August and September in the gardens have been extremely busy.  We have been slightly disrupted outside with filming and asbestos removal.  However, these events are all vital in securing the future of West Horsley Place and make fascinating watching.  The rewarding part has been preparing for two beautiful weddings.  It is wonderful to see the house and gardens playing such an important role in significant moments in people’s lives and being brought back to life with laughter,  music and happy times.……there is never a dull moment!

From a weather, enjoyment and fundraising point of view, we had an amazing day at the West Horsley Fete. It was wonderful to see so many people able to enjoy the house and see it for the first time as well as seeing so many freely walking around the gardens and orchard.  The gardening team had a table at the fete, selling handmade Victorian pots, filled with various types of herbs (including a ginger rosemary!), a number of beautiful small terracotta dishes made by Christina Gascoigne filled with thyme, a range of home grown plants in three different sized recycled pots, as well as our very exciting volunteer effort - handmade decorated tiles!  One of our garden volunteers, Myra McDonnell, an eminent potter, came up with the idea of creating a transfer taken from part of a manuscript I discovered in the Surrey History Centre.  The document itself is a work of art and lists the areas of land and their names on the West Horsley Estate in Henry Weston’s time, circa 1750.  We prepared the tiles, made by Hambledon Tiles and kindly donated by Myra, by applying the transfers and then these were re-fired in Myra’s kiln.  We have a limited number left which will now be sold at the Christmas Craft Fair which we are hosting from 27 November to 1 December this year so don’t miss the opportunity to buy one!   In total we raised over £500 on our small table, and together with individual donations and profits from the West Horsley Place merchandise stall, we amassed a sum of approximately £2,000,  which will go straight to the Walled Garden Appeal……….it will make a real difference to the future of the garden. 

During the fete, I was also lucky enough to be asked to help with the judging of the Miniature Garden Competition run by the local community garden, Grace and Flavour.  It was fascinating to see the range of different ideas the children and teams came up with and I was impressed with the number and range of entries considering it was the first year this competition had taken place.  I hope that, with the interest and enthusiasm shown, it will become a regular highlight of the fete.

On a practical note, our Wednesday morning volunteer sessions are still focusing on the removal of the ivy from the walls and I estimate that we will still be doing this for another few months…….but we are making good progress!  It is definitely one of everybody’s favourite jobs as it makes such an immediate difference and is extremely satisfying!   However, removing the ivy has revealed how much damage has been done over the years to the walls, so a priority will be to carry out remedial work to preserve them, once more funds are available.

This month, I also had the pleasure of meeting Fergus Garrett from Great Dixter when he came down to meet with Bamber and Christina.  We showed him around the  gardens and talked about our plans.  After seeing the orchard, he gave us the opportunity to visit Great Dixter and collect a few bags of yellow rattle and other meadow flowers from their wild flower areas.  This we did, last week, returning to WHP and sowing it as soon as possible in our ancient orchard.  If you can introduce yellow rattle into one small area (a parasitic grassland annual) It suppresses grass growth allowing other meadow flowers to flourish.…basically increasing species diversity.  Its germination seems to be quite precarious so fingers crossed, we shall see how it goes!!

Finally, having spent some time in the Surrey History Centre, it has been intriguing reading through some of the historic documents in the archives.  Amazingly enough,  there are household ledgers from 1710, beautifully preserved with reference to labourers in the garden.  It would be fascinating to find out if any of the families are still here in the village.  Incredibly, there was a weeding lady in 1710, called Mary Staceley who earned 9 pence per day, as opposed to her male counterparts who earned 1 shilling!  The families who worked in the gardens were the Bullens, the Fulkes and the Chambers…, not forgetting Will Coles, who was the mole man!  Perhaps these families may still be in the area, so if so, please get in touch……there may be a fascinating story to be told!