Events Chronicle


This section comprises reports, written by Members, on all of

the events organised by the Society during the past 12 months.

Those reporting are asked to tell their fellow Members what

they saw and how they felt about the event, in their own words

and in their own style.   Editing is purposely kept to a minimum



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Rudyard Kipling's influence on the gardens at Batemans:

15 January 2018

Luckily the disgusting rain of the January day abated and encouraged our fellow members to venture out in exceptional numbers to renew their annual membership (only £5 this evening !) and in anticipation of our speaker.   They were not to be disappointed.

Gary Enstone, House and Collections Manager at Batemans, was an entertaining and informative speaker.   He tried to explain some of the possible history of the house before the Kipling family purchased it in the early 1900's.    There appear to be more questions than answers – but does it really matter?   Kipling was delighted to take on the unimproved Jacobean style house and develop what had been a farmyard to give his family a garden.   Not the sort of garden being developed elsewhere but a space to be enjoyed that flowed fairly seemlessly into the coutryside.   He used his Nobel Prize money to build, what we now see as a formal pond, to encourage his children in safe water activities away from the river.

Gary quoted from Kipling's verses, The Glory of the garden - “Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made by singing 'oh how beautiful' and sitting in the shade” !!  He also encouraged us to read, or re-read, Kipling's most famous Sussex stories; “Puck of Pooks Hill” and “Rewards and Fairies”.   Today they would be described as fantasy or even sci-fi, but both are heavily influenced by the Dudswell valley and the South Downs.   They bring together his view of English history with the landscape and nature that he felt most encapsulated his ideal England.

Gary kept the 80 plus members and friends interested and amused throughout.   We will probably see the house and gardens with different eyes in future. 

While refreshments were being served, a long term member was heard to  favourably remark how different the Society had become in the last few years.

Members were told of the sad death of David Price just before Christmas.   He was a long term member and supporter of the Society, serving as treasurer for 42 years.

The results of the 2017 members meeting competition were announced: third place Gill Burdett with 14 points; second place Sue Cook with 26 points ; and the winner Sue Bobin with 35 points.   Shirley Rose, vice president, presented the cup.                                                             SUE COOK



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Chairman's Report for 2017

A further notable year for the Society

as membership continues to increase

During the year at our indoor meetings, we enjoyed talks on a wide variety of subjects ranging from the experiences of a lady tree surgeon to Michael Blencowe and his close encounters with bear poo.   I think Michael must yet again take the prize for our most entertaining speaker.   Our thanks go to Cathy Constable for continuing to obtain speakers to suit all tastes.

Our Gardeners Forum in May, comprising a plant swap and sale, proved such a success in 2016, the first year we had trialled such an event, that we repeated it to universal approval.   The evening started with an insight from show judge and Society Vice President, Colin Rose into the art of preparing fruit and vegetables for the show bench.

Our June outing, on a splendid summer evening, was to the National Trust gardens at Standen, where we had privileged private access under the guidance of head gardener, James, who displayed his enthusiasm for the garden under his control whilst speaking to us.   Thanks for arranging our visit to this wonderful garden go to Derek Bobin.

Coach trips went to RHS garden at Wisley and to Loseley Hall near Guildford.   Our thanks to Sue Young, aided and abetted by Chris Kemp, for organising these trips.

The Open Gardens continue to go from strength to strength with a variety of gardens providing interest (with tea and cake!) for fellow members.   Our thanks to the brave members who invited others to see their garden.   They say unanimously (after the event) how much they enjoyed it.

A personal perspective of these events can be found in our Events Chronicle.   An innovation continued from last year, it contains reports by members of their impression of our events.   I must thank those who have taken the time and effort to produce these reports.   A wealth of literary talent revealed from within our membership.

Both of our annual spring and summer shows attracted a good number of high quality entries and presented their colourful appearance for visitors.   Our thanks are extended to the local traders and individuals who continue to support both shows with advertising in the summer show schedule and donations of raffle prizes.   For the first time ever, we have cleared our expenses and have a small surplus on these shows.

I would like to thank all the officers, committee members and members of the society for their contributions in the past year.   It is particularly encouraging to note the willingness of our members to volunteer their help in many areas, incuding the cake baking rota organised by Hilary Elphick, to cater for the Open Garden and Show refreshments.   Thanks also go to those who find their way to the kitchen and help with the washing up after meetings.

These examples of working together as a team for the benefit of the society and their fellow members bodes well for the future.

Your committee feel they have supplied a full, varied and interesting programme for the year.   However, if you feel there are things you would like to see included in future programmes that are not currently covered, please say.   All ideas will be considered.   It is after all your society.

Our website is administered by Graham Young.    The site is generously sponsored by Frogheath Landscapes, owned and run by Society President, Stephen Moody, holder of numerous landscaping industry awards and many Gold Medals from both the Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower shows.

                                                                       CEC EARL,  CHAIRMAN

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Christmas Social: 18 December 2017

The evening started with a fascinating presentation by Andy Thomas entitled “Christmas: a celebratory history”.   He covered many of the origins and traditions of Christmas in various countries and over the centuries.   He sprinkled his talk with theories, suppositions, facts, figures and connections completely enthralling his audience.   Celebrating the light in the darkness – literally and spiritually - seems to be the basic premise for celebrations in so many cultures and religions. 

Stonehenge seems to provide the key to our understanding.   It is an enormous annual “calendar” based upon the fact that the sun appears to rise from the same point on the eastern horizon, for about three days around the winter solstice.   That makes 25 December the first day when the length of day starts to increase, heralding the return of spring and giving everybody hope; a source of immense relief and great celebration in ancient cultures.

