The weather was ideal for Winchelsea’s main National Garden Scheme (NGS) opening on Saturday June 16. The event was conceived on a bigger scale than anything attempted before, with more gardens opening – eleven – and a longer day. The result was that, for a few hours, Winchelsea’s population was tripled, with well over 1,000 visitors enjoying spectacular flowers, wonderful views, tours of the medieval cellars and scrumptious teas.
Pretty much every able-bodied member of the community was roped in to help in some way; stewarding the car park, baking and serving refreshments, taking admission money at the many garden gates, and fielding searching questions from discerning gardeners who had come from all over the south-east, many wanting to see what had changed since their last visit. And the gardeners themselves put in all the hours of hard work that enabled visitors to see everything at its best.
All the money from NGS openings goes to charity – mostly national nursing charities: Macmillan, Marie Curie, Parkinson’s UK and several others. Nationwide, the NGS was able to distribute £3 million in 2017. Winchelsea also supports Friary Gardeners which originated in the town before making a home in Hastings. The project offers horticultural training to adults with a wide spectrum of learning difficulties and they had a plant stall in the town on the day.
More than £7,000 was raised at the event – a Winchelsea record. Including the April NGS opening and a May opening for St Michael’s Hospice, visitors to the gardens have already contributed over £13,000 to charity this year – also a record – and there will be more to add in September when the final opening of the season takes place.
Photos: David Page