The Open Gardens story …
IIn 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 village of Chelsworth (population less than 140) 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 to the five gardens was half a-crown (12.5 pence) and a total of £150 was raised – 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 achieved in bowls on trestle tables.
Today, Open Gardens Day raises several thousand pounds. As well as wandering through more than 20 gardens with tea stops en route, visitors can buy from specialised nurserymen, local food specialists and artisan crafts.
It is a setting that is picture-book English with its centuries old and timbered houses, but over the last half-century the gardens have changed in subtle ways. There used to be more vegetable gardens