BEACON REPORT for May 2021

April 1st was a memorable day for us – no, not because of a joke or a prank but because it was the first meeting with a speaker for our club over a year. Yes, it was on Zoom but many of us were able to log in and see and listen to Graham and Angela O’Connell give a very interesting and enjoyable talk called Beyond the Garden Gate. The National Garden Scheme, Covid permitting, will have 3601 gardens open to the public this summer which includes 657 new ones. This wonderful scheme had its roots in Liverpool in 1859, when a Quaker business man, William Rathbone employed

William Rathbone employed a nurse for his terminally ill wife. After she died he decided to help relieve suffering amongst the poor who couldn’t afford help and he divided Liverpool into districts with a nurse for each – hence the term DISTRICT nurse. Florence Nightingale helped set up a training school for these nurses in Liverpool Infirmary and the first nurses were ready for 1864. With the outbreak of cholera and the patronage of Queen Victoria, the scheme went nationwide.

Obviously a good deal of fundraising was essential and in 1926, Elsie Wagg suggested her group of wealthy friends opened their gardens and charged an entrance fee. The Queen and King opened Sandringham and in 1927, 609 gardens were opened, they decided to continue this annually and the National Garden Scheme was set up. The first guide appeared in 1932 and this all continued even through the war when people were educated to “grow their own”. The booklet gained its distinctive yellow cover in 1949 when for a while it was funded by the AA. All the money raised has always been for nursing causes and beneficiaries include Marie Curie and Macmillan nurses, Mind and also smaller charities. With money raised from entrance fees, teas and plant sales, 83p in every pound goes direct to the charity                                                                                              All the information for open gardens can be found on the website or in the yellow booklets in libraries or National Trust places and apparently there are 120 gardens to visit within striking distance of Binfield!!

Graham said tickets will most likely have to be pre-booked with time slots but hopefully things will begin to get easier. His recommendations included Heckfield Place on 19th May, Swallowfield Village gardens on 27th June, St Timothee, Pinkneys Green on 4th July and many others. Do look them up and one can also do Virtual Tours on the National Gardens Scheme website which are completely free but donations are welcome, of course! They also have a shop selling tea towels and other goods. Look at ngs.org.uk/shop.                                            Time ran out too quickly so Ralph, our chairman, thanked Graham and Angela for hosting out first zoom talk and we all look forward to visiting some of these lovely gardens and raising money for such a valuable cause.