Welcome to the Peak’s South Yorkshire garden village

Eyam Open Gardens: Right Nicola Wright showing Pauline Hutson round Eyam Hall gardens
Eyam Open Gardens: Right Nicola Wright showing Pauline Hutson round Eyam Hall gardens

“WHEN you’re in your garden in Eyam, you have lovely views, you have cockerels crowing, you hear very little traffic, but you have the sound of sheep when you’re gardening. I just love being in the garden here,” says Pauline Hutson, who moved to Eyam from Stannington just over five years ago.

Nicola Wright has been getting used to Eyam for over 30 years, after moving up from the ‘soft south,’ as she puts it.

“It was a terrible shock. I moved here after getting married in 1978 and it was the worst winter in living memory. We were cut off for days!”

Nicola lives at Eyam Hall, and her 17th century garden is part of the Eyam Open Gardens weekend on Saturday, June 30, and Sunday, July 1. The Eyam Hall garden is large and spectacular, but forms only one example of a range of 19 village gardens open to the public.

“There is a huge variety of gardens to see,” says Pauline Hutson. “There’s something for everybody, I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.”

The gardens on view include cottage gardens, the village allotment (Saturday only), large long-established gardens and small new gardens on the new Glebe Park estate, as well as Eyam Hall. The last open gardens event held in Eyam was in 2006 when 13 gardens were open to the public and Nicola Wright, who organised the 2006 event for about 2000 visitors, hopes the 2012 weekend will attract even more people to the former plague village.

The latest event has been organised by Nicola and Pauline and fellow local gardeners Joan Yates and Marie Atkinson with the aim of raising money for the Eyam Mechanics Institute, the much used but very much in need of repair village hall.

“It’s used every single day by the village, with young and old going to bingo, guides, brownies, keep fit, dancing and sewing, for example,” says Pauline.

“We’re trying to raise about £20,000, to redecorate the main hall, to redo the toilets, to repair the lighting, to do the curtains for the stage, and windows, and after the open gardens we hope to be about half way there.

“We did a concert for the Jubilee in the Mechanics which raised about £1,000 and we hope that and the Open Garden will raise £3,000.”

An event programme costs £3.50 and provides entry to all 19 gardens, including the hall, a map and descriptions and tips from the gardeners.

Some gardeners will also be offering plants for sale, which will also go towards the Mechanics Institute restoration.

“We hope visitors will be able to pick up ideas for their own gardens,” says Nicola. “We’ve got some beautiful ones here, and it also gives the chance to learn a bit more about Eyam.

“It’s a fascinating village and the Open Gardens is an added dimension.”

The event is from 11am to 5pm on both days and there’ll be a free car park, as well as the regular 65 and 275 bus services from Sheffield.

Each participating garden will be marked by a wooden sunflower and there’ll be refreshments at the Mechanics Institute and the many tearooms in the village. Entry programmes can be bought in the village from Eyam Museum, the Mechanics Institute, Eyam Hall Shop and Church Street Stores.

“We’d like to think the event will take place again, maybe even annually, especially if it helps to raise funds for the Mechanics,” says Pauline. “The building is used so much it would be a travesty if it went down for whatever reason because it’s the hub of the village. But it’s in dire need at the moment.”

The idea of an Open Gardens in Eyam came partly from seeing the success of similar events in Bakewell and Great Longstone.

“It’s for a complete mix of people, not just keen gardeners,” says Nicola. “I’m fascinated by what people grow and how they’ve made things work. And of course it’s a chance to have a bit of a nosey.”