Sam Cowley and The Little Gardens of Trimley

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Picture1.pngLooking forward to summer

At this time of year, when green shoots and tender buds gradually emerge from the cold days of winter, everything seems possible. New places to explore, fresh undertakings to contemplate and the promise of green abundance as Spring moves into Summer. The simple pleasures of living in the village are making themselves obvious. Already, young stalks of Queen Anne’s Lace are pushing through grassy waysides and Celandines are showing their bright faces as the daffodils start to fade. There is always more to come at this time of year and one of the prospects for the forthcoming season is this year’s Trimley Open Gardens, known this year as ‘The Little Gardens of Trimley’ an event which will take place in June. Two years ago, it was an unexpected pleasure for me when I visited all the available gardens of Trimley St. Martin and some of St. Mary’s over the Open Gardens weekend and I am looking forward to enjoying the same innocent pleasure again. I wondered who was behind the project and it transpired it was and is, Sam Cowley. How did it all start? I visited Sam to find out more and he explained the origins to me.

“When I was a full time Vicar, I always wanted to hold an ‘Open Gardens’ event but it wasn’t until I moved to Trimley the community opportunities were set fair. We moved to St. Mary’s in 2011 and by 2012 we felt we had settled in and the people here are very friendly. I can walk down the road and everyone will say ‘hello’. One of the reasons I wanted to promote Open Gardens was because I wanted to share and show my own garden…”

 Sam laughed at this seeming lack of modesty but the truth, I think, is a more expanded view of his rationale.  At the heart of his enthusiasm is the genuine desire to engage with the community and to share the green aspects of our village life with the wider public. Money is not the prime motivation by any means. Quite the opposite, in fact. The entry price to all the gardens was set at £5 for the whole weekend and this remains unchanged.

As you might suppose, Sam and Brenda, his wife, are keen gardeners who complement each other’s different approach. They talk and argue about their garden, each seeing their plots of land from a slightly different perspective. Sam told me he sees things in terms of flower beds and vegetables while Brenda brings an artistic eye to the colour, tone and aesthetics of gardening. They plant and raise vegetables from seed but now buy young plants for the garden as they found there was too much seedling wastage. When he showed me his flower garden in the fading evening light, I could see a diverse range of delicate plants covering his entire front garden.

Sam is not one to let the grass grow under his feet and back in 2012 and 2013 he and Joan Wardle talked about what could be done, gathering together a few other supportive individuals who all worked towards the first event in 2014. It was hard work taking on such a project from nothing to fulfilment but it was achieved and it was agreed the event would be bi-annual. For the first year, 2014, eighteen gardens were on offer to view. It included a competition for the school children and their own small plots, rewarded by packets of seeds donated by Thomson and Morgan. Despite the dreadful weather over the first weekend, the number of visitors totalled over two hundred and forty.

Both visitors and Gardeners were delighted and excited by the event. The gardeners discovered the unexpected fruits of sharing their work with others as they had not anticipated how much they would enjoy the positive comments of the visitors. One of the charms of the occasion was the general range of the gardens on view. They didn’t demand specialist attention but demonstrated just what is achievable if you have the willpower.

The second event was in 2017. The sharp eyed amongst you will notice a gap of three years, not two. This was due to domestic circumstances but now Open Gardens falls on the odd numbered years, this has worked out to better advantage as it avoids clashing with the World Cup, the Olympics and other huge sporting events.  2017 saw a reverse of meteorological fortunes. There was a complete absence of rain and the sun shone with blistering ferocity. People basked in the warmth whilst moving languidly from one floral venue to another. The numbers were greater than 2014 and exceeded three hundred visitors, including children. All the gardens offered the most perfect of blooms and hospitality.

This year’s event will take place over the weekend of the 15th and 16th June 2019. To date, at least fourteen gardens will be available to visit and the whole weekend has plenty to offer. There will be balloons to mark the gardens supplied by ‘The Flying Lady’, Cream teas,  a Bug Hunt for the children, a Craft Display, a Barbeque, plants for sale and the thrilling possibility of travel by Rickshaw between the Gardens.

The conversation between Sam and myself ranged from Gardens to stories of Trimley but before I left him, I returned to his intention to engage with the community. Why, I asked, is community important? It is an obvious question but I was interested to hear his answer. He thought about the question carefully and replied,

“It’s about a creating a sense of well-being for the people we live amongst and about being supportive to them. I take services twice a month at St. Martin’s and know the Church needs to reach out to all the people.”

 With eighteen gardens across the Trimleys, there will be plenty of opportunities to see many aspects of the community. The dates for this inspirational event are worth marking in your diary and are as follows:

Saturday 15th June 2019 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.

Sunday 16th June 2019 12.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.

Entry costs £5

and covers both garden entry on both days as well as access to any parking areas. The money raised will be divided between the Basic Life Charity and St. Martin’s Church.

I urge you to visit. It will be a revelation.

Blooms from 2017

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