Few of the audience were aware that Christmas was abolished in England for 13 long years from 1647.    In Scotland the Calvanist, John Knox, had banned the celebration of Christmas as early as 1583.   However, the Scots still felt the need to celebrate the the new year on 1 January.  

The removal of decorations, originally just evergreens, by the twelth night is supposedly due to the belief that mischevious creatures, who lived in the greenery, called a truce for two weeks, but would end their truce and cause havoc if their hiding places were still within the house.   These and many other stories and insights coloured his presentation.   The whole talk was extremely interesting, informative, entertaining and thought-provoking.  

After the presentation, as ever, there was a wonderful spread and variety of food and drink for everyone.   All our thanks go to the committee and to everyone who contributed food, time and effort to make the evening possible and so enjoyable and successful.                                                                                    HILARY ELPHICK

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Landscape Projects: 20 November 2017

preceded by Annual Review

After the short annual review, President, Steve Moody started by commenting on the particularly friendly, welcoming and even jolly atmosphere of our meeting.    He seemed proud to be so closely associated with us.

He then proceeded to bring members up to date with some of the show, domestic and commercial projects he had been undertaking during the past year  ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦  and his recent burglary !!     Steve's continuing enthusiasm for and love of landscape gardening was evident throughout his enjoyable presentation .   The sheer range of work involved and the transformations achieved are very impressive.    The end results are a joy to the gardener's eye. 

The President presented the Society's “125th Anniversary Cup” to the member who had gained the most points in total at both shows during the calendar year.   In third place was Show Secretary, Carole Smith, with 27 points.   In second place was Marian Stoneham, with 58 points.     In first place was Rosemary Kay, who amassed a total of 99 points.

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The Women’s Land Army; a Sussex connection

Monday, 16 October

There was a very good turnout to hear the captivating account by Ian Everest of the Women’s Land Army [WLA].

Ian is a local historian and his talk covered the role of women on Sussex farms and their vital contribution to feeding the country during both WW1 and WW2.   He was inspired by his mother’s experiences as a Land Girl in WW2.  She lived in Tottenham, North London, so it must have been quite a culture shock coming to the country!   He persuaded his mother to write her memoirs in the last 4 years of her life and she provided 3 shoe boxes of photographs taken during her time in the WLA.  

The Land Army was formed, under the guidance of Gertrude Denman, in 1916 during WW1 when the country was suffering from a shortage of labour within the farming industry.   Britain had only 3 weeks of food supply when the Women’s Land Army was formed.   The Board of Trade then sent Agricultural Officers around the UK to persuade farmers to take women as labourers and farm hands.   By 1917 there were 260,000 women working as farm labourers.  Life was very tough for these girls with long hours and mostly no holidays. They were poorly paid, initially attracting women from middle-class families who could afford to subsidise them.  In October 1919 when they were stood down there were some 23,000 Land Girls.

In 1939, on the brink of war, the decision was taken to reform the Land Army. Gertrude Denman was once again called upon and took up the position of Director.  The women were called upon to perform all farming tasks, including catching rats!  Pests such as rats posed a serious threat to supplies of food and animal fodder on British farms. Teams of Land Girls were trained to work in anti-vermin squads.

The Women’s Timber Corps was set up in 1942 to help source and prepare wood which was needed urgently for pit props and telegraph poles. The work carried out by women in the Timber Corps, known as “Lumber Jills”, included selecting and measuring trees suitable for felling, sawing and lifting timber and burning  brush wood. Around 6000 women worked in the Timber Corps.

Many Land Girls lived at the farms where they worked. However in many rural areas living conditions could be very basic and the lifestyle lonely. As larger numbers of women were recruited, hostels were set up to house the Land Girls.  In 1941 the government allowed the conscription of women into the armed forces for vital war work.  By 1943 more than 80,000 women were working in the Land Army.  Although the work was hard, conditions were often bad and the pay was low, many women enjoyed the experience and formed lifelong friendships with fellow Land Girls. 

It was not until 2000 that the LA were invited to take their place at the National Service of Remembrance.  When they were disbanded they were issued with a certificate signed by the late Queen Mother, but in 2008 they were finally recognised with a badge of honour for surviving members.

Around the country there are surviving Land Girls who continue to meet up on a regular basis.                                          JANE SKIRROW

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History of Garden & Grounds of Ashburnham Place: 18 September 2017

The Society was treated to an excellent illustrated talk detailing the history and development of the house, grounds and gardens at Ashburnham Place from its origins as one of the country’s foremost country estates through to its present day ‘life’ as a Christian Centre providing retreat, rest, refreshment and connection for people from all walks of life.

The Estate has been owned by the Ashburnham family since the 12th Century and possibly before; their wealth deriving from the local iron industry. It was a magnificent house ( 9 state rooms, 38 bedrooms and a marble staircase!) and all the trappings of a great country house. Its heyday was from 1850 -1900; then there were 37 gardeners now Jay is one of four! The Ashburnham line came to an end in 1953 with the death of Lady Catherine and the estate passed to a young clergyman John Bickersteth who after much deliberation gifted the house and estate to the Ashburnham Charitable Trust. Much work was needed on the rather run-down house (reducing it to a more manageable size)and in clearing the grounds as well as the disposal of large parts of the estate in order to pay the death duties, but all this was achieved in the 1960s

The grounds and lakes that we see today were created in the 1760s by Capability Brown; records indicate that the project took 10 years but he is thought to have only visited once! The Estate shows all the hallmarks of his skills, three lakes (Frontwater, Broadwater with its Temple, and Reservoir Pond), reshaped landscape with groupings of trees  as well as  magnificent ‘specimen’ trees. He also created wonderful sight-lines and paths back to the house as well as building a Walled Kitchen Garden and Orangery.  The ‘Italianate’ fashion of the 1800s brought further change to the gardens when George Dance the younger built the stone bridge on the approach to the house and created the stone terraces in front of the house - then laid out as formal parterres but which are now areas of lawn and iceberg roses  (easier to maintain !).

