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With open Sundays now firmly established once a month from April to October and twice for snowdrops – usually the last week in February and the first week in March – the Gardens have gone from strength to strength. Income from the open days funded a brand new building for the archives and now our visitors can see history unfolding in the huge display of photographs displayed on the walls and in the historical journals, which have been refreshed and updated.
Guided tours on open days have proved to be very popular, as have the children’s activities. Dozens of groups have visited the Gardens by prior arrangement, receiving tea and homemade cakes and a tour of the Gardens, during which their history is explained. Teams of volunteers have been working on all areas of the Gardens – clearing, planting and redeveloping areas lost to nature. In October 2012 the Italian Garden benefited from an immense facelift following the generous donation of 100 tons of gravel from SRC Aggregates, which had recently started its gravel extraction at High Wood to the south of Easton Lodge. Should the Trust ever be in a financial position to restore the Italian Garden, with the Ham stone in Peto’s original style, then the gravel will be put to good use elsewhere. Visitors are now able to go down into the Italian Garden.
In March of 2014 work began on clearing the 1.9-acre walled garden abandoned in 1950. A team of volunteers from GSK spent a day clearing the old chicken huts, brambles, self- seeded trees and rubbish of every kind. This left the Trust with a blank canvas of weeds and nettles and historical 12ft-high brick walls covered in decades of rampant ivy. With the help of ancient maps, the position of the original paths was found and clearing has begun on these using as much of the original tile edging as possible. New grass has been sown ready to plant with new fruit trees.
Continued restoration is planned and, with the increasing popularity of the Gardens and increasing visitor numbers, the Gardens will continue to provide visitors and volunteers a place to visit and enhance.