Pride of Pontesbury
PUBLISHED: 12:09 10 July 2009 | UPDATED: 08:56 21 February 2013
Dorothy Haughton visits a village of floral glory Shropshire Historic Churches Trust raises money through its Open Gardens Scheme (and in other ways) to provide grants for churches in need. This year, there are more than 50 gardens open in...
Shropshire Historic Churches Trust raises money through its Open Gardens Scheme (and in other ways) to provide grants for churches in need. This year, there are more than 50 gardens open in a programme from March to September. The scheme is organised by Roland Bream, ex-churchwarden of St George's Church in Pontesbury. As well as individual gardens around the county open for a day, some villages have a number of gardens open. This is the case in Pontesbury - the so-called Garden Trail having been conceived by Roland Bream three years ago. This year, for just £3, people could visit nine gardens in the village, at two of which teas were on offer and at another two, there were plant stalls.
St George's Church was the starting point for the Garden Trail and is worth exploring. It stands on one of the highest points in the village of Pontesbury in a large island at the centre of a one-way traffic system. It was built in the 13th Century but extensively restored in the 19th. The altar was built by Walter Clement and carved by his wife, Dorothea, at their studio in Grove Lane. Their friend, Fredrick Carter, painted the three panels depicting Mary and the child Jesus with Saint Peter holding the keys and Saint Paul holding the sword of evangelism on either side. The backgrounds to the figures depict scenes from the local Shropshire hills. The church has an unusually wide central aisle with the old Norman font standing at the west end. The circular graveyard contains the iron tomb of Hamlet Harrison, dated 1843. He and his family were incumbents of Pontesbury for most of the 19th Century. The church is open every day, so is a good place to start any visit to Pontesbury. On 12-14 September is the Art Festival and Sale and on 11-14 December is the Tree and Crib Festival. For the Garden Trail, the organisers had handed out 160 maps in the first hour showing the locations of the open gardens. I was able to visit seven of them.
Drawwell Cottage, Pontesbury Hill
The current incumbents are Dave and Cheryl Evans. The house originally belonged to his great-grandmother and Dave lived there as a child. His father and his grandmother were born there so their two boys are now the fifth generation of the family to live there. The family were all keen gardeners, as are Dave and Cheryl. This is the first year they have opened their garden and Dave said: "We enjoy visiting other people's gardens so it seemed only right to open our own."
The garden goes down and down, so is not the easiest to work and contains surprises such as a blue beehive (which is a compost bin) and a red telephone box.
Lord's Acre, Pontesbury Hill
This development of five miner's cottages was originally The Flats. Bill and Helen Sample, who now live here, bought the cottages from Mrs Strutt who had knocked three of the cottages into one. They knocked in the fourth. No 5, which was separate, is still in the garden with the number on the door. Mrs Strutt bought the cottages for £200, a sow and her litter. She renamed the site Lord's Acre. Bill and Helen have lived there for 17 years and have opened garden each year. They offered visitors a garden plan, which was very useful. At one side of the garden is a mini woodland walk with, from a strategically placed picnic table, views over open country.
Stratton House, Pontesbury Hill
Michael and Annette Morris moved in six years ago. The house was only four years old when they bought it and there was no garden to speak of. John Stephens of Church Stretton landscaped it but Michael said: "I brought every one of the roses for the rose walk home from the nursery in my car and I have the scars to prove it." They enjoy showing the garden and living in Pontesbury - it's a friendly community. They supplied tea and some very nice cake, the latter baked by members of the friendly local community.
6 Lower Road, Pontesbury Hill
This is another ex-miner's cottage and the garden clearly belongs to a plantswoman. Nancy Fowke, 88, has a Botany degree and loves plants. When she had a young family, Nancy grew vegetables but now concentrates on flowers and trees. She comes from a gardening family - her grandfather, mother and sister-in-law were all keen gardeners. Lacking a greenhouse, she does not grow from seed but propagates from cuttings and swaps with other gardeners. The wisteria was allowed to grow up the telegraph pole, as her husband didn't want it over the house. Her garage was home to a plant stall run by a couple of neighbours.
Westfield House, Pontesbury Hill.
This is a new house built for the Harrisons 13 years ago when they moved from Stockport. Once the house was finished, Joanne and Robert Harrison started on the garden. They created a woodland area up the slope behind the house to which had been added earth dug out when the house was built. A garden plan designed by their daughter, Rachel, was available for visitors. One side of the lawn is still meadow. Joanne explained: "Being in the garden trail scheme is a good excuse to get out in the garden. I take after my mother who was a keen gardener."
Ballabeg, Rosemary Way
Mike and Imogen Mortimer have lived in the house for 25 years. They got to grips with the garden when the children had grown up. Imogen now has the Knot Garden she always wanted. Across the driveway, there is a wildlife garden by a stream. The interesting black and white 'sculpture' came from a bin bag factory. As well as having a plant stall so that visitors could buy interesting plants, the Mortimers displayed photographs showing the garden earlier in the year.
25 Manor Park, Main Road
Geoff and Myfanwy Manley bought the house new in 1978 and began by replacing the topsoil removed by the builders. Myfanwy loves plants and happily fills the borders with colourful flowers. Geoff, who works as a gardener, does the hard landscaping and made the welcome sign fitted in the hole for the clothes dryer. "So that no one would trip over it," he said.
For more information about the Shropshire Historic Churches Trust, including how to include your garden in the Open Garden Scheme, contact:
Roland Bream, Stevenshill, Harnage, Shrewsbury SY5 6EG. Tel: 01952 510255, email: email@example.com
Shropshire gardens and churches open the rest of 2008
Sunday, August 10 (2pm-6pm) Applegarth, Marchamley. Follow arrow for 20 metres at bus shelter on A442 in Marchamley. £3, wheelchair users free. Teas, plants stall, parts suitable for wheelchairs, dogs on leads allowed. Church: St Luke's, Hodnet.
Saturday, September 21 (noon-5pm) Harnage Farm, Cound. Eight miles south-east of Shrewsbury on A458. Turn to Cound one mile south of Cross Houses. Harnage Farm is in one mile bearing left past the church. £3. Teas, parts suitable for wheelchairs, no dogs (except guide dogs). Church: St Peter's Church, Cound.
Sunday, September 28 (10.30am-5pm) The Patch, Acton Pigot, Acton Burnell. £2.50, under 16s free. Teas, plants stall, parts suitable for wheelchairs, no dogs (except guide dogs). Church: St Michael and All Angels, Pitchford.