In 2009, Surrey Gardens Trust joined the ‘Opening all the Gates’ programme, originally conceived by Betinna Harden in 2000, by extending access to historic parks and gardens to groups that would not otherwise have the opportunity. The idea was to introduce people to heritage gardens by providing tailor-made visits, admission, refreshment and a garden talk and tour. The visits need to be specially designed for each group taking into account their abilities and disabilities and thus to enable disadvantaged people from all walks of life to visit gardens who might otherwise not do so.

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“The aim was to ensure the widest possible cross section of the community is able to access, discover and enjoy the leisure, activity and educational opportunities that these lovely places offer, connecting people with nature and informing them about their heritage. Just being in a garden makes people feel better and can offer wonderful spiritual therapy for those leading stressful lives.”
— Betinna Harden, Founder of The Gateway Trust (2000)

Funding for these events has kindly been contributed through the ongoing sponsorship of the Historic Houses Association (HHA) Southeastern region and grants from the Trust. In addition, many of the garden owners generously waive entrance fees and happily supply refreshments for the visitors.

Over the years residents from the following places have enjoyed spending time in the beautiful, peaceful and restorative gardens of Surrey such as Ramster, Chiddingfold; Vann, Hambledon; Munstead Wood, Busbridge; Norney Wood, Shackleford; Loseley Park, Guildford; Westbrook, Godalming; and Chilworth Manor, Guildford.

Meath Home for Epilepsy, Godalming

Bell’s Piece, Farnham

Hydon Hill Cheshire Home, Godalming

St Dominic’s School, Hambledon

The Ridgeway Community School, Farnham

These groups have enjoyed activities ranging from the collection of assorted seed heads, sketching garden vistas, experiencing the different garden rooms at Loseley Park, to watching the shepherd’s crooks of the unfolding ferns. Of course, the refreshing teas and cakes in the afternoon sunlight in these gorgeous settings remain the highlight for many of these visitors.

“The tangible pleasure that these visits generate is a humbling experience and a most worthwhile enterprise, especially for the small groups who come to our local gardens.  I hope it can continue into the future demonstrating the pleasure and beauty of gardens and inspiring young and old to venture outside together.”
— Mary Caroe, SGT Gateway Co-ordinator and owner of Vann