Early in 2023 the Buckinghamshire Gardens Trust (BucksGT) reviewed its objectives and aims with Audience Engagement being a key category out of five to involve younger people through small one-off outreach activities and the Heritage Open Days New Wave scheme. The Community Champions project, iniated by Frankie Taylor of the Gardens Trust, has proved to be an interesting and flexible way for the BucksGT to engage with the general public and families in particular. Frankie has declared that BucksGT is certainly the “Community Champions” out of all the county trusts that have taken part and has asked if she can use our ideas for future projects.
We have used the Lucky Dip as an introduction to the Gardens Trust and in particular to promote the Buckinghamshire Gardens Trust and the work it does.It is not a charity that people are familiar with but by using the Lucky Dip at a range of events such as Heritage Fairs, Open Days, and History Workshops, with display boards of our recent research work/projects it certainly has helped spreads the word. For next year the diary is already filling up with invites to rare plant fairs and open days, some of them through our Gardeners’ Network Group. The Lucky Dip is a very good “Start Up” for a wide range of activities which our latest venture into a workshop for YAK’s (Young Archaeologists) has proved.
To date we have been involved in five events and to make sure we are noticed we take a gazebo, bunting, a pop-up Bucks GT poster, display boards and of course the articles /prompts for the Lucky Dip plus our volunteers who have given up their time to help at these events.
Stoke Poges Memorial Garden We were invited In June to an NGS open afternoon at one of our Gardener Network partners, Stoke Poges Memorial Ground by the Head Gardener, Franzi Cheeseman. As our first Community Champions event the gazebo and colourful bunting made us stand out and we became the meeting point for the guides tours by chance as people gathered around the display & the bees (an added extra by the local bee keeper). The pineapple attracted most attention with a very wide range of its history but one person knew of its use as part of buildings, signage and mentioned it being at Dorneywood where they had pineapple pits. Others were interested in the ha ha “never heard of it” and “does it work” were several of the comments. The horn bought out stories of various bandstands people had visited especially at seaside resorts, none knew of any locally. The plant and seeds drew some comments and many knew of Kew and the seed bank. We gave away about 100 leaflets which we combined with a Bucks GT leaflet
We had a steady stream of visitors from Bucks, London, Slough and Hertfordshire, approximately 400. Quite a number of families, couples average age about mid 40’s. A major topic was planning as this site is near Windsor and there seems to be constant concerns. The site adjoins Stoke Park which was recently sold and the golf course etc closed so the locals very concerned. We did a lot of explaining of the role the GT play in planning and we think it would be a really good idea to have a leaflet outlining that role to hand out. Many people said they had never heard of the GT.
Bledlow Manor On a Saturday in August we were invited to the annual NGS afternoon at Bledlow Manor (Lord Carrington is our patron) and approximately 500 arrived for the gardens open afternoon. The majority visiting were local and aged 45-70 with a few families with young children and babies.
For this event we took a display of information from sites we had researched and photographs from the 25th anniversary which attracted more people to the Lucky Dip table. We kept the main objects of the display as per last event but added a real brick, pineapple and bunch of rosemary. A number had heard of the GT but few had any idea of garden history but were interested so the display helped explain this. We did spend quite a lot of time explaining about the history of Bledlow Manor garden , it is relatively modern but does have a walled garden, and directing people to the new tea room and toilets. However, this did give us the opportunity to engage with the visitors who came back to see us after their tea and cake.
Taplow Court On a Saturday at the beginning of September we were invited to a Heritage Open afternoon at this Buddhist Retreat. Claire de Carle had been undertaking research on Robert Marnock who had designed part of the gardens in the C19 and for this event we took a number of display boards with the Robert Marnock research plus the Lucky Dip, with a garden gnome added!
We were in the walled garden and again very near the main entrance so everyone came pass us. There were about 600 visitors (the centre is rarely opento the public) coming from up to 60/70 miles away. Again, very few children but those that were there were middle school age and very interested in the assortment of objects. They proved to be very knowledgeable and we suspect their parents belonged to National Trust and they visited other properties. The adults came from a much wider age with no specific age group being dominant. Perhaps Heritage Days attract a broader spectrum of visitors with the advertising mainly through the local media. The Robert Marnock display attracted a large number of visitors and the Head Gardener is seriously thinking of taking a course in Garden History!
A History Conference organised by the Buckinghamshire Archaelogocial Society (BAS ) took place on the 7th October at the Oculus in Aylesbury. The theme was the “The List” a government funded project which has enabled a huge amount of historical infomation to be made available to the wider public . The BGT has been a a major contributor to ‘The List’ with the research dossiers being included and a number of our members helping with the selection of material. Claire de Carle also gave a talk on the involvement of the BGT in the project. This time there was more emphasis on the display boards of recent work but the Community Champions Lucky Dip was tested on “experts” with a few extra items a square of mown turf, a sheeet of glass and a sapling tree. As this event was very busy and with limited time to visit the stands we did manage to speak to a range of volunteers from historically associated organisations and canvas to be invited to their open days in 2024.
Chiltern Young Archaeologists Club (YAC’S) For our last Lucky Dip event of the year we were delighted to be invited to the morning session on Saturday 18th November. The aim was to show how archaeology plays a very important part in garden history. Claire de Carle & Gwen Miles presented on behalf of Bucks GT with help from Nigel Rothwell (a geologist) and his wife Janet (an archaeologist) who organise the club with the a couple of volunteers; there are 20 members aged between 7 and 16.
The ‘Garden History Lucky Dip’ proved to be a really useful ice breaker with everyone, including the leaders joining in and reminissing about Band Stands and parks! We also told them about the work of the Buckinghamshire Gardens Trust with illustrations of how archaeology is used for research of the landscape and garden history. In the second half of the session the young people were shown images of earthworks, also crop and scorch marks with aerial photographs of Quarrendon and a LIDAR image of Wing Park near Leighton Buzzard. We also looked at the extensive evidence of the privy garden which had survived at Hampton Court.
Probably the highlight of the morning was the practical ‘ Grow your own cropmark’ experiment, using clay and stones to build a wall in a seed tray which was then covered in compost and cress seeds and watered thoroughly. We look forward to seeing some photographs of the results. Each member was given a copy of the recent Newsletter and information on the Trust which we hope they will share with their parents/guardians. Photographs by Claire de Carle and Janet Rothwel. Permission given to use photographs.
The Community Champions Lucky Dip project started as a one off event which took place after intial training given to Gwen Miles & Louisw Keil by the Gardens Trust. However, it certainly snow balled as the year progressed but would not have happened without members volunteering so a big thank you to Claire de Carle, Louise Keil, Gwen Miles, Mary Buckle, Joanne Kidd, Peter Miles, Clare Butler and John O’Dwyer; we do supply crib sheets for all the article. If you would like to help in 2024 please contact us through email@example.com
If you have an event in 2024 which you would like to invite us to please send details to firstname.lastname@example.org.