Okay – I know that sounds a bit dramatic, especially when I tell you that what I’m telling you to clear your diary for is a set of open gardens, but stay with me. I have my reasons. This is for all Greenwich lovers, gardeners or not.
St Alfege’s parishioners ran this project a couple of years ago, to raise funds for the ever-burgeoning restoration costs of a 300 year-old church. Over a couple of Sundays around a dozen gardens in West Greenwich were open to the public in exchange for cash (and not a lot of cash at that.)
As a fan of beautiful gardens and as even more of a fan of nosing around other people’s back gardens (why else do you think I run the Rear Window section?) I was in there like the proverbial Flynn – it was in Parish News – hopefully a few of you managed to make it too.
If you did you will know what I am speaking about. Each of the gardens is exquisite in its own way – and June is a wonderful time to see them. They range from the lavishly formal – a particular favourite is the Manor House at the top of Crooms Hill (see above) – and the exquisitely bijou (see the delightfully narrow, be-mirrored jewel at 27 Maidstone Hill, which comes complete with the fanciest chickens I’ve ever seen…) through to marvellous, unexpected jungles. I am deeply intrigued by one that opening this year described as “Dangerously steep and thorny terraced garden, entered at the visitor’s own risk”.
There is even genuine woodland – Westcombe Woodlands at Maze Hill will enjoy a rare opening – worth seeing for so many reasons – not least to nose around what all the fuss was over a few years ago. It’s also a real pleasure to enter as you have to go through someone’s garden, a secret, quietly-landscaped series of nooks, on several levels and a joy in itself.
There are so many brilliant gardens open I don’t have time to describe them all, but I promised something for all Greenwich lovers, gardeners or not. There is one house you MUST see.
Number 14 Crooms Hill is a gem in every single respect. As nutty as it is historic, as exuberant as it is lavish, as eccentric as it is joyful, as mysterious as it is ever so slightly creepy, this deceptively large confection leads out to a deceptively larger and delightfully unkempt back garden. I won’t even begin to try to describe Ann Broadbent’s extraordinary home – I will just say that if you don’t go on one of her tours of the house you will sincerely regret it later. This is an example of Greenwich at its secretive best. Go. Just go.
Sold yet? Then scrawl Sundays 2 and 9th June, 2-5pm in your diaries. You’ll need both dates as different places are open on each day.
Break open your piggy banks to get the money required – a whopping £3 per garden or £10 for the lot on a single day. Just pay the tenner. I’m telling you now, you’ll need to see them all – pay at the first garden you visit. It’s worth bringing a bit more money too, as there’s tea and cake to be had at some venues.
I have forgotten how to attach PDFs (well, okay, I wrote down the instructions wrong) so I’m going to copy the details here for you, with the descriptions by the owners in italics.
Seriously – you need to go to this one…
Sunday 2nd June:
1. Tim and Patricia Barnes, The White House, Crooms Hill, SE10 8HH TEAS
A walled garden laid out when the house belonged to the Astronomer Royal. Lots of climbers, good-sized lawn and flowers planted in a rather haphazard but hopefully cottagey way. And a mulberry tree as old as the house.
2. Ian and Susan Pawlby, 22 West Grove Lane, SE10 8QP WINE
Come and explore a hidden garden in a hidden lane.
3. Jane Custance Baker and Peter Gingold, 51 Hyde Vale, SE10 8QQ
Dangerously steep and thorny terraced garden entered at the visitor’s own risk. Designed to be viewed from the house, the owner and inept gardener will do house tours to show the exceptionally varied and challenging site from different (and safe) vantage points.
4. Ann Broadbent, 14 Crooms Hill, SE10 8ER
A very large and peaceful garden, it contains nothing much except wonderful mature trees including a plane as big as the ones in Berkeley Square. Tours of the house, which is much more interesting, are also on offer.
5. Susan and Jimmy Gaston, 119 Maze Hill, SE10 8XQ TEAS
North-east facing garden lying under Vanbrugh Castle; raised beds with shrubs, a pergola covered in Albertine and Brides Veil roses, and a beautiful dovecote as the centre piece.
6. Alan Bartlett and Simon Gallie, 27 Maidenstone Hill, SE10 8SY TEAS
This narrow hillside garden forms part of Point Hill and features some of Alan’s RHS medal-winning garden items as well as his chickens. There are many unusual plants in the garden. Due to the many steps, slopes and limited accessibility of this garden, it may not be suitable for people requiring walking assistance.
7. Westcombe Woodlands, Lasseter Place (off Vanbrugh Hill), SE3 7UX
A contrast to other gardens, this is mature woodland, hidden away from the public eye, but recently improved to be a better wildlife habitat. There are wild bulbs and newly-planted fruit trees, but today there is simply access to a small clearing and a winding path with nest and bat boxes – and views towards Canary Wharf.
Sunday 9th June:
1. Clare and Mark Hatcher, 41 Gloucester Circus, SE10 8RY PIMMS
A walled garden in a late Georgian terrace, the garden comprises formal elements with herbaceous borders, a beech hedge and a woodland garden under a horse chestnut tree.
2. Penny and David Matheson, 30 Hyde Vale, SE10 8QH PIMMS
The garden of an 1830s tea-caddy house with a lawn in front and, behind, two shallow flower-filled terrace beds backed by rose-covered arches through which one sees a round lawn surrounded by a stone path and banks of shrubs, ivy and large trees.
3. Teresa and Jonathan Sumption, The Manor House, Crooms Hill, SE10 8HG
A large garden standing on the edge of the hill comprising two small formal gardens, a flower garden surrounded by trellis and pleached apple trees divided by a parterre of lavender, and a sunken garden with a geometrical box parterre planted with herbs.
4. Caroline and Richard Newton Price, 3 Hyde Vale, SE10 8QQ TEAS
New garden, old garden, tea and cake.
5. Geoff and Paula Nuttall, 124 King George Street, SE10 8PX
A small, south-facing walled garden that can be entered by a side gate.
6. John and Helene Mitchell, 4 Orchard Drive, SE3 0QP
Views from the house (wisteria and jasmine) and rear terrace (camellias) lead, via the croquet lawn and yew hedge, to the orchard (apples, pears, plums and quince) and a wild area (silver birch, oak and walnut).