Peak time to nosey around gardens

Eyam Hall garden
Eyam Hall garden

A chance for a good nosey, is how one participant described the village open gardens idea in the Peak District.

Joan Yates, from Eyam Open Gardens, said: “It’s a wonderful way to encourage people to come and see that we’ve got a fabulous village here.”

Eyam Open Gardens: Sylvia Dean (right) showing her garden (including meercats) to Joan Yates

Eyam Open Gardens: Sylvia Dean (right) showing her garden (including meercats) to Joan Yates

“It also brings the village together,” added colleague Lynn Jackson.

“We all enjoy entertaining other people, and after we’ve been so busy over the weekend, on the Monday we all troop round to see each other’s gardens.”

The Eyam Village Open Gardens weekend on July 12 and 13 is one of a dozen ‘chances for a good nosey’ in Peak villages this summer.

“Visitors are often looking for ideas,” said Lily Humphreys, who welcomed over 600 people to her small modern garden last year.

Eyam Open Gardens: Sylvia Dean tending a pot plant among some of her poppies at Hillside Cottage

Eyam Open Gardens: Sylvia Dean tending a pot plant among some of her poppies at Hillside Cottage

“They’re interested in the plants we’re growing, the colour, the use of space, even where we got the shed from.”

Most village open gardens events raise money for local or national charities, but are not always part of the NGS Open Gardens scheme.

Eyam Open Gardens was a relaunch of an earlier event, and has now been running annually for three years to help raise £20,000 for Eyam’s Mechanics’ Institute, which needed urgent repairs to stay open as ‘the social centre of the village,’ as Lynn Jackson put it, running social events, meetings and cinema screenings for Eyam’s 1,000 inhabitants.

Visitors to the Eyam gardens buy a ticket and guide for £4, which gives them entry to 13 sites this year varying from tiny cottage gardens and modern patios to the formal 17th century garden of Eyam Hall, opening thanks to new owners The National Trust wanting to keep the tradition going.

“Eyam is a brilliant place to be, the scenery is amazing, the houses are gorgeous and there’s a huge amount of history,” said Jenny Aldridge, from Eyam Hall. “It’s a fabulous community to be part of.”

Eyam Hall boasts planting by a professional gardener and a team of a dozen volunteers, with 200-year-old espaliered apple trees, and elements believed to date back to a medieval house previously on the site.

Sylvia Dean’s Hillside Cottage is almost as famous to local gardeners thanks to Sylvia’s 60 years work in turning her tiny, almost vertical plot into a beautiful cottage garden.

“We had 300 visitors last year, and we had to run a one way system along the paths with flags and balloons marking the route,” she said.

“It’s marvellous to have so many visitors, because I love people to share my garden.”

Eyam has seen areas of new building over recent years, and some of the open gardens are very much younger: five years old in the case of Lily and Paul Humphreys.

“It was a blank canvas,” said Lily.

“We had a boring rectangle with a strange bit on the end, so we decided to put paving in and create little areas for lots of plants. We’re still learning and we make mistakes, but we used to have a big garden where we were always working, but here we can sit and enjoy it.”

Eyam has differing soils in different parts of the village, which adds to the variety.

Some villagers can grow azaleas, some can’t, and Joan points out that keen-eyed visitors can note the troughs fed by different springs on Water Lane, some for washing in soft water, and one full full of hard water for drinking water in the past.

Visitors from all over the UK have been visitors to the Eyam gardens, and a family from the Netherlands even turned up last year, said Lynn Jackson.

“They’d never seen anything like it. They said: ‘In Holland, we never get chance to go into people’s gardens to have a look round’.”

Tickets for July 12 & 13 are available from Eyam Mechanics’ Institute, Eyam Hall and Museum and Church Street stores.

Upcoming Peak Open Gardens:

Edensor Open Gardens - this Saturday;

Holme Grange, Bakewell - this Saturday;

Middleton Open Gardens - this Saturday & Sunday;

Great Longstone Open Gardens - Jun 28 & 29;

Castleton Secret Gardens - Sun Jun 29;

Winster Secret Open Gardens - July 19/20;

Beeley in Bloom - Sun, July 20;

Bradwell Open Gardens - Sat, Aug 9;

Bakewell Secret Gardens - Sun Aug 24.