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.
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.