The Orangery, now converted to a very popular tea room, still houses two Camellias dating from 1883. Below the Orangery is the West garden planted in the gardenesque  style  with lawns and shrubs to bring year-round colour – Rhododendrons and Azaleas in spring followed by Fuschia and Hydrangea. There are also some magnificent trees including the Black Walnut by the Orangery steps.

The Walled Kitchen Garden, created by Capability Brown, covers six acres but is now divided into three working areas.  Orchards provide apples which are juiced and the juice sold in the Shop and Orangery; another is gardened organically for vegetables  some of which are used in the kitchens and  a ‘’  scheme is being  trialled, in addition flowers are grown for the house. The third area has been transformed into a  ‘Prayer Garden’ planted with scented perennials and shrubs including Daphne, Witch Hazel and Sweet Box.

The grounds of Asburnham Estate now extend to 220 acres, but were once over 200,000! There are wildflower meadows rich in orchids, large areas of bluebells and, of course,  wonderful trees. The estate is rich in wildlife and one area has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its valuable and rare flora.

The wonderfully illustrated talk delivered with Jay’s enthusiasm and obvious love for Ashburnham  left those who had not visited wanting to go and those who had been before itching to return.                                  TREVOR HINCE


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Visit to Loseley Park: Sunday 10 September 2017

I must admit that after I agreed to do the write up on the trip to Loseley Park, I was a little worried.    Having wandered briefly around the gardens while visiting the location to attend a fair, I thought there would not be a lot to say.   I was wrong!

After a cup of coffee in the small but pleasant courtyard cafe we set off to The Walled Garden.   The weather was gloomy but apart for the odd spot of rain, thank goodness, we stayed dry.   The garden was originally started in the 16th century and has been adapted many times since.    It is amazing and in the summer it must be breathtaking.   Even at this time of the year there is a lot to see.   One of the things I feel I must return to see is the ancient Wisteria which is supposed to be at its best in May.   I do not think I have ever seen such a large or old specimen before.

The garden is divided into five main rooms and each garden has a completely different layout.   The first you come to is the Rose Garden which is the latest addition added in 1991. It has over a thousand old fashioned roses and was a birthday present to Sarah More- Molyneaux from her husband!   Wonder how he kept that secret?    The scent must be wonderful in the summer.   We then moved on to the Herb Garden and then the White Garden.   Both these gardens had a lot to see but the next two gardens interested us the most. 

The first was the Vegetable and Cut Flower Garden.   This is a working garden and supplies fruit, vegetables and flowers for use in the house.   What we did not understand was why they were growing so many forget-me-not seedlings, thousands in blue and white.   There were still vegetables being produced but the experts among us thought that the beetroots had had it!   The most beautiful garden for me was the Flower Garden.    It was a perfect autumn garden absolutely ablaze with colour.   A mix of late perennials and annuals, that had replaced the summer bedding, kept the promise to provide interest throughout the season.

After the garden we went on our guided tour of the house our guide was great and a mine of information.   What I find amazing was the same family has lived in park for 500 years.   The present house was built when Queen Elizabeth the First, who liked to come to stay and hunt, complained that their previous house was not suitable for royalty.   It is not overwhelmingly grand but has many beautiful and historical features.   In fact the room that they believe Elizabeth slept in was a bit pokey.

One of the lovely things is that there are portraits of the family from every generation up to and including the present generation.   The family still run the estate and have branched out in various ways to support the upkeep.   Wedding ceremonies, dinners and making ICECREAM!

After the house tour we popped back to the cafe and then went to have a quick look at the moat and the Mulberry tree.    It is believed that Queen Elizabeth I planted the tree and that the family will remain there as long as the Mulberry survives.    It did fall over during the 2nd World War but was propped up and continues survive.

Sadly at this point of the visit the rain arrived so we did not get to walk round the lake and we returned to the coach for a slightly slower journey home. 

Everyone seemed to enjoy the trip.  Thank you Sue Young for arranging it.             JENNY BRYAN


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Summer Social; 19 August 2017

I doubt there is anything held in any other country to match the Great British Flower Shows and Heathfield & District Horticultural Society's version has all the attributes required to avoid falling short of the mark.   A real community event held for the joy of growing, making and creating, with a healthy dose of competition for extra excitement and interest.

This year, on Saturday 19 August, the doors of the hall were open at 9am for the all important staging of entries and the quick appraisal of the competition to be faced at judging time.   The more classes entered, the greater was the haste to complete staging prior to 10.30 am, when everyone except judges, stewards and other officials, would have to leave the hall.   Aside from all the “chatting”, activity and general “buzz” there occurred a spontaneous display of country dancing in the aisles.   Probably the first time in the history of the Society, and certainty not worthy of inclusion as a class in future shows !!

Emerging from its array of empty boxes, trugs, buckets and trays, the completed 2017 Summer Show was ready – judging could commence and we, the competitors, members and friends have to wait until 2pm when the doors re-open to discover who had won an award. 

Arriving back in the hall in the afternoon, the results were at last revealed; vegetables, fruit, flowers, flower arrangements, crafts and cooking all judged.   The entire hall looked magnificent and full of interest.   As at the Spring Show, the pop-up cafe was busy providing a supply of teas, coffees and cakes; always a welcome feature at any social gathering.

Once a thorough viewing of all the exhibits had been completed, it was time to sit and enjoy a relaxing time “chatting” and comparing the wins and losses on the show benches until the time for the presentation of cups and the drawing of the raffle which would signal the completion of yet another successful show.

