27th & 28th August 2023
For the last 41 years, not including a couple of recent cancellations for covid lockdowns, on the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday of August the Suffolk village of Walsham le Willows opens its garden gates to the public as part of the quintessential English summer event, an Open Gardens Weekend.
The weekend is not just about the 35 gardens and landscaped spaces but also brass bands, an art exhibition and a floral display in the Church, music in the Church, a Village Market, plant stalls and of course, delicious refreshments on both days in two venues, the Memorial Hall (behind bowling green) and the Priory Room (near St Mary’s Church) where delicious light snacks, lunches, homemade teas and cakes are provided by people of the village. In addition there is a Barbecue, Pizzeria and Bar on both days in Garden No. 9.
Visitors come not only for the gardens but also the appreciation of the calm and serenity that is created by the event over the two days.
“…we had heard about Walsham but never been. We will be back next year…”
A flavour of the atmosphere of the real event
“…we go to a lot of open gardens events and this is the best…”
Parking and Facilities
Car parking for the event is well signed and is immediately opposite the church. The main car park often fills up in which case you will be directed to a neighbouring field. Both car parks are well signed and attended. There is also ample parking for coaches on hard standing, although if you are planning a coach party we would welcome call in advance so that we can make suitable arrangements. There is no separate charge for car parking, the only charge being the entry ticket.
Parking for disabled people is available and clearly marked on the hardstanding at the entrance to the main car park.
There are WC facilities suitable for the disabled at both the Priory Room and the Memorial Village Hall and other temporary facilities located in the village and clearly marked on the centrefold map in the program.
We pride ourselves on the wonderful refreshments served throughout the day and there are full details in the program but in essence the places to go are the Priory Room for tea and coffee with light snacks cakes and scones, the Memorial Village Hall for the same and for more substantial lunches and tea’s and Garden no9 for a full BBQ experience, sourdough pizza’s and a full bar with local keg ales and fine wines.
The Gardens MiniBus Service travels around the village on both days. The service will run from 10:45 until 18:00 for those who would like a bit of help getting around all the gardens. The bus makes regular circuits of the village. It’s free and available to anyone – just wave it down and get on and then be dropped off at the next garden.
The entrance charge for the weekend is £8 per person with children under 16 free of charge and this will enable you to come on both days if you wish to do so.
The entrance fee includes copy of our detailed programme of events during the two days and:
• Entrance to all gardens
• Entrance to all other events
• Free parking and free travel on the village bus.
*To enable GIFT AID to be claimed the entrace charge includes a voluntary contribution of 10%. Please make sure you sign a GIFT AID form on arrival.
Alternatively, visitors can elect to pay the standard entrance fee £7.25.
Usual Programme of Events & Attractions
11 am to 6pm both days unless otherwise indicated
Events in the Church
- 11.00am to 6.00pm both days
- Art display and sale of local artists work.
- Floral display on the theme of ‘A celebration of the Garden.
- Bell ringing displays at the start and the finish of both days.
- Various guest organists will play the newly restored Porritt organ on both days.
- Walsham History Group will present an exhibition in the Church over both days.
- ‘Angels Delight’, a Harp and Flute duo will entertain and the timing of their performances are in the program.
Music in the Village
- Breckland Brass Band will play in the Memorial Hall car park on Sunday between 2pm and 4pm.
- Gislingham Silver Band will play in the Memorial Hall car park on Monday between 2pm and 4pm.
- At the end of both days there will be impromptu performances at the BBQ and Pizza experience in Garden no9. With a local group of musicians and our very own Elvis. So don’t rush away.
- Village Market will be located in a large tent in the yard of the famous Clarkes of Walsham and they will also be opening their Country Store for visitors to browse in.
- Pimms and Produce stall at the allotments on the Wattisfield Road
- BBQ, Pizza’s and a well-stocked bar in Garden no 9.
- Bowls matches on both days on the bowling green adjacent to the Memorial Hall.
- Display of Vintage Cars and the Jaguar Owners Club on both days in Garden no9.
- Giant tortoises in Garden no6 on both days.
- The Six Bells will be open over the weekend serving good beer.
- The Blue Boar will be open over the weekend with drinks and good food and with a band on the Sunday evening
“…we had a lovely lunch in the village hall and it’s such good value…”
“much credit must go to your entertaining staff. I haven’t enjoyed my lunch so much in years ! It’s lovely to see traditional values with a real ambience of a traditional summer fare!”
History of Event
The Walsham-le-Willows Open Gardens Weekend can certainly claim to be one of the best, longest running and most successful Open Gardens events in East Anglia and probably the country.
The idea for the Open Gardens in Walsham was first suggested by the then vicar of St Mary’s Church, the Rev. John Rutherford but credit for the ongoing developments of the Open Gardens event must be given to the late Hilary Russell, a plantswoman whose extraordinary energy and leadership is looked upon as being the reason why so many visitors now come to Walsham le Willows on the Sunday and Monday of the August Bank Holiday.
Over the years many people have dedicated a lot of time to organising the event but former chairman Robin Newell deserves a special mention for his untiring efforts and organisational ability. He has now handed the mantle to Collen Baker who has served on the committee for many years. The late Dr Alec Russell gave so much help to his wife and who was the original Chairman of the organising committee, also deserves a mention. But the weekend relies on the hard work of many people and every year there are over 200 are involved in one way or another to pull everything together.
Funds raised at the Open Gardens are for village causes and most importantly the maintenance of the fabric of St. Mary’s Church, a magnificent example of a typical 15th Century East Anglian Church and worth a visit in its own right. So far over £120,000 has been raised by Open Gardens for the church.
email John Stebbing (Secretary)
2 Vine Cottages
Walsham le Willows
Suffolk IP31 3AZ
01359 259 061 / 07831 325 610
Visit some other open gardens events, find more at opengardens.co.uk