Open Gardens: “there is a huge and increasing appetite to visit inspirational outdoor spaces”

Following the many months that everyone was forced to stay inside, ticket sales are growing exponentially for a scheme allowing visitors to beautiful private gardens for fundraising purposes.

Open Gardens, is part of the National Garden Scheme which was set up in the 1900s. It now allows visitors unique access to over 3,600 exceptional private gardens in England and Wales. In 2020 alone they donated £2.88 million to charities across the UK by raising money through admission, and selling teas and cake.

Sheffield has one such garden to visit at 1 2 Ansell Road, established in 1927 by current owner Dave Darwent’s grandparents, making it as old as the National Garden Scheme. This year, his garden celebrates 93 years and it has brought Darwent many gifts during lockdown.

Mr Darwent said: “When visitors arrive, and their first comments as they step into the garden are “What a lovely space”, or “This is so peaceful and colourful – and what a lot of plants you have in the space”, it’s clear that they have a real and substantial interest in knowing about how the garden evolved, what the plants are, how I keep them alive and happy and so on, and it provides not only human contact but a powerful affirmation that there is value in what I do.

“Because I’d never seriously thought about why opening the garden makes me feel so much better it came as a bit of a surprise to realise that it is a kind of therapy for my mental wellbeing.”

The National Garden Scheme’s core beneficiaries include Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Hospice UK and The Queen’s Nursing Institute, but they’re also passionate about the physical and mental health benefits of gardens.

Dave Darwent said that gardening has helped his anxiety and depression. He said: “This year, with the isolation that the lockdown has brought, working from home since early March with almost zero human contact, actually welcoming visitors to my garden, every single one of whom I had lengthy (socially distanced) conversations with, made such a huge difference.”

To visit the garden now, a pre-booking is required. Once there, visitors can see original rustic pergola with 90+ year old roses, old and new pictures of the garden, a new winter garden, and much more.

To celebrate further, a book documenting the history of the garden has been published and is on sale to raise further funds for charity.


Written by Andreea Popa

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