For the past 20 years, ‘Patchwork’ in Hall Park Gate, Berkhamsted has opened twice a year for the National Garden Scheme, but because of the coronavirus pandemic was unable to open in May this year. With the easing of restrictions, The National Trust, English Heritage, The Royal Horticultural Society and KEW have all started a phased reopening, with pre-paid timed entry tickets obtained online, and the number of admissions, dependent upon the nature and layout of each property, and subject to any Government limits on size of gatherings.
Since July, the National Garden Scheme has followed a similar plan, and a limited number of gardens have opened to the public in aid of the NGS and the medical and health charities that it supports. ‘Patchwork’ will be in the next phase, opening for four sessions of 75 minutes each on both Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 August. The sessions will run from 11.00am to 12.15pm, 12.30pm to 1.45pm, 2.00pm to 3.15pm, and 3.30pm to 4.45pm, which allows 15 minutes between sessions. A maximum of 30 tickets for each session will be on sale at www.ngs.org.uk. Self-service hot drinks will be available at £1; also biscuits at 50p; payment will be by cash in a bucket. Children are free, and dogs on leads are welcome.
Jean and Peter Block have lived in Berkhamsted for 51 years and over that period, the garden at ‘Patchwork’ has developed into what it is today. It is a traditional garden with a bit of everything so that there is colour and scent throughout the year. It is on the south side of the valley. Jean said: ‘Our garden is at its most colourful in April/May and August/September, which is emphasised by the slope. It covers 1/4 acre and is small enough for visitors to relate to, but large enough to easily accommodate 50 guests. Now we’re into August, our fuchsias are showing well, a large number of dahlias are all in bloom, and our patio tubs are awash with colour.’ Peter added: ‘The ground here has a thin layer of soil over flints, with chalk in some places but mostly well down. That and the terrain provide a challenge, especially as we are approaching 85, but we will keep going for as long as we can. Jean is the plants-woman with a good sense of colour; at the moment I’m the fitter and nimbler and get to do the heavier labour-intensive tasks.’
Over the past 20 years, Jean and Peter Block have welcomed over 7,000 visitors to Patchwork. ‘We really do hope we’ll get a good number of visitors next weekend. Like many charities, the National Garden Scheme has been severely affected by the restrictions arising from coronavirus. In 2019, the NGS donated £3 million to medical and health charities; the main beneficiaries were Macmillan Cancer Support £500.000, Marie Curie £500,000, Hospice UK £500,000, and Carers Trust £400,000. Sadly, this year our support will be just a fraction of that. Looking to the future, our opening days in 2021 will be Sundays 2 May and 22 August.