This year, the penultimate of my five years’ Chairmanship of the Trust, has been probably the most successful to date, including the completion of our first physical Garden project, and the best -attended of all of our many talks, lectures, seminars and visits, since our foundation. We made great strides on the Planning front, with input into the Broadmoor Hospital development in Bracknell Forest; and we were re-joined on the Committee by Ben Viljoen, who is spearheading the crucial Gazetteer project.
The year’s Programme kicked off in March with a fascinating talk at Purley Barn by Chris Sumner, a founder member and former Chairman of the London Parks and Gardens Trust. His topic was Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, the now very well – restored Walpole villa on the banks of the Thames at Twickenham. Though on a subject out of our County, this excellent session was well-attended because of the current interest in the building and its grounds; by coincidence, Berkshire Cambridge Society were arranging to visit the place in early October, and on the back of Chris’s talk, several Berkshire Gardens Trust members were able to join the Cambridge trip later in the year.
HM the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year will be remembered for poor weather, and our Open Gardens day in June, though not a wash-out, was chilly, overcast and distinctly the opposite of a “Flaming June” day! However, about 60 people visited the 3 West Berkshire gardens- Ingle Spring in Stanford Dingley, and two Upper Basildon gardens The Well House and Honeycroft House, which were greatly enjoyed by members and guests. Intrepid garden enthusiasts won’t be put off by the cool and the damp, as we all know!
Watlington House in Reading is our next major physical garden project, a re-creation of a 1689 garden. Two of our members, Gaila Adair (our scheme designer) and Clive Williams, were invited to speak about the history of the House and Garden and our project, at the Hungerford Arts festival in July, and this also enjoyed a good attendance.
Our first completed garden restoration, the Hungerford Tragedy Memorial Garden, was officially renewed in early October by the Lord Lieutenant, the Hon Mrs Bayliss JP, and was a triumphant milestone in the Trust’s history. The Lord Lieutenant was joined by our President, Lady Wroughton, by many civic dignitaries, the local MP (Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon), but most important of all, by relations and family members of the victims of that terrible happening way back in 1987.The Garden is now a very fitting monument to the Hungerford townspeople and others who lost their lives that tragic day.
The year ended triumphantly with Ben Viljoen’s excellent talk on Purley Hall, attended by, staggeringly, over 90 members and guests. A wonderful climax to the year!