For the last 37 years, 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.
View descriptions of the 2017 Gardens (Gardens opening for 2018 will be listed here nearer the date of the event.)
The weekend is not just about the 30 or so gardens but also live music, art exhibitions, a farmers market, craft stalls and plant stalls and of course, delicious refreshments in two venues, the Memorial Hall and the Priory Room where wonderful light snacks, lunches, teas and cakes, including the famous meringues, are provided by people from the village.
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 go to a lot of open gardens events and this is the best…’
‘…we had heard about Walsham but never been. We will be back next year…’
Ian Toulson, friend of the Walsham Open Gardens Committee has created a virtual tour from 2016, with musical accompaniment which gives a good feel for the event, and is published on You Tube.
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 no separate charge for car parking, the only charge being the entry ticket.
Parking for disabled people is available and clearly marked in the car park of the Village Memorial Hall.
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 Open Gardens Weekend events has many sponsors without which it would not be so successful…
- Bedfords Estate Agents
- Clarkes of Walsham
- Equus Environmental
- Greenview Environmental
- Microcide Ltd
- Miles Drainage
- Myatt Country Fresh Ices
- My Flatpack
- Pollard and Co.
- Premier Printers Ltd
- R & D Construction
- Robins Row
- Rolfes of Walsham
- The Blue Boar
- The Six Bells
- Tripp Batt & Co. Ltd
- Walsham Community Council
- Wyken Vineyards
History of the Event
The Walsham-le-Willows Open Gardens Weekend will celebrate its 38th Anniversary Year in 2018 and 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.
Chairman Robin Newell deserves a special mention for his untiring efforts and organisational ability, as does the late Dr Alec Russell who gave so much help to his wife and who was the original Chairman of the organising committee. The weekend relies on the hard work of lots of people and every year there are over 200 local people involved in one way or another.
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.
2017 Event Information
The Entrance charge for the weekend is £7* per person (one day pass) or £10* per person (two day pass). Children under 16 free of charge.
*To enable us to claim GIFT AID the charge includes a voluntary contribution of 10%.
Please make sure you sign a GIFT AID form on arrival.
Visitors can elect to pay the standard entrance fee £6.40 (one day pass) or £9.10 (two day pass) without the donation.
The entrance fee buys you the following:
• A copy of our detailed programme of events during the two days
• Entrance to all gardens
• Entrance to all other events
• Free parking and free travel on the village bus.
The 2017 programme of events in full (The 2018 programme is being put together and will be confirmed here as soon as possible).
Opening Times – 11:00 – 18.00 both days
- Flower Festival in the Church on the theme of The Queen
- Bell Ringing Demonstrations
- Art Exhibition and Sale
Music in the Church [dates and programme for 2018 TBA]
- Sunday 27th – Various Guest Organists – 12.30pm – 4.30pm
- Sunday 27th – Songs of Praise – 6.30pm – 7.30pm
- Monday 28th – Various Guest Organists – 11.30am – 4.30pm
Music in the Village – Memorial Hall Car Park [dates and programme for 2018 TBA]
- Sunday 27th – The Breckland Brass Band – 2.00pm – 4.00pm
- Monday 28th – The Gislingham Silver Band – 2.00pm – 4.00pm
- Lunches, Teas and Refreshments in the Memorial Hall and Priory Room
- Village Market (opposite the Church and at the Memorial Hall) 11.00 – 18.00 both days
- Barbecue and Pizzas in Garden No. 3
- Walsham History Group Information & Publications Garden No. 10
On Monday evening from 17:00 there will be a cake and produce sale of any thing that is left.
‘…the best meringues in Suffolk…’
BBQ at Collen Baker’s garden (Garden No.3)
‘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!’
Available on both days along with homemade Fresh Pizza from a wood fired clay Pizza Oven.
We’ll be cooking traditional meats from our very own village butcher, Rolfe’s of Walsham.
Come and enjoy the banter of our chefs and bar stewards.
The Allotment Association – Pimms and Produce tent in Garden 18 is open both days between 12:00 and 16:00.
Why not visit them, freshly grown produce will be for sale whilst supplies last.
‘…we had a lovely lunch in the village hall and its such good value…’
Village Market Stalls – 2017 [stalls for 2018 TBA]
Church Barn Forecourt
- Helens Herbaceous – herbaceous plants
- Bill and Ben Nursery – stone ornaments for the garden
- Stowmarket Beekeepers Association – honey, beeswax furniture polish and hand creams. There will also be a fully contained live demonstration hive to view and beekeeping equipment for visitors to handle
- Gardeners Delight – second hand gardening tools
- Second Chance – hand decorated, decoupage garden pots and vases
- SandEdge Ltd (SUNDAY ONLY) – garden furniture, structures, gifts, hand tools and accessories
- Riverside Bulbs (MONDAY ONLY) – wide variety garden bulbs
- Suffolk Wildlife Trust – wildlife and all things Suffolk
Church Barn Indoor Market
- Hand painted furniture and giftware by Vin
- Mary’s Little Gems – unique handmade jewellery using natural stones, crystals, shells and glass from around the world
- Phoenix Trading – exclusive range of unique, top quality greetings cards and gift wrap
- Lily Craft – hand decorated cotton bags, bunting and gifts
- The Tea Lady – homemade jams, preserves and chutneys
- Maddog Cottage – handmade jewellery using silver, gemstones and pearls
- Our Slice of Country life (SUNDAY ONLY) – embroidered cushions and gifts
- Lovely Hands – gardening gloves and lovely hand care products
Memorial Village Hall – Morahill Nursery – herbaceous plants
Garden 3 The Elms – Yoke Jewellery – handmade glass jewellery
This year, why not take the opportunity to tour the village in style? Over the weekend we will be offering trips around the village in a vintage 1933 Rolls Royce 20/25 with Park Ward coachwork. Tours will start and finish in Collen Baker’s garden No. 3 and the charge will be £5 per tour for a maximum of four people. All the proceeds will go to the Gardens Weekend.
A photography competition is also part of the event.
Photographs in jpg format of activities during Gardens Weekend can be sent to Mike Unitt. A hard copy can be put in the Observer box at Rolfes of Walsham.
Prizes are £40, £20 and £10 for first, second and third places, respectively.
Please be aware that the Gardens Weekend committee reserve the right to use any photographs submitted for promotional purposes.
John Stebbing (Secretary)
2 Vine Cottages
Walsham le Willows
Suffolk IP31 3AZ
01359 259 061 / 07831 325 610
Email: John Stebbing