If you did not enter this year why not look at the next Show's schedule, with its many and varied classes on offer, and select at least one to join in the fun – and it is fun – by participating in the 2018 Spring or Summer Shows.

A huge thank-you to all those who worked long and hard to make yet another “Horti” event so successful and enjoyable.                          RITA HOBDEN

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DECORATIVE CLASSES Classes 1-5                                   Winner                                                                                                                              



TOTTINGWORTH PARK CUP - most points in section              Maggie Hayes


BROAD OAK DOWNS CUP - best exhibit                                Maggie Hayes




THE NELLIE HALL TICEHURST CUP - most points                   Rosemary Kay


FOORD MEMORIAL TROPHY - best exhibit                             Rosemary Kay


BERT LUCK CUP - best patio container                                  Rosemary Kay

DAHLIAS Classes 18 - 21


SOMMERVILLE – COWEN CUP - most points                          Marian Stoneham /

                                                                                       Theresa Fennings                              



BROAD OAK SPRINGFIELD CUP - best exhibit                        Carole Down


ROSES Classes 22-26


BARTLETT CUP – most points                                              John Logan


COURIER ROSE BOWL - best exhibit class 26                        Jane Skirrow

Fruit Classes 27-31


THE MAJOR REID CUP - most points                                     Marian Stoneham / Sue Cook


Class 32 Trug or Basket of homegrown mixed vegetables


CUCKMERE CUP                                                                 Marian Stoneham


VEGETABLES Classes 33-50


THE HEATHFIELD PARK CUP - most points                            Rosemary Kay


SPECIAL AWARD CUP - 45/46 Best tomato                     Cathy Constable




CLIFFORD TURNER CUP - most points                                   Rosemary Kay


C A HERBERT CUP -  57 - best Loaf of Bread                          Nick Jeggo


BROAD OAK C.A. ATKINSON CUP -  58 - best Bara Brith          Carole Smith

HANDICRAFTS Classes 63-67


THE CHALLENGE TROPHY- most points                                 Faith Smith



THE BROAD OAK GLEN CUP – Best photograph                      Gill Earl




Class 70 best exhibit                                                           Calla Constable


Class 71 best exhibit                                                           Jamie Blake

THE RHS BANKSIAN MEDAL – most points horticultural classes 6-50


Marian Stoneham

THE CORONATION SILVER BOWL – most points in all adult show classes


Rosemary Kay


















CLASS 14: - / - / -















CLASS 23:  - / - / -








































































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Summer Social: 17 July 2017

Nearly 70 members and friends gathered for our Summer Social, each bearing a plate of food to add to the feast.   And a feast it was, with everything from smoked salmon to strawberries.

We were welcomed by Charman, Cec who sobered us all a little by passing on the sad news of the death of Phyll Ives.   After a short tribute to Phyll, he said there would be a collection for her favourite charity, The Kit Wilson Trust, on the table by the raffle prizes.

We would also be remembering Phyll this evening by re-running a quiz that she had set for the Society some ten years previously.   We all quickly looked around to find someone who had been present ten years ago and might have a good memory, but no, we were on our own.

Jeremy Paxman having a previous engagement, our quiz master for the evening was Colin Rose, who patiently kept order over the proceedings.

After three gruelling rounds of questions we were allowed a break and everyone tucked in with enthusiasm to the food, and to the drink which had been provided by the Society.   It was then back to the grind as we racked our brains and tried to convince ourselves that the answer was just there on the tip of our tongue…

The results were surprisingly close, with one brainy team having a total of 54 points and three others with more than 50.   Our team of also-rans will keep quiet about our own score!

Cec announced that Colin Rose was now standing down from his sommelier duties for the socials – any volunteers to take over the role?

The evening was brought to a conclusion by announcing the winners of the competitions - which were Sue Bobin for the specimen bloom and Sue Bobin again for the bowl of roses - and drawing the raffle prizes.          ANN LISNEY


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Open Garden: Collinwood Rise, Saturday 8 July 2017

Behind the unpreposessing front lies an enchanting creation, a delightful place for recreation and contemplation.  The first impression is of a plain utilitarian garden clearly signposted Horti .  Geoff Cook was bravely sitting in the blazing sun selling the raffle tickets with Sue’s plant stall set out on the front lawn almost like the stately home entrance via the shopping area.  As you enter the back garden one hears train whistle noises confirming that we have arrived at the right garden. 

There, having come around the house, is the patio used presently as the tea area, with the table bedecked with a truly splendid set of cakes.  One is quite spoilt for choice.  However this only distracts us for a moment as the garden is in full flower.  As we walk across the grass towards the pond, the sign ‘Beware of the Trains’ comes to our notice and the cat jumps out of the seat and moves away from us.  The beds are full of flowers with a delightful mix of colours.  Especially I liked the allium which was the size I have only seen before in exhibitions and show gardens. 

The train track of ‘Gauge 1’ winds around the bottom half of the garden and runs through the flower beds.  Well yes it does.  But surprise!  Where the path bridges across the dual track, we find the vegetable plot and the potato plants making a nice display as if they were flowers.  Incorporated into these beds are fruit trees and currant bushes which would have flowered earlier in the year but now exhibit the berries.  The red currants being particularly eye-catching, they amazingly have not been consumed by the birds. 

Chris was very informative about the track and trains.  I had thought it was 0 gauge. Two trains continually moved around the layout through the whole event.  We explored the entire garden and sampled the cakes which lived up to their promise.  We were very tempted to have another but resisted with great difficulty! 

