West Woodhay Gardeners’ Fair
The West Woodhay Gardeners’ Fair in association with the National Garden Scheme on the 23-25th June near Newbury, Berkshire, has rapidly established a reputation as a mecca for plant enthusiasts. It is a winning combination of renowned nurseries in the setting of a 25 acre garden not regularly open to the public. ‘Such a fair in a really spectacular country house garden is in the great tradition of British plantsmanship. West Woodhay is an amazing garden’ says George Plumptre, Chief Executive of the National Garden Scheme.
‘It’s an exciting opportunity to discover a delicious little plant’ adding ‘many of the exhibitors are family run nurseries offering outstanding quality plants. It’s great for them as they are often based in the middle of nowhere with very little passing trade’.
Hardy’s Cottage Plants, Meadowgate Nursery, the Botanic Nursery and Marina Christopher’s, Phoenix Perennial Plants, are just a few of the nurseries taking part. In addition there are handsome garden pots, bespoke gates and hurdles by Dave Seaborne from Green Man Products , lovingly made tools by Garden and Wood and a host of other horticultural delights. I guarantee it will be hard to leave the fair empty handed.
Each year the fair attracts thousands of people and raises vast amounts for local charities. ‘Since the fair’s inception five years ago we have raised in excess of £270,000. ‘It is a real community event’ says Harry Henderson –‘the Newbury Rotary Club run the silent auction, the Fair Close Centre doing the teas, West Woodhay village are making the canapes for the gala evening, the boy scouts are doing the crèche and the Newbury Agricultural Society are running the school’s competition as well as making the signs. It is a veritable model of the ‘Big Society’.
The fair is organised by the same team behind the highly regarded Cottesbroke Gardeners Fair in Northamptonshire.
West Woodhay, designed by Inigo Jones in 1635 for Benjamin Rudyard, a poet and politician, has been owned by the Henderson family since 1920. The house has a remarkable view to the Downs, ‘the highest point between the Pennines and the South Coast’ says Harry proudly. Harry’s parents salvaged the garden after the war when the house had been occupied by the MOD. ‘Everything had gone’ says Harry, ‘Jim Russell, who started Sunningdale Nurseries, who planned the arboretum at Castle Howard was a friend of my father’s and advised them. He suggested opening up the vista to the Downs to link the house with the view leaving a few judiciously placed round clumps of trees. Near the house we have kept the garden relatively formal with good structure, straight edges, and beautifully mown lawns so as not to detract from the view’. There are herbaceous borders in the walled garden. ‘My mother was a good gardener. She had an excellent eye for colour combinations’.
In recent years, Harry, a keen gardener and his wife have made several additions to the garden increasing it adding new lakes and creating out of a bog a very imaginative Jubilee garden celebrating his 60th birthday with six Portland stones in a circle and five rings of trees representing the Olympic Games. All the trees are either cut leaf or weeping including sorbus, oaks and beeches. ‘We are lucky as we have fingers of acid soil that come onto chalk so can grow anything we want’.
The fair is a thrilling chance to see an outstanding garden and buy fine plants. Do go along. Pre-order tickets using the code: AdM08 will entitle you to a ticket price of £8. On the day tickets purchased on the gate will cost £12.