The Open Gardens story …
In a Suffolk village first recorded in 962 by King Edgar, what brought together one of General Montgomery’s commanders, a housewife, a specialist in alpine plants, two maiden sisters, and made them the first of their kind?
It was the need then, as now, to raise funds to repair the church.
It was 1967, and the tiny Suffolk village of Chelsworth (population less than 150), in the Brett valley between Constable country and Lavenham, was the first of its kind: the first to open its gardens to the public. Admission was half-a-crown (12.5 pence) and a total of £150 was raised (equal to about £1,690 today), helped by plant sales and, of course, teas. Water for the teas served in the village Victory Hall was drawn from a standpipe and the washing-up was in bowls on trestle tables.
Today, Open Gardens Day, always the last Sunday in June, raises several thousand pounds. As well as wandering through up to 25 gardens with several tea stops to choose from, visitors can buy from specialist nurserymen such as Colchester, Cants Roses, local food specialists, artisan crafts and French brocante.
In a setting that is picture-book English with its centuries old pub and a humped back 18th century bridge, there is both timelessness and innovation. The thatched, colour washed and timbered houses are