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Gardens open their gates
EVER since 1927, when the National Gardens Scheme was founded, individuals and communities have opened their gardens for charity during the summer months. The scheme funds several different charities, including Gardeners' Careerships, which helps would-be gardeners obtain training with the National Trust.
Those who love gardens and appreciate being able to walk round another person's plot buy the National Gardens Scheme Yellow Book (£7.99), and methodically work their way round gardens of their choice.
Whilst many of the gardens listed in this book have opened to the public regularly - some boasting more than 30 years loyalty to the scheme - others are opening their gates for the first time. It's these new listings that really excite regular visitors, who are always eager to discover new ideas, see modern garden designs, or simply discover just what lies behind a cottage gate previously barred to them.
This year, the residents of Filkins Hall, Filkins, are opening their garden for the first time. The hall is one of ten gardens opening on June 1, when the villages of Broughton Poggs and Filkins get together to show the world just how beautiful well tended gardens can really be.
Luke Bailey, from The Millers Cottage, Filkins, is a newcomer to the scheme too. He describes his little plot as an object lesson in what can be done with a smaller garden.
Phil and Helen Dunmall, from the neighbouring Broughton Poggs, are venturing for the first time this year too, and opening Poggs Cottage, where they have reworked an old garden. They boast island beds, mature shrubs, raised organic vegetable beds, and soft fruit, which will be almost ready to harvest by June 1.
Filkins Hall, with its grand landscape setting, is particularly interesting. It was originally built in 1646, but was redesigned in the mid 1700s as a square double pile, retaining just part of the original building. In 1876, a disastrous fire totally gutted the hall, and it remained a ruin until 1910, when it was rebuilt and enlarged in Jacobean style for the owner, Colonel Fenwick Bulmer de Sales La Terriere, by Alfred Groves, a builder from Milton-under- Wychwood.
It was later converted into ten stylish apartments in the 1980s, but its imposing exterior was left much as Alfred Groves had left it.
John Twitchett, one of the hall's residents, admits everyone is very excited about the Open Gardens Day and the fact that the hall is opening its gates to the public. He knows how impressive it is, and remembers how he fell in love with the garden the moment he saw it. He admits it was one of the main reasons he chose to live here.
"It's so peaceful. So many little gardens within one garden, and then there's all this space," he said gesturing towards a green uninterrupted landscape that stretches out to the Berkshire border. Not a single building interrupts his view from his first-floor apartment.
John also spoke of the great community spirit that exists in the villages of Filkins and Broughton Poggs, which won the Calor Village of the Year Award for the Building Community Life category. Judges remarked that it was unusual in having both businesses and social housing in its heart, rather than the outskirts. They liked the fact that village communications worked well thanks to the Parish Pump newsletter, welcome packs for newcomers, and an active, well-developed and well-maintained website.
On top of all the facilities one might expect to find, Filkins has a bowling green and a swimming pool. It's also home to the Cotswold Woollen Weavers Cotswold Wool Heritage Centre, where you can buy pure-wool products, furnishings, scarves, and clothing created from beautifully woven cloth, with textures and colourings inspired by the limestone landscapes of the Cotswolds. The centre was opened in the 1980s by husband and wife team, Richard and Jane Martin, who decided to convert a traditional Cotswold farm building into a working mill. They set it all up as a working museum, and open it to visitors, who can see the wool being woven, and learn all about the remarkable Cotswold long-haired sheep, justifiably known as The Lion of the Cotswolds, because of their long golden fleece.
The village shop, which is run by volunteers from the village and sells produce supplied by local bakeries and farms, is an added attraction.
John Twitchett hopes that visitors will incorporate a visit to the Heritage Centre and the shop when they come to see the gardens.
Other gardens in Filkins and Broughton Poggs that are opening their gardens on Sunday, June 1, from 2pm to 5.30pm, are: Broughton Hall, with its formal walled garden; Broughton Poggs Mill, which boasts a contemporary garden with newly-formed linked rooms in a traditional Cotswolds watermill setting; Filkins Farmhouse, with its traditional walled farmhouse garden; Little Peacocks, Filkins, where you can see a garden which was established in 1956; No 1 Coach House, Filkins, with its small intensive semi-formal walled garden; Pip cottage, Filkins, with its village house garden; and St Peters House, Filkins, with its colourful herbaceous boarders, rose garden, and sunken paved garden with pool. Home-made teas will be served in Filkins village hall, and ice creams will be available at the village shop in the centre of Filkins. A combined admission fee, admitting visitors into all gardens, is £3.50, children go free.