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Buckinghamshire Gardens Trust – Gardeners Network update

The Buckinghamshire Gardens Trust – photographs of Gardeners’ Network – CdC

Gardeners’ Network Update – visit to Claydon

The Bucks GT Gardeners’ Network (GN) was started in October 2022 (with advise from Bedfordshire GT who have run a successful GN for 9 years)  with the inaugural meeting hosted by Barry Smith, Head Gardener(HG) at Stowe, this produced a great response with 25 Head Gardeners attending from across the county.  From this initial meeting the GN decided that two meeting a year would be useful and a Whats Ap link set up  for those interested.  In March 2023,  Turn End, Haddenham provided the location hosted by HG Jackie Hunt and ended at a pub that opened early for thirsty gardeners.  The autumn meeting, October 2023, was hosted by Lord Carrington and HG Mark Thompson at Bledlow Manor with a talk by Dr Sarah Rutherford, Responding to Climate Change in Buckinghashire Gardens: Respond or Resist with an outline Conservation Plan as a way forward. This was followed by a walk through the gardens and tea/cake in the new coach house tea room.

In 2024 we have two meetings planned: the first on  the 14th March was successfully hosted by Anna Tolfree, Senior Gardener at Claydon & Stowe and Andria Pepper a fellow Gardener from Stowe. For those who like numbers there were 28 in attendance; 17 Head Gardeners, 4 WRAGS (Work and Retrain As a Gardener Scheme) and 7 from  the Bucks GT Council/Events  and the weather behaved itself with sun and a chill spring wind. The second meeting will be in October at Wormsley Estate,  focusing on new innovations to maintaining historic trees with a demonstration by our Four Seasons.

It was a delayed start as attendees had to battle with road closures, fissures, pot holes and a multiple of HS2 diversions to reach their goal, Claydon, and the welcome refreshments provided by Bucks GT.  Anna gave a brief history of the garden and house which has been in the Verney family for 550 years and is famous for being the home of Florence Nightingale. The house and part of the grounds, the south lawn and west terrace, were given to the National Trust in 1956 with the remaining estate staying with the Verney family. The walled garden has been retained by the family.

Anna outlined future plans including writing a new Conservation Plan, there is an earlier one 2009 by Dr Twigg Way & Stuart Davies Associates.  At present there is a very small budget and one day a fortnight for the professional gardener and a reliance on volunteers to help with borders etc. It is a challenging site, for example 4 very large and ancient wisterias to prune, hedges to cut and borders to maintain & plant if there are sufficient funds plus upkeep of the haha, terrace etc.   Spring flowers, a wild flower meadow, fritillaries and amazing unspoilt views and the house are the main attraction and the site is attracting increasing usage for concerts & weddings.   Anna is keen to open up the grounds and house for wider use to the public which will mean that more time and funds will be required to maintain the grounds and house.

Anna & Andria led the GN round the site including the south lawn which features robotic mowers ( Barry Smith compares them to teenagers!), views of the interior of the walled garden, the haha, west terrace and recent work on hedges opening up amazing views and then back to the house via the stable courtyard.  Various ideas were put forward and discussed but all present were amazed that Anna and her team achieved so much. The afternoon was rounded off with an opportunity to have a look around the amazing house, which is now only one third of its original size, a number of the guides had volunteered to stay on to explain its history.

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