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Visit Hill Close Victorian Gardens to aid NGS Charities

Photo by Rob Tysall

This year, the National Garden Scheme (NGS) is looking forward to the opening of 3,500 gardens across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands, raising money for some of the UK’s best-loved nursing and health charities.

Amongst these gardens will be Hill Close Victorian Gardens in Warwick. On Saturday 18 February they will be part of the NGS Snowdrop Day, so a wonderful opportunity to explore these restored Grade II* Victorian leisure gardens and raise funds for charities such as Marie Curie and Parkinson’s UK. (Visit their website for normal opening times and days.)

The Victorian leisure gardens comprise of 16 individual hedged gardens, 8 brick summerhouses, herbaceous borders, heritage apple and pear trees, C19 daffodils, over 100 varieties of snowdrops, many varieties of asters and chrysanthemums and much more. There’s also a Victorian style glasshouse, a children’s garden and the stylish visitors’ centre.

Photo by Rob Tysall

Originally set up in 1927 to support district nurses, the National Garden Scheme now raises millions of pounds for nursing and health charities each year. In 2022 alone they raised £3.1 million for charity. They also support charities doing amazing work in gardens and health, grant bursaries to help community gardening projects and support gardeners at the start of their careers.

Since 1927, thanks to the generosity of garden owners, volunteers and visitors, the National Garden Scheme has donated over £67 million to some of the UK’s best-loved nursing and health, and gardening charities.

If you’ve never visited Hill Close Victorian Gardens, then you’re in for a treat.

Photo by Rob Tysall

A visit to Hill Close Gardens is like stepping back to Victorian times. In those days the bustling English towns and cities of the 1800's saw the back yards of shops and traders’ premises as places for workshops, wash-houses and stables. There was little hope of finding space to grow fruit and vegetables or to relax in and enjoy some fresh air. Anyone wanting to do some gardening had to seek out a piece of pastureland on the outskirts of the town.

As this trend became more popular, these Victorian Leisure Gardens sprang up all over the country, enjoyed by shop and business owners who had the disposable income to afford this. In 1845, Hill Close pastureland next to the racecourse was divided by the landlord into 32 plots. Families could at last enjoy their very own leisure garden and they built summerhouses, planted hedges and all manner of fruit and vegetables. This idyllic leisure time was enjoyed for the next 100 years. But eventually the land was bought for housing developments.

Photo by Rob Tysall

By 1980 only one plot remained cultivated, the rest had become overgrown with brambles, ivy and self-seeded trees. Only the summer house rooftops, hidden beneath decades of overgrowth, could be glimpsed, and the land became a haven for birds and wildlife.

Warwick District Council were on the verge of sending in the bulldozers when a handful of people realised they were about to lose a special part of their town’s history. The Lammas and District Residents Association was formed and volunteers mustered.

They were faced with a mammoth task – a jungle of brambles up to 15 feet high and self-seeded ash trees more than 25 feet tall. Summerhouses, a Victorian glass house, an Anderson Shelter, pigsties and other outbuildings were gradually revealed – mostly derelict and in need of repairing, rebuilding or demolishing.

Work was strenuous and took months, during which time workers uncovered all manner of artifacts from Victorian times – pottery, tools, clay pipes, glass bottles some with the local trader’s name engraved into the glass. Also however, the plants, shrubs, fruit trees and the shapes of gardens all began to reveal how they must once have looked.

One of the key figures in their project, Noreen Jardine, set about identifying the plants and in particular the many varieties of apple trees. Noreen would assess each tree, bring in apple experts and take apples to horticultural events to identify the 50 plus types of trees. She had also obtained rootstocks and would graft them with scions from the threatened trees in order to preserve and successfully reintroduce the fruit trees back into the gardens.

Photo by Rob Tysall

Over time the years of hard graft have paid off and Hill Close Victorian Gardens are now a beautiful oasis of nature and history. Around 2005 they received £1.2 million in grants which enabled major restorations to be carried out and the building of a stylish Visitors' Centre with a cafe, patio and function room.

Why not visit and discover these lovely gardens for yourself.

Photo by Rob Tysall

Hill Close Victorian Garden, Bread and Meat Close, Warwick, CV34 6HF. Open for the NGS Saturday 18 February 11am – 4pm. Admission adults £5, children free. Check their website for normal opening days and times.

Find out more about the National Gardens Scheme:


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