, both passionate gardeners, a belated celebratory 25th Anniversary party was held in their elegant, mostly informal, country house garden.

Named for a grove of trees on a hill on the outskirts of Folkingham, Willowholt was originally built in 1914 for a doctor’s family, and his surgery, with a lime avenue approach and stabling for his pony and trap to visit his patients. During WWII, the house was owned by an RAF officer. Over the past 50-plus years, the Turners have planted many trees including Scots pines, hedges, spring and autumn bulbs to extend, enclose and transform the gardens. They have developed a snowdrop collection, and must surely have passed on their love of gardening to the next generation, especially with a mini garden designed for their grandchildren with their names and dates.

Despite this summer’s unpredictable, ever-unreliable weather, LGT members and guests were welcomed with warm sunshine as they entered the garden via the ‘Lavender Walk’, created in 1998, which leads to a rustic, wooden summerhouse. To the east side of the main lawn, a long herbaceous border, sheltered by a high hedge, overflows with a wide range of plants, all kept in check by neat brick edging. Here, splendid purple, upright bush Clematis integrifolia and vibrant red dahlias catch the eye, while peachy-pink and apricot shrub roses provide fragrance with airy, lime green Alchemilla mollis laced around their feet. To the west, raised island beds are packed with tall perennials and contrasting shrub foliage.

Members soon disappeared under clipped arches into other ‘rooms’ to survey the abundant vegetable gardens, inspect the fruit cages and delight in animated exotic hens. A healthy peach tree facing south, protected in a secluded walled area near the patio and wooden rose pergola, drew many admiring comments for its beautiful, ripe fruits. Various attractive pots showed off cerise pelargoniums and royal blue agapanthus.

Thanks to a simply stunning wildflower meadow – according to Annetta, “more work and trouble than the rest of the garden put together” – a local friend, Sally Chaplin, was able to create some gorgeous arrangements for all the garden tables. While the Turners’ daughters were on hand to serve teas and truly scrumptious cakes, LGT trustee Grace Ellis manned a ‘Bring and Buy’ garden book stall. Lady Sally Bruce-Gardyne, a founder member and past chairman was invited to cut the special 25th Anniversary cake to much applause.

Many memories stirred my mind. Looking back, I remember in gratitude the trustees and past chairmen who had the necessary foresight and drive – especially the founding chairman and owner of Doddington Hall, the late Vicky Jarvis. In 1996, the late Mary Fry of Fulbeck Hall invited me to join the committee soon after I settled in the county, just as my husband’s peripatetic career in the Royal Air Force was ending. This proved a wonderful opportunity both to meet and make friends with like-minded garden enthusiasts and, at the same time, discover the county’s garden gems and local landscapes. No regrets.

This garden conservation and education charity is still going strong, actively committed to encouraging all ages in the enjoyment and care of the many varied historic gardens, parks, and designed landscapes throughout Lincolnshire. Yet it has taken a pandemic to awaken many more people to the value of our green spaces in all our lives, and the many benefits for health and wellbeing.

You may not know that LGT, with its useful local knowledge, is consulted by the national organisation The Gardens Trust, whenever there are planning concerns affecting historic parks and gardens on Historic England’s national Register of Parks and Gardens. Increasingly, advice is also being sought by landowners and district councils to help protect those gardens of note and local interest, including public parks, community sensory or wildflower gardens and community orchards.

Historic England has also consulted LGT for comments and new research in their recent surveys to upgrade those notable parks and gardens of national importance which were missed when the Register of Parks and Gardens was originally introduced in 1983 and revised in the early 1990s. As a result, Aswarby Hall Park, South Ormsby Hall, Norton Place, Petwood Gardens, Uffington Hall, and the latest Greatford Hall, have all been recently designated Grade II. Search the Historic England website https://historicengland.org.uk/…/registered-parks-and-gardens to read a detailed summary of their remarkable histories and the reasons behind their national historical, archaeological and aesthetic significance, and therefore considered worth protecting.

The research group is continuing to record any locally significant gardens, including approximately 60 walled gardens with the aim to publish a county gazetteer. Please let us know if you have a garden of note in your village, town or local area with design features and specimen veteran trees worth recording. The plan is to highlight and share their wonderful stories and changing styles over the centuries, especially those created by celebrated designers: from London and Wise, and ‘Capability’ Brown with his Lincolnshire-born wife, through to Brenda Colvin and Bunny Guinness!

Thanks to dedicated volunteers over the last 25 years, impressive new garden projects and restorations have been supported, including in schools, allotments, orchards and hospital grounds helped by LGT’s Small Grants Scheme. In 2012 LGT supported the creation of the Diamond Grove in Queen Elizabeth Park, Grantham to mark Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. How shall we mark her Platinum Jubilee next year?

Do join us! Help renew our focus with new ideas and refresh energy levels. Help support our Grants Scheme, ongoing events, talks and garden visits, research and the annual LGT Photography Competition, thanks to the marvellous sponsorship from Lincolnshire County Council and this magazine, for another 25 years! For competition entry details see www.lincolnshiregardenstrust.org.uk

Try your hand at something new – and enter this year’s photo competition ‘Unforgettable Gardens’. Closing date: Friday 29th October. Whether an amateur or a professional photographer, have fun with camera or phone and challenge your children to do the same. There are sure to be some sensational, ‘unforgettable’ 2021 images for the taking! Winners will see their best photos published in the January 2022 edition of Lincolnshire Life. Looking forward to all your wonderful entries!

Steffie Shields will be giving a Zoom talk, ‘Dr William Stukeley, the first garden historian?’ to SHLA and LGT members on Wednesday 22nd September at 7.30pm

Photographs: Steffie Shields and Lucienne Bennett

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