Bumper Post – Chew Stoke Open Gardens 24.6.23

by | Jun 24, 2023 | Latest Post | 0 comments

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Hold on to your hats folks. We decided to have an afternoon out, a bit like a miniature holiday. We noticed an ad. in the Mendip Times for Open Gardens. The old part of Chew Stoke in Somerset contains narrow streets, typically old cottages with building additions in the last century. It has at its centre a traditional old church which seems to still be the heart and soul of the community.

The openings were from 1.30pm to 5 pm so we arrived about 1.15 pm at the Village Hall (BS40 8TU). From the looks of it, practically all types of social events happen there including movies. See advert. below. When we arrived, busy ladies were laying out tea and coffee facilities and small squares of cake of various types.     The ever efficient  Suzanne was officiating over ticket sales  which basically meant  giving out a map of the 11 or so places to visit and writing ‘two pepople’ or ‘one person’. The contribution was £5 per adult.

The map was picturesque rather than anatomically correct but the roads were clearly marked. The listed gardens had balloons outside to identify them. I was fooled at the first stop by a brown balloon which was exactly the same colour as the gate to which it was attached.
Anyway, our first port of call was the property of Mary and Jeff (not the common or garden Geoff). Some gardens are so well designed that you cannot spot the design itself. It looks like a part of the landscape.


Fragment of conversation from Jeff: …..  there were many faults in the house including rising damp. We added an extension.  At the start my mother came and fell in love with the place. If it had been in South Bristol she would not have given it the time of day.  I found it via a fellow employee at Harlech TV who mentioned the house was available. I said that he had fallen on his feet and he agreed. He said he was at the right place and at the right time. How lovely when this happens.

Mary his wife was delightfully welcoming and took pains to discuss the detail of the garden.  The installed an archery target and croquet as something to do with the lawn area. I love the view of the church. When I first saw it I thought that had lost three towers but on closer inspection saw it was part of the design.

Our second garden was an ex-farm property owned by Lindsey. Her daughter was on duty at the gate. A helpful Scottish man directed the traffic. This was a wonderfully undulating garden on the side of a hill which had a meadow attached.

We were worried about ticks so we avoided walking in the long grass.

We descended the hill and noticed that the throng had increased. Everyone was nicely turned out in summer dresses and you could almost say they were in party mood.

We entered the third property owned by Cynthia. To the left of the gate was a lovely brick bridge (maybe the original entrance)

Below is an intimate area for drinks / peace and quiet, off the sitting room.

Cynthia, mistress of all she surveys.

I did have a chat with her before we left saying that I was impressed with the companion planting in the vegetable area. Also the garden was a work of art and clearly loved. I thought that those who came stressed and maybe depressed without leave in a better condition.

Into the town and on to our next visit. on the way, the River Chew meanders through the village, choosing to flood from time to time.  All part of the charm.  There are two fords by the way.

Next, to Penny and her husband. A charming garden full of animal and bird themes. We were even given a map of the areas of the garden and what was going on. Meticulousness indeed. The sculpture below looks Henry Mooreish to me.

There was a mild altercation with a council contractor who close this moment to agressively trim a hedge in the street, due to a compulsory order. An indignant lady came into the garden and said that her complaint had been met with an expletive. She went straight away to phone the council. Good luck on a Saturday. Anyway she was right.

Across the road to Ann who seemed to be running B and B Properties as well. I remarked that the garden was ‘almost a full time job’ and she confirmed that during the season her husband was indeed occupied full time. There seemed to be a special micro-climate for the gooseberries and the red currents were nearly ready for picking. The house seems to be a Colonial type design. Pleasing and attractive.

You need good eyesight to see the fruits (below) but they are there

To the next property, more a utility garden with an amazing man cave AKA carpentry shop. My goodness the broad beans are nearly ready for picking.

Back to the car. The weather was very hot. En route I thought of having another tea in the parish hall but it was full with people queuing and a good sprinkling of excited children (well behaved as you would expect). Good for them. People were sitting drinking tea outside in the sun.

We went in what was to be our final visit to Hazel, who lived about a mile outside the village. I was greeted by a dog and a ball and he clearly wanted to engage with me. I was offered Elderberry champagne. We visited the husband in his man shed and bought a jar of very local honey (from the bees in his garden) for £6. Uncontaminated honey is becoming very hard to get these days so we were glad to avail ourselves of this offer.

At this time the sun was getting to me so off home we went.

I recommend that you look out for this event next year. I will try and find out when it is. Evidently this was the first of its type since covid so that makes a three year break. No wonder everyone was so happy and chatty.

I wish the whole country had this community atmosphere. There would be a fraction of the unhappiness and strife that we are alas all to familiar with.

I see that St. Andrew’s church has a vacancy. With such lovely surroundings and with such a literate and community minded flock filling it should not be difficult.  I hope this info is not out of date .

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