Fiona’s Autumn/Winter Blog (December 2014)


As I type, winter is upon us and it is hard to think that it was only 3 months ago when those attending the AGM and Weekend Conference of the Association of Gardens Trust (AGT) were bathed in sunshine. The AGT weekend included visits to Port Sunlight, Thornton Manor and Burton Manor, all designed garden landscapes originally created for major industrialists as well as the long-established gardens at Cholmondeley Castle and Arley Hall, both seats of two historic Cheshire families. In these days of competing attractions and increased leisure time, they all operate in different ways to survive as we heard from a combination of the various estate owners, managers and head gardeners.

Arley's Walled Garden

Arley’s Walled Garden


The theme of survival also featured in the ‘business part’ of the weekend, especially concerning the proposed merger with the Garden History Society (GHS).In addition to my role within the Berkshire Gardens Trust, I have now been elected onto the AGT’s Council of Management and am a member of the Merger Transitional Committee considering the way forward on this, I am only too well aware of the 21st century challenges facing the world of garden history. In my view, if we wish to help conserve and enhance the varied parks and gardens which we all enjoy visiting and developing, then we need to be a vibrant body in touch with government and other relevant initiatives to ensure we get all the help we can in terms of political and public support, including funding and the chance to be heard.

Of course there are issues trying to combine two very different organisations and it is hard to keep up with some of the complexities. However, I hope that we will be able to put differences aside and take the best of what each can offer for the sake of ‘the greater good’. The Merger Transitional Committee has set up a website to help with the essential communication process ( and various matters will continue to be discussed at meetings involving the County Gardens Trusts as we go into 2015. Certainly the recent planning applications which I have been involved with in Berkshire illustrate all too clearly the need for a united ‘team effort’ from those who know about the history and care about the setting and features of our key designed landscapes, so that those deciding on such matters can take these into account as well as commercial imperatives. Here’s hoping we succeed so that all can ultimately benefit from our informed enthusiasm.

Fiona Hope, BGT Secretary

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