The subject of the March meeting was “Garden History of Cambridgeshire”, given by John Drake, chairman of the Cambridgeshire Gardens Trust (CGT). Many of our most famous Cambridge gardens are in the care of the National Trust or English Heritage and are open to the public for most of the year. Anglesey Abbey and Wimpole Hall are just two Cambridgeshire examples.. However, many gardens are very vulnerable to change and development which could put them at risk of total destruction. Gardens may not necessarily be of aesthetic or botanical interest but can be of considerable historic, architectural or scientific importance.
The decision to form the CGT was generated by the interest and concern in the county’s considerable variety of landscapes, parks and gardens in both private and public ownership and the desire to have a greater awareness and appreciation of them. The principle aim being to conserve, enhance and recreate the historic landscape, parks and gardens that existed or presently exist in Cambridgeshire for the education and enjoyment of the public. The CGT has now accumulated information on over 400 gardens in the county, but after this very interesting talk John was made aware of one more garden in Cambridge which he intends to visit very soon.
Arrington Village Garden, which was opened in 1993 for the enjoyment of the public, was given as an excellent example of how local people can get involved in creating a superb garden. Hemingford Grey Manor, owned by Lucy Boston, features some stunning topiary and Childerly Hall, which absorbed two nearby hamlets, and now has a magnificent rose garden. The CGT had also been actively involved in numerous other Cambridgeshire garden projects, including those at Wimpole Hall estate, Gamlingay Park, Hatley and Diddington Hall.
Not surprisingly, many of the Cambridge college gardens have also been visited by the CGT: Christ’s College Masters Garden, featuring a long ornamental pond which has been adopted by some swans; Girton College Garden which has a theatre; and Downing College. The Leckhampton House Garden, off Grange Road, has also been studied for many years and is notable for its magnificent display of lupins. John also mentioned an intriguing small garden in Sylvester Road, just off Parkside, which has a delightful gazebo in the garden.
On-going projects being undertaken by the CGT include: the walled garden at Ramsey Abbey; the restoration of the garden precincts and herb garden at Peterborough Cathedral; and advising on the restoration of the Buckden Towers gardens.