Celebrating over 90 years with three Cambridge College Gardens

More than 90 years of working together for charity are being celebrated by the National Garden Scheme and three Cambridge colleges that have opened their gardens for the scheme since 1928.

The college gardens joined the National Garden Scheme portfolio only a year after it was launched by the Queen’s Nursing Institute in 1927 to fund district nursing – an act of charity by these esteemed institutions that was perhaps, in the 1920s, something of a surprise.

“Having looked into the archives it is instantly apparent that the colleges genuinely understood the benefits and the principle of opening gardens for charity, especially nursing charities in the period after the First World War,” says National Garden Schemes Penny Miles.

And, despite a break due to the Second World War, all three gardens have continued to support the Scheme, opening for an afternoon most years to allow the public to enjoy beautiful spaces usually reserved for college members.

Clare College Fellows' Garden

Clare College Fellows’ Garden

County organiser for the National Garden Scheme in Cambridgeshire, Pam Bullivant, explains: “This is the longest relationship we have in the county. We are enormously proud to be associated with such distinguished institutions, and very grateful indeed for their support. They have made a tremendous contribution of over £52,000 to our beneficiary charities.”

To mark this historic celebration the three head gardeners from King’s, Clare and Trinity spoke to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Chris South about their gardens and why they open them with the National Garden Scheme.

For King’s College head gardener Steve Coghill, opening for the National Garden Scheme is a happy partnership between the college Fellowship and the Scheme. “Opening both the Fellow’s and the Provost’s gardens provides a wonderful glimpse into these private spaces,” he said, “and we’re looking forward to opening our gates again on Sunday 30 June.”

King's College Fellows' Garden and Provost's Garden

King’s College Fellows’ Garden and Provost’s Garden

For Trinity’s head gardener, Tom Hooijenga, the open days bring a “nice crowd who appreciate their surroundings, creating a happy existence between the Fellows, the National Garden Scheme and the visiting public.”

All three historic riverside gardens are full of individual character blending with their landscapes and architecture and boast some extraordinary trees including copper beeches, limes, mulberries and giant redwoods. While King’s welcomes visitors on 30 June, the herbaceous borders at Clare are at their summer best during June, July and August and can be visited under the scheme on Sunday 7 July. Trinity’s sensational spring bulbs provide a stunning display earlier in the year.

With hundreds of years of history, as radio presenter Chris South said: “Visiting the gardens is to travel through history as well as through flowers and trees.”

BBC radio cambs

In the studio and pictured here, L to R, are: Tom Hooijenga of Trinity College, Chris South, Penny Miles, Steve Elstub of Clare College and Steve Coghill of King’s College.

To discover more about King’s College opening on 30 June click here.

For more on the Clare College opening on 7 July click here.

Trinity opens in the spring with a fantastic display of spring bulbs – visit the website in the New Year for opening times.

For information on other gardens open in Cambridgeshire this summer click here.

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