At 3.45 PM there was a raffle which was won by Una Weller.  Cathy returned home from her holiday in Croatia, in time to be thanked for allowing us to enjoy her part of the garden.  Geoff Cook announced that we had sold 114 tickets, which amazed us, as it did not seem that number of people in the garden.  The layout gives credit to the imagination of both Cathy and Chris and it does blend together to make an enjoyable experience.  One third of the takings will be donated to Cancer Research UK, as requested by Cathy and Chris.                                                                        GEFF WILLS  

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Standen, evening visit, 19 June 2017

Fifty members of HDHS and seven guests were given a guided tour of Standen gardens by Head Gardener, James Masters.   James started at Standen in 2001 having previously worked at Nymans.   A bit of poking around in the undergrowth here and there, made him realise that there was far more to the place than met the eye.   He found lost walls, a rock garden, rare and unusual plants all overgrown by vigorous planting.

Between 1891 and 1894 architect Philip Webb, who was a friend of William Morris, designed Standen House for a prosperous London Solicitor, James Beale, his wife Margaret and their family.   It is decorated with Morris carpets, fabrics and wallpapers and the garden complements the House.

After James Beale's death in 1912, Margaret continued to live at Standen.   When she died in 1936, their unmarried daughter, Margaret, succeeded her, and after her death in 1947 Standen came into the possession of Helen, their youngest daughter, also unmarried.   On Helen's death in 1972 the house passed by bequest to the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty.

The estate was formed from 3 farms which the Beales bought in 1890.   They started planting a 12 acre garden almost immediately, using the site of an 18th century garden and orchard.   The layout is largely the work of Philip Webb and local garden designer George Simpson.   Margaret Beale played an influential role in the design.   She kept a garden diary from 1890 until 1934, detailing what she planted and the affects of the weather on the plants.   Although she was an amateur gardener, she liked to experiment with exotic plants brought back by plant hunters.   Over time she built up a significant horticultural collection, including rare rhododendrons and acers, many of which are still thriving today.

When James Masters discovered some stone steps hidden amongst leaves, he knew it was his vocation to make Standen's lost gardens reappear.   He is extremely enthusiastic about his work.

In the Autumn of 2003, a spot of routine clearing work by volunteers in the Bamboo garden led to what became one of the biggest garden restoration projects the Trust has undertaken.   The work has taken 15 years and cost half a million pounds – or as James puts it, “only 91p per square foot”.   Historic family photos were used to recreate the garden to it's 1920's heyday.   Local materials were used for it's formal elements.   Loose plantings were used amongst yew hedges, trellis and pergolas, emphasising natural colour schemes and subtle combinations of colour and foliage.

The garden is divided into many outdoor 'rooms' each with its own theme, colours, texture and detail.   Inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement, Mrs. Beale developed her hillside garden so that it looked like a natural part of the High Weald landscape

We began our tour by walking up a steep path which has recently been added to open up this part of the garden to visitors.   Mrs. Beale planted tall pine and beech trees to protect the plants from wind damage.   This is also where the Bothy can be found, which is an Artisan's dwelling, designed and built by Will Shannon and having a beautiful stained glass window.   To the right of the Bothy is a terrace overlooking the estate, Weirwood reservoir and the River Medway.   We then walked back down by the side of the house to the Terrace which has tropical planting, probably inspired by Christopher Lloyd who visited the House.

In spring, 10,000 tulip bulbs are planted here. We also saw the Quarry garden, which is still being worked on, the Rosery, which has a swimming pool, circular rose beds, iris and a new wooden trellis built by volunteers.   We finished in the kitchen garden which was as colourful as everywhere else.

We all enjoyed an especially interesting talk in the beautiful Sussex countryside on a warm sunny summer evening.               ROSIE EVANS


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Open Garden: 3rd June 2017

The sun was shining, it wasn't humid as it had been over the past few days - it was blissfully warm with a cooling breeze - perfect weather for the Society's Open Garden at "Cuckmere Rise", Cross in Hand.

Our hosts Wendy and John welcomed us into their beautiful garden at 2 pm.

There was plenty of room to park in their field which led into the side of the garden where they had made their vegetable plot, which incorporated neat lines of Potatoes, Broad Bean, Onions and salad crops, along with Runner Beans, courgettes and Rhubarb, and colour had been introduced by an abundance of Sweet Peas.   There was a greenhouse housing their tomato plants and to the side of which was even a little pond with water lilies - not only good to look at but fabulous for wildlife.

Leaving the veg plot behind us we found ourselves at the back of the house which gave way to sweeping lawn seemingly melting away into the countryside beyond, but after a while one realized that there was a "Ha-Ha" which gave rise to the clever illusion - the views towards the South Downs were stunning.   There was a mown path accessed by a gate which led across the lower field (also owned by Wendy and John) to Selwyn Woods at the bottom (owned by Sussex Wildlife Trust).

By the house in this area Dieramas (angels fishing rods) were flowering, giving quite a wow factor.

The house which was bedecked in Wisteria and Roses, led us round to where tea and cakes were being served by Cathy, Judy and Marian - ably assisted(all the washing up, kettle boiling, etc etc) by Gill and Derek.

There were plenty of shady seats where one could partake of these goodies - Ginger cake, Chocolate cake, Lemon cake, Coffee and Walnut, Victoria sponge as well as gluten free - all very delicious.

There were lots of little plantings in pots and troughs around the patio area, making little cameo pictures in themselves - all planted with great flair and artistic knowhow.   Also a very large Aeonium which was flowering.

To the further side of the house more lawns interspaced with island beds of trees and shrubs underplanted with Iris, Osteospernum, Hardy Geranium, Penstemons, Foxgloves, Roses, Lavenders and Ferns along with Honeysuckle and bamboo.   Amongst the trees were specimens of handkerchief tree (Davidia) maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba) along with walnut tree (Juglans), copper beech and a tulip tree ( Liriodendron tulipifera) and also Acers of varying colours.

