Garden party as Yalding reopens to public

Posted on: 27 May 2010 by Gareth Hargreaves

The gates will be thrown open to the public for a bumper cake-fuelled tea party when Yalding Gardens re-open to the public on Saturday June 12.

The Gardens – formerly Yalding Organic Gardens - are under new ownership and, to mark the re-launch, are opening free of charge on the first day of the new season.

Visitors young and old are invited to take along picnic blankets and enjoy all the gardens have to offer, while delicious sandwiches, teas and cakes will be on sale throughout the afternoon.

The gardens, officially opened by HRH Prince Charles in 1996, have been taken over by local company Loddington Farm Ltd, which has signed a 15-year lease with the owners, the Congelow Trust.

Although the gardens are very much a ‘work-in-progress,’ there is still plenty to see, including an ancient woodland walk and wartime ‘dig-for-victory’ style allotment, as well as an abundance of herbaceous borders.

The Smith family have farmed in and around Yalding and Loddington for more than 200 years and are well-known for their variety of apples, juices and, until recently, the record for growing the biggest baking apple in the world!

Paul Smith, 33, heads up the new team at the helm and welcomes back Sheryl Richardson as Head Gardener. Sheryl has worked at the gardens for the past three years and is well-acquainted with its changing moods and seasons.

Paul said: “As someone who has lived all his life around Yalding, I am delighted to have this opportunity of developing these wonderful gardens. 

“Although the name of the Gardens has changed, they continue to be certified as organic by The Soil Association and we will be working hard to fulfil the Trust’s original aims and objectives.”

The new Mayor of Maidstone Councillor Eric Hotson has been invited to join in the fun, along with members of the Parish Council and representatives of other community groups.

Visitors will notice a few immediate changes – although there are still many months of hard work ahead. A chainlink fence and gates have been repositioned to create a more appealing entrance, while the trees alongside Benover Road have been coppiced, so that passers-by can get a taste of what is on offer.

A new wheelchair and buggy-friendly access has been created further along Benover Road, to make life easier for visitors who want to walk from the village to the Gardens, who will no longer have to negotiate the main road when the footpath peters out.

Finally, additional parking is being created at the front of the building for disabled visitors – and for those who just want to nip into the shop for fresh fruit and vegetables, home-made cakes and other local produce.

Mr Smith said: “We look forward to welcoming both local residents and visitors from further afield, all of whom will receive the same warm welcome, whether they come to enjoy our five acres of gardens, or the excellent hospitality and produce in our refurbished farm shop and café, the Bushel Box.”

The Yalding Gardens were the dream of local benefactors Donald and Pixie Cooper, who donated 10 acres of land and funds in Trust to develop an organic display garden at the heart of ‘the Garden of England.’ The gardens were designed along a historical theme and demonstrate how age-old growing practices and pest-control using purely organic means can be just as effective today.

Garden Organic, who ran the gardens on behalf of the trustees, withdrew in early 2008 and were succeeded by Maro Foods Ltd, who opened in May of the same year. Maro Foods operated the site until October 2009 at which point the tenancy fell vacant.

The Gardens will be open from 12 noon on Saturday June 12, when there will also be the opportunity to purchase annual membership at a 25% discount. Thereafter, the Gardens will open from 9 – 5 Monday to Saturday and from 10 – 4 on Sundays.

For further information, telephone 01622 814650 or visit Yalding Gardens.

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