River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Another Day Out In Norfolk

August 2002

The Beachamwell Village Gardens

On Sunday, 30th June, the village of Beachamwell opened many of its' gardens to the public to raise funds for St Mary's Church. Much hard work had gone into all aspects of the preparation and the weather remained warm and dry to encourage the crowds. The truly remarkable fact I subsequently unearthed was that people travelled from as far afield as Spalding, Cromer and Great Yarmouth to enjoy the delights offered by this pretty little village. If you add to that the number of friends of villagers who had also travelled great distances, from South Devon and London to name but two, you begin to realise the universal appeal of this lovely annual event.

The 16 gardens opened to the public varied were many and varied. There were the delightful gardens in Chestnut Walk, All Saints Way and Shingham Road, each with their unique combination of herbaceous borders, shrubs and the inevitable kitchen garden. Then there was the range of typical English Country gardens right opposite the church; each long and narrow with twisting paths which led inevitably down to the woods bordering the village. The venerable Old Rectory and the modern Friars Oak, nestling together like time capsules behind the village green, contained delightful well-established shrubs and lawns nicely blended with more modern borders and driveways and each with their personal view of the magnificent St Mary's Church.

And then a highlight of the day for me was the opportunity to meet a lady in the garden of a house on The Green who confessed that, in a previous life, she had been the village mole catcher. Needless to say, there were no molehills in her garden although like many others she did have a small rain-catcher to measure local rainfall. Real professionals, these Beachamwell gardeners!

Finally, when tired limbs screamed for a chance to rest and throats desperately yearned for some liquid refreshment we ended up at St John's farm on the Fincham Road. Here, in the enormous and well laid out gardens, surrounded by neat and modern farm buildings, a veritable feast awaited. An army of volunteers ran a bookstall and a cafe offering cream teas, strawberries and cream and a range of much needed liquid refreshment. It was clear that many, unable to choose between the cream tea and strawberries ended up with both.

In addition to the sheer joy of viewing the individual and sometimes quite unique gardens, the day afforded ample opportunity to talk to the village residents and other guests. Having attended the event last year, it was amazing how many of the hosts we remembered. Perhaps the highlight of our day was the chance meeting with a dear lady by the Lichgate. She proudly told us, indicating a house opposite the church that she had lived in that house for 81 years. She had left its' front door to cross the street to get married and had only left for a bungalow in Swaffham four years ago when the stairs became too much for her. Her great age did not in anyway prevent her marching steadfastly around the garden of her previous home and the gardens of her old neighbours. I didn't like to ask if she approved of the changes made by the present occupants.

We learned from our experience last year and used the car to visit the more distant gardens. Some hardy strollers did in fact complete the grand tour on foot. They, no doubt, took advantage of the opportunity to slake their thirst in the quaintly named Great Dane Country Inn (or The Hole in the Wall if you came from the other direction!).

The event, organised by Mark Pennell, raised a magnificent £1285.50p for church funds. It brought a great deal of joy to many hundreds of visitors and enabled proud villagers to show off the their horticultural works of art. Don't miss the chance to enjoy this typically English event next June.

Ray Thompson

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