At the front of the house were more various shrubs and perrenials which softened and gave colour to the drive.

Sue (Cook) had set up her stall by the garage in this area with a good selection of plants to purchase along with the plant crèche.   Geoff at the car park admitted 75 people, and net takings (after expenses) of £217.50p, a third of which Wendy and John said they would like to donate to the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

The lucky ticket went to Faith Smith.

At around 4.15pm Cec thanked everyone for coming to the event, and presented Wendy and John with a potted Alstroemeria with the society's thanks for such a wonderful afternoon in their garden.        SUE BOBIN


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Open Gardens:  Saturday, 20 May 2017

How nice to have the opportunity of visiting four very lovely, but different gardens in Mill Road, in reasonable weather, and tea and cake in the garden of house no 4!

Having collected my lucky number raffle ticket from Geoff and handed over my donation at the entrance to Lindisfarne I made my way through the front garden (making a little detour through the secret pathways amongst the rhododendrons), admired the water feature, thinking “wow, this is good”, then under the archway into the back garden.    The “wow” factor then went up several notches. Lesley and Mike were there to greet us and chat about their labour of love of the last 19 years.   They had thoughtfully provided photographs of  “before and during” and the now is absolutely stunning. There was so much to look at, secluded seating areas, a knot garden, magnificent borders, wisteria making its way up the rear of the house.    There was something to admire from every angle of the well maintained lawn.  I thought it was beautiful and surely an inspiration to us all.

Moving onto Selwood, with a lovely warm welcome from Gloria, I expected a similar size and layout of garden, but no, another surprise.    The far reaching lawns led down to the fruit trees at the bottom of the garden, with plenty to admire in the beautifully kept beds and borders.    Looking back up towards the house I particularly loved the acers and hostas bordering the patio.   Retracing my steps round the house back to the front entrance, there was just time to take in the delightful smell of the azara whilst wondering what would come next!  

Next stop was High View, with a welcome from Sue and a chat about her “mini wildflower meadow” in her front garden to accommodate the chives and the bees!   Making my way around to the back garden I encountered a piece of “wildlife heaven”.    I followed the meandering path admiring the ponds and planting until I reached the pond at the bottom of the garden and stopped to admire the masses of tadpoles and listen to the birds having a good old sing-song!    If it hadn’t been for the sudden invasion of “Heathfield Hortis” I’m sure that it would have been an incredibly peaceful hideaway!  

A little further along the road was our last house, Tawnys.    A short walk down the drive with time to admire the beautifully kept front lawn and borders, before stepping through into the back garden.    Holly and Brian should be congratulated, not only on their warm welcome and for hosting the tea and cakes, but on the amazing amount of work and effort they have put into creating their garden in a relatively short time.    Photographs from early 2016 showed that this was definitely a blank canvas when they moved in and now there is a garden pond and waterfall, raised vegetable beds, greenhouse, fruit bushes, flower beds, patio and an immaculate lawn.    My personal favourite being the raised brick edged herb garden.

This was my first “garden visit” as I’ve only been a member of the Society for a few months and I should firstly like to apologise if I’ve left anything out that anyone would have liked mentioned, and secondly thank everyone for:

  • Making me so welcome at the meetings;

  • Making the afternoon so pleasant;

  • Providing such yummy cakes and tea; and

  • All the hard work that went on before/during and after the afternoon.

Can’t wait for the next one!                          JANET FAIRWEATHER



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Gardeners’ Forum: 15 May 2017

The evening’s event was a most interesting talk by Colin Rose, one of our vice-presidents and a fruit and vegetable judge, who entertained and instructed us on how to prepare fruit and vegetable exhibits for showing.  It seems there are many intricacies and every year we are all subject to the weather conditions.

The most important thing is to read and follow the rules and make sure your entry is “according to schedule” with the correct number in each class.  The clues are “If it says ‘should’ you may do something; if it says ‘must’ you must do something and ‘kind’ means a particular cultivar”.  It is wise not to make a mess on the exhibit table so prepare your entry in another area provided for this.  NEVER move someone’s exhibit, so get an official to help if there is not enough room on the table. 

Stewards are there to check that each exhibit is correct and there are no names showing on the entry cards.  The steward also notes the results given by the judge (without making any comments at the time, especially if they happen to know the entrant).  There was much laughter when Colin told us of past exploits during his show judging.   Apparently it is preferable if the judge is quick thinking, light of foot and nobody knows where he lives!!

The finer points of “A trug or basket of mixed home grown vegetables” were pointed out and Colin told us how to make the best of shallots, onions, potatoes, carrots, beetroot and turnips; whether to clean them and how to trim them.  Peas should have a bloom on the skin, a full stalk requiring careful cutting and there should be a full pod of peas.  This is achieved by holding the pod in front of a bright light so the peas show through.  On to tomatoes, courgettes and cucumbers and whether to leave flowers and stalks on or remove them. 

The class of “Any other vegetable” must be labelled even though we can all recognise a sweetcorn cob or other everyday veggies.  Who would have thought it was so important but if you want to win the points you must do your homework and show each exhibit looking it’s best.   There is always a huge entry of runner beans and to gain maximum points these must be fresh, even, flat and well matched.  Size is not important.  The judge will break one bean to check the freshness and a floppy bean will let you down!  You can keep your beans fresh for a show by wrapping them in damp newspaper and keeping them flat in the fridge.  

There were many questions and a small murmur when someone asked why their lovely marrow was not given any marks even though it was the only entry in that section!  The reason given was that it should have been ready for the table and the judge could not put his thumbnail through the tough skin.  

