Leicestershire and Rutland differ from many other Gardens Trusts in that we do not have a large number of Registered Parks and Gardens – just 24, of which two are public parks. Historically, this is because the aristocracy and gentry came here to hunt rather than create their country estates.
So, as a Trust, we do not devote much of our time to reviewing planning applications nor do conservation issues feature heavily in what we do.
We focus on research: originally for the Parks and Gardens Database and then, for the last ten years, creating a register of Walled Kitchen Gardens in our two counties. This is available to search on our website.
Also on our website is a searchable database of our collection of historic postcards, illustrating parks and gardens in Leicester, Leicestershire, and Rutland.
We have an active and lively education group: small grants are available for schools (frequently special needs or inner-city schools) for garden-related projects. We fund an annual visit for a group of primary school children to Leicester Botanic Gardens for a day of activities. We also award an annual student bursary to Brooksby College, our local land-based college, for the student who has made the most progress in their studies.
And, of course, we have a lively and stimulating programme of gardens visits and talks for our members. This includes an annual celebrity lecture, open to the public, from which the surplus funds our education programme.
In 2018, we celebrated our 20th anniversary and, Paul Knight, one of our members who marks important Trust events with a poem, wrote a piece of comic verse to commemorate the occasion. We plan to mark our 25th anniversary in 2024 (delayed by Covid) with a Study Day on the post-war creation of Rutland Water and this anniversary “poem” remains just as relevant.
The LRGT AT 20
When Elizabeth, who we know simply can’t be refused,
Said ‘Paul, I think we’d be mildly amused
If you wrote us an anniversary verse’
I uttered a quiet, involuntary curse.
‘Now I don’t want you writing anything rude
Like ‘there was a young man from…, that can be quite crude.
I was thinking of something ……. pastoral, lyrical’
I replied ‘that’ll be nothing short of a miracle’
‘I simply can’t write proper poems, I fear
With simile, metaphor, onomatopoeia.
If it’s something that’s bouncy and with a good rhyme
I can knock that sort out in pretty quick time’
But much as I dithered, deflected, demurred
Elizabeth would not be denied or deterred.
So here is my effort, which I hope will amuse
Though I fear it reads more like Pam Ayres than Ted Hughes.
In the 20 year life of our dear Gardens Trust
To all manner of earthly delights we’ve been bussed.
Met designers, head gardeners, and plant breeders too,
Then patiently waited in line for the loo.
We’ve met gardeners who don’t let the landscape defeat ‘em,
Or spend fortunes on planting their own arboretum,
Or dedicate lives to particular flowers,
Or build follies, Greek temples and bloody great towers!
We’ve seen parterres and terraces, arbours and urns
Woodlands and river banks, hostas and ferns,
Dry gravel gardens, damp boggy places,
Wild flower meadows and wide open spaces.
We’ve seen landscapes designed with great capability,
Toured country estates of the English nobility.
Gazed in wonder at snowdrops that brighten dark days,
Walked among roses in warm fragrant haze.
We’ve admired great examples of arboriculture,
Not to mention the odd piece of Soviet sculpture!
We’ve marvelled at feats of hydraulic engineering
And coach-driver Robert’s immaculate steering.
We’ve filled entire coaches with purchases made:
Plants for patios, pergolas, sunshine and shade.
But when we get home and gaze at our plot
We’ve no blooming space, so we buy a new pot!
But there’s more to the Trust than just garden excursions.
There’s a whole list of other delightful diversions:
Old market towns where we take guided walks,
A varied selection of lectures and talks.
The celebrity lecture provides inspiration,
And funds we can channel to local education.
Funding projects in schools, and opening young minds
To the wonders of nature and plants of all kinds.
The research groups flourish, under Sue’s tender care,
Documenting the walled kitchen gardens out there.
They study old records, and pore over maps
Then contact the owners to fill in the gaps.
There’s the phone call ‘good morning, I do beg your pardon
But please can we visit your walled kitchen garden?
It’s now just a pig farm? Oh dear, that’s a shame
But we’d still like to have a look round all the same.’
We’re lucky to have such a brilliant Committee.
(I’ve no time to rhyme all of their names, more’s the pity).
They’re so good at performing the roles they’re expected
That year after year they are all re-elected.
Most of all we are grateful to Elizabeth Bacon
For her energy, drive and the time that she’s taken
To unearth and arrange horticultural delights,
Sampling tea rooms, testing fruit cakes or savoury bites.
So Elizabeth, I hope that this struck the right tone
With nothing too risqué or near to the bone.
Now, three cheers for the wonderful LRGT
And long may it flourish, like a sturdy oak tree.