Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pristine Plots, Practical Plots

This weekend for the second year running, the rural allotment site where I and many of my friends and neighbours grow vegetables will be part of the National Gardens Scheme (NGS). Coming in between the tranquillity of Cowbeech House and the artistic landscaping of Two Acres, visitors will be able to stroll around the 54-plot Herstmonceux Parish Allotments, in the idyllic setting of Greenways Fruit Farm, as part of a trail of gardens open to the public.

The NGS has been in operation since 1927. In that year, 609 individuals opened up their gardens at the cost of a shilling a head and the £8,000 raised was used to support the national network of District Nurses. That voluntary network had been started 70 years earlier by Liverpool merchant, William Rathbone, to train and employ nurses to work in deprived areas.

In the 1930s, the scheme grew and Country Life magazine began to publish a bright yellow guide to the thousand open gardens each year. That colour is inextricably linked with the NGS today, and The Yellow Book is still the handbook of the annual calendar of open days. With the birth of the National Health Service in 1948, the District Nursing Service became part of fully-funded state provision but the NGS continued to raise money for other nursing and care charities.

Today, the NGS raises £2.5m a year for the Carers Trust and cancer charities Macmillan and Marie Curie, amongst others, and there are nearly 4,000 gardens participating in the scheme each year. For a small donation at our ‘garden’ on Saturday or Sunday, people will be able to see the pristine plots of those with plenty of time to care, the practical plots of those who just want to get food out of the ground and the creativity of those allotments that have ponds and pergolas.

Details of the Herstmonceux Parish Trail can be found here.

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