It was interesting to know that fruit need not be fully ripe, stalks left on are usually preferable as is a bloom on plums.  We learnt so much and hopefully we are all keen to make a special effort later this year and it will be the usual wonderful show but with many “perfect” entries, giving the judge some hard decisions to make.

The evening ended with refreshments and raffle and the plant swap.   There were six or seven tables of the most wonderful plants including bedding, climbers, perennials, shrubs, fruit bushes and vegetables so plenty for everyone to choose from.  We had been given a ticket for each plant we donated to the swap and these could be exchanged for plants you would like instead.   The plants could also be acquired for a donation, once the exchanges had been completed.  

Sue Bobin won the competition for the single bloom and Sue Cook won the mixed spring flowers.   It was a lovely evening and we all left carrying our newly acquired plants and full of enthusiasm for the Summer Show.

Sue Young


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RHS gardens Wisley – 30 April 2017

The trip to Wisley was the perfect day for me, except that it was just not long enough.  We were in a brand-new coach with Darren, our lovely driver, and there were no hold ups either way, even on the infamous M25.  The weather was also perfect, dry but not too hot, so no sunburnt faces after a whole day outside.

The garden was probably busier than usual because of the craft fair on site for the bank holiday weekend and there were some amazing items on sale from the truly talented craftspeople.  My favourites were the animal sculptures made from chicken wire and then painted – if only I could have afforded them!

Our unpredictable weather was in evidence around the garden.  The very dry spring was obvious in the bog garden, which didn’t look even vaguely damp, and we saw several plants whose tender new shoots had been blackened by the recent heavy frosts.

We visited the enormous glasshouse where you could see how your houseplants might look if they were in their natural conditions – at least ten times bigger!  The flower forms and colours were astonishing, not to mention the luxuriant foliage, but I’m not sure I’d want to live in such sweltering conditions myself, even if I were surrounded by such wonders. 

Within the glasshouse was an exhibit on plant roots and life underground, which I found particularly interesting.  Soil and roots are something that probably the majority of us don’t give nearly enough thought to, but are clearly so important if we want what’s above the ground to thrive, and in many countries roots are the staple food in people’s diets.

Possibly my favourite place was the rock garden.  I’ve never really considered making one myself but I think I might now.  There were some exquisite beauties in the alpine house and somehow the fact that most of them were so small made them all the more appealing.

We suddenly realised we were fast running out of time and so swiftly made our way round the plant centre and the shop, where I could have spent hours looking at the beautiful books. 

Our visit made our decision to join the RHS an easy one – Julie and I will certainly be revisiting Wisley.

And as the perfect end to the perfect day, we finally got some much-needed rain for our gardens.                   NINA DE VILLE




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Out On A Limb – Tales of a female Tree surgeon                      Monday, 24 April 2017

In an excellent and entertaining talk we learned that tree surgery is a potentially hazardous occupation with a one in thirteen chance of being killed at work… Lesley always leaves everything neat and tidy at home before she goes to work!

Having been advised by her mother to become a Secretary! Lesley first headed off to New Zealand and worked on a remote sheep station.  On her return to the UK she took a job working for Brighton Parks, based at Preston Park.   Whilst there Lesley seized the opportunity to attend a ‘TOPs’ course and learn a new career and that led to working for the National Trust (NT) at Nymans garden, where among other new skills she completed a chain saw course.

In the wake of the 1987 storm Lesley was sent to the NTs Leith Hill site, she joined the team cutting up fallen trees - despite teasing from her sexist workmates!

After obtaining an Arboriculture qualification at Durham College in 1989 Lesley, working in partnership with a fellow female tree surgeon, set up in business as Tree Surgeons.

Lesley gave us an excellent demo of some of the safety equipment and introduced us to ‘Mary’ an enormous chainsaw weighing 2 stone!

There is no such thing as an average day in the life of a Tree Surgeon and the hour flew by as we were regaled with accounts of their work varying from the challenges presented by removing and cutting up trees that had fallen into a Surrey lake to working at London Zoo, where feeding the leaves from the cut branches to an elephant one day was repaid by the elephant’s help the following day when the elephant effortlessly moved a huge piece of heavy branch to be relocated elsewhere in the zoo for informal seating.

The talk concluded with a very informative and comprehensive Q&A session.                                   SARAH HINCE


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Spring Show: 1 April


This was my first visit to one of the Society's Spring Shows so walking into the Community Centre at 9.30am on Saturday morning, I was not sure what to expect. What I discovered was a hive of activity with flowers, plants, photographs and cookery exhibits all being busily prepared for judging; a buzz of friendly greetings and chatter but also some quiet concentration being given to display entries to their best advantage.

I stayed until it was time for all exhibits to have been staged and the hall cleared ready for all the important judging. A last look and I saw a hall not only ready but looking immaculate and beautiful.

Returning later in the afternoon I found the Pop-Up cafe already well patronised with home-made cakes being served with a steady supply of tea and coffee. The long display tables were now complete with the Judge's verdicts. The certificates were all on display.

Section One was an intriguing display of Daffodils and Narcissi all in their identical vases. Quite a sight !! To my untrained eye each and every one looked perfect and worthy of the coveted red firsts. Reading the schedule I saw there were eight separate classes in all, so plenty of choice for people to enter. Also in the schedule was a helpful description of the differing classifications.

The second section was the Floral which I have to admit was one of my favourites. This was a real celebration of Spring with a wide variety of classes: vases of Spring flowers; pot plants; alpine plants; cactus and succulents; bowls of Spring bulbs; and many other treasures to enjoy. It could only have been a Spring event with such a capsule of all the glories we look forward to at this exciting time of the gardening year.

