GARDENS TO VISIT
By Ann Evans
Photos by Rob Tysall, Tysall’s Photography
Could there be a more leisurely way of raising money for nursing and caring charities than to visit a normally private garden which has thrown open it’s gates to the public in aid of the National Gardens Scheme?
Around 3,800 gardens are open this year in support of this charitable trust. The gardens are diverse in style and size, each one unique to the home-owner or gardener, but all tended with love and passion. They range from little cottage gardens to the sprawling landscaped gardens of stately homes – and everything in between.
The NGS gardens open from early February with their displays of early snowdrops, and continue on into late autumn. At the height of summer you can find between 300 and 400 gardens open to the public every weekend, raising money for charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Carers Trust, The Queen’s Nursing Institute, Hospice UK and Perennial. And since 2010, a different annual ‘guest’ charity is also chosen from NGS volunteer recommendations. The National Gardens Scheme is the largest single benefactor of Macmillan Cancer Support.
Back in 1926, when it all began, members of the Queen Victoria Institute (QVI) could never have imagined how the simple idea of opening private gardens for a day and charging visitors a shilling a head, could have grown to be the country’s biggest charitable benefactor to the nursing and caring sectors.
It was at a QVI council meeting (now renamed the Queen’s Nursing Institute) in 1926 that council member Miss Elsie Wagg came up with the shilling a head idea. The QVI was the national voluntary charity responsible for setting standards and training nurses for duty in the new countrywide nursing service. At that time it was in great need of additional funds to give pension support to district nurses.
Miss Elsie Wagg’s idea was taken up and the following year 609 gardens opened, resulting in £8,191 being raised. By 1931 over 1,000 private gardens in England and Wales opened to the public under the banner of the National Garden Scheme.
Each of the gardens was listed by Country Life in a handbook called The Gardens of England and Wales. This later became affectionately known – because of its cover, as The Yellow Book. This year, 2016 sees The Yellow Book’s title changed to Gardens to Visit.
In 1980 the QNI decided to give the garden scheme an existence in its own
right and on 1st January the National Gardens Scheme Charitable Trust was born
as an independent charity with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
as Patron. This role has now been taken over by HRH The Prince of Wales.
Next year (2017) the National Garden Scheme will be celebrating its 90th anniversary and since its foundation, it has donated over £45 million to its beneficiary charities, of which nearly £23 million has been donated within the last ten years.
The Yellow Book – Gardens to Visit lists the gardens county by county, so its easy to see when there’s a garden open near you.
Most of the gardens offer delicious refreshments – often home made cakes and many have plants for sale too. Admission is a little more than a shilling a head these days, but still only a few pounds with children generally going free. So a small price to pay for a lovely relaxing day out in a garden, and knowing that you are directly supporting excellent causes.
For more information visit website: www.ngs.org.uk