Section Three was the domain of all those clever people who can take a selection of flowers and foliage and, working to a set remit, use their talents to produce lovely floral displays. Five classes in this section so, again, a good choice of classes to enter. Here it was a group of tiny arrangements of 10cm that took my eye. So tiny ! Incredible !

Cookery and Preserves had seven separate classes. This was a very tempting display. Savouries, cakes, bread and marmalade. The judge for this section had only taken up the task at the very last minute, covering for the original judge who had to respond to a family health emergency. Helpful and encouraging notes appeared on everyone's cards.

A popular section was the Photography classes with their display boards and tables full of delightful interpretations of the two set subjects: “water” and “the letter B”. Again quite a challenge for the judge to decide upon the winners.

With the “Pop-Up” cafe, the Raffle, a members plant stall and the River Mead nursery stall outside, the event could only be thought of as thoroughly successful. A warm, sociable atmosphere with much to enjoy.

Many thanks to the Committee and all those who helped. I am sure much organising and hard work was involved. When compared with 2016, I am told, the number of exhibitors increased by about 75%, the number of entries were up by about 40% and the number of people “through-the-door” increased by about 20%.








FLORAL Classes 1-21

  • PIERSON CUP - Most Points. Classes 1-8. Daffodils & Narcissi: ROSEMARY KAY


  • CHRISTINE FELTON CUP – Best Exhibit. Classes 1-8:



  • CORONATION CUP No. 1 – Most Points. Classes 9-21 Floral: ROSEMARY KAY

  • DURRANT CUP – Best Exhibit. Class 21 Patio Container:

        NICK JEGGO

DECORATIVE Classes 22-26


  • CORONATION CUP No. 4 – Most Points. Classes 22-26:



  • HALL CUP – Best Exhibit. Classes 22-26:




  • PRICE CUP – Most Points. Classes 27-33:



  • J G SMITH TROPHY – Best Exhibit from Classes 34 & 35: CHRISSIE WALKER

CLAUDE HERBERT TROPHY – Person gaining most points in all Show sections:




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Rural Rye, 20 March


If only” prefixed almost every comment on this illustrated talk on the rural area surrounding the ancient Cinque Port of Rye. It was also tinged with a degree of disappointment as the speaker has given many good illustrated talks to the Society and several other organisations in the local area in recent years. We have come to expect good quality, up to date, visual aids from all of our speakers. Unfortunately, some of the visual aids needed to make this talk interesting were not present.

The talk was supported by many slides of the Rye area taken between 15 and 30 years ago. The speaker detailed the changes that had taken place since the photos were taken. Some of the photos were very atmospheric and evocative demonstrating the skills and artistic eye we know, from all of his previous illustrated talks, he usually produces. However, it was difficult to envisage most of his comments as none of the views were supported by a more modern, even an up to date, slide/photograph from the same spot. With the benefit of these modern visual comparisons, the talk would have been better understood and more enjoyable.

We live several miles away from Rye and, while we are aware of its history, beauty and natural history, we do not know it sufficiently well to envisage the current day views from the many locations which the speaker used to take the photos he showed. Ironically the chatter and buzz, which always follows a speaker while people are collecting their refreshments, was noticeably louder that evening. If nothing else, it appears to have given everybody something extra to chat about. GEOFF COOK


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Something in the Night: Nocturnal Wildlife of Sussex...and beyond Monday, 20 February 2017

Michael Blencowe, of Sussex Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation, gave a most interesting and highly entertaining talk to 92 members and friends. He began by explaining that he is an insomniac. To occupy himself during sleepless nights he would get up and search for all manner of creatures that come out at night, including the tiny silverfish which first inhabited this earth 400 million years ago. He would venture outside in search of nocturnal wildlife and there began a passion for watching his garden by night, or driving further afield to listen and search for birds and animals.

One of the first birds he heard was the redwing, and there were a number of other birds to be heard during their nocturnal migration. He was particularly excited to hear a quail. Michael explained that birds use the stars to aid their navigation but that tight pollution is sometimes a hindrance. He then invested in a night camera and set it up in his own garden where he spotted, initially, cats (there are apparently 8 million in the country and he's not very keen on them). The camera recorded roe deer, badgers and foxes (some with their cubs).

The nightingale can be still be heard despite their numbers having decreased dramatically since the 1970s. He had seen and heard the bittern which makes an incredible noise, as welt as the sedge warbler and nightjar. Owls are very interesting, particularly if you find their pellets because from them you can discover their diet -which includes mice and shrews.

The ghost moths catch the light and make a wonderful show, looking very much like tiny fairies, and Michael suggested that they could have been the origin of the many so-called fairy sightings. Hedgehogs and polecats can also be found. Polecats are related to ferrets and their numbers are gradually increasing.

Michael had travelled to Texas and there he saw and picked up an armadillo (only to be told afterwards not to touch them as they can pass on leprosy, apparently) he also saw Mexican free-tailed bats by the million nesting under a bridge in Austin. They were a fantastic sight when they all took off at nightfall.

He had travelled to Spain in search of bears. He was assured by the locals (including an 86-year old lady) that there were many bears in the surrounding hills, although when asked, nobody had ever seen one! Then, to his delight, Michael discovered bear poo by the side of the road. He knelt down to sniff it and proclaimed it smelled good. He saw bears in Sweden too and came to the same conclusion. Bear poo smells good because it is full of berries - yum!

Michael concluded his talk by telling us a little about the beautiful butterflies which can be seen on the Sussex Downs. He and the butterfly expert, Neil Hulme, also of Butterfly Conservation, have recently produced a book, 'The Butterflies of Sussex", which is to be published in April but is available now at the reduced price of £20.

All concluded it had been an interesting, humorous and thoroughly entertaining talk.   STELLA STEVENS



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