Our Writer in Residence, Bella D’Arcy Reed is holding a workshop on writing about landscapes as part of Essex Author’s Day on Saturday 9th March.

She writes: ‘It is now  well-established that gardens and landscape are beneficial to well-being, not only physically in being in the open-air, walking, gardening, breathing but mentally, in clearing the mind, concentrating on the warmth or briskness of the air, the sound of the sea, the scent of roses. This has been written about in reports, journals and articles. What is not so often expressed in prose writing is the strength of feeling between humans and the landscape, the feeling someone has for a garden in creative non-fiction,  or  how writing the landscape can enhance atmosphere, characters and plot in fictional prose.

This workshop will help you to do this, either for a personal diary, for your own pleasure, for non-fiction pieces or in fiction. It is about writing with emotion, of the sense and the spirit of landscape and gardens.’

The workshop will last 50 mins and is free. Bookings open January 14th To book a place go to:    https://essexbookfestival.org.uk/events/


AGM 2018

Our AGM on October 20th at Saling Grove was well attended and very enjoyable. The day included talks on Repton in Essex by Georgina Green and at Saling Grove by Caroline Ratcliff, as well as teas/coffees and lunch. Here is the review of the year:


The year began with the welcome arrival of a new chair, Thadian Pillai. With his encouragement the Trustees undertook a comprehensive review of the Trust’s strategy and activities, resulting in a new statement of the Trust’s objective, a new tagline, changes to our communication strategy, a drive to increasing our relevance to garden and landscape professionals and academics, and to revitalising our garden history activities.

The Trust’s new descriptor is ‘Caring about our green spaces’, and its objectives are now stated as:

Sharing our love of gardens and landscapes, their history, their design, their making, and the stories that surround them; and fostering that love in others by:

•       Organising visits and talks for the interest and enjoyment of our members;

•       Protecting the precious green spaces of Essex, past and present, and influencing their future by identifying and recording their details, publishing that information freely and using our knowledge to provide informed comment on relevant plans for development

Communication with a wider audience has come from an increased presence on social media, where the number of facebook followers has risen from 35 to 190.

A new style journal was introduced in February, edited by Bella D’Arcy Reed, who has since been appointed the Trust’s first Writer-in-Residence. 

In order to increase our profile with garden and landscape professionals two tickets to the Beth Chatto Educational Trust Ecological Planting Symposium were offered by ballot and taken up; one by Mat Hull, a professional landscape architect at Liz Lake Associates, the second by Ellie Sims, a post-graduate landscape student at Writtle University College. 

This year we also initiated an annual travel bursary for landscape and garden academics, to allow them to experience a site they have never visited before. This year’s has been awarded to Dr Jill Raggett. Jill will be visiting New York’s public landscape, ‘The Highline’, to consider its relevance for derelict urban spaces in this country.   

New partnerships came through meetings with Essex County Council’s ‘Place Services’ team, a consultancy providing environmental assessment, planning, design and management services, both in Essex and further afield; also through an invitation Thadian and Tricia received from national Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport, to advise Essex County Council on gardens for well-being in residential care home settings . We are developing a closer relationship with Writtle University College and Thadian has met with Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tim Middleton to discuss potentials for more mutually beneficial working.

Garden History had virtually ceased in recent years through lack of volunteer support. In order to revitalize this essential part of the Trust’s responsibilities, we commissioned Dr Twigs Way to run a training workshop at Easton Lodge in May.  This has resulted in six individuals expressing a tentative interest in researching for us; more would be welcome. The Board has decided it is necessary to make the role of Garden History Co-ordinator a paid position, and happily, this has been taken up Essex County Council’s Place Services team.  

Our Events  were again well attended and appreciated.  Xa Tollemache’s talk at last year’s AGM was followed by a visit to her garden at Helmingham Hall. Talks on developments at Painshill by Cherrill Sands and at Hatfield Forest by Simon Cranmer were also followed up by guided visits. Alan Cox spoke to us on the history and restoration of Copped Hall and its gardens, and the year’s programme finished with an evening tour of Hyde Hall with curator, Robert Brett.

A number of our registered landscapes are at risk from neighbouring development which is prejudicing their setting.  The former Severalls hospital site near Colchester is now encircled by a major development at the edge of the town. It is with disappointment that we note that Historic England has recommended that it be de-registered, but acknowledge that this is a realistic reaction to the situation there.  Boreham is another place where there is much development, some in progress and some aspired to, affecting potentially Boreham House and in practice New Hall. The latter finds itself surrounded by housing on one side, and under pressure from works at the School where we have objected to fencing and a lodge.  

 The local plans being drawn up local authorities in the north of the county include new garden communities as a way of delivering the housing that the government expects of them.  We have objected to Easton Park and West of Saling because of their potential impact on Little Easton Lodge and Saling Grove.  We supported an unsuccessful attempt to get the Countess of Warwick’s garden at Stone Hall, Little Easton, registered, and a successful attempt to extend the registered area at Saling Grove to enhance the protection enjoyed by the Repton landscape there. 

 At Warley Place, Great Warley, we objected to plans for the enlargement of the North Lodge and supported the conservation officer’s successful attempt to get the building listed. Unfortunately, before the listing was implemented, the owner had carried out works effectively destroying the historic interest of the house, and it has now been delisted.  At Shortgrove, Newport, we have commented on applications and attempted to get the local authority to adopt a more consistent approach to the protection of the heritage assets there.  Amongst recent casework, we have objected to an application to build a house in the walled garden at Coopersale House, Theydon Garnon, an 18th century landscape with an association with Capability Brown.  

 We made two educational grants during the year: £400 to enable St Osyths Primary School to visit the Beth Chatto Gardens; and £250 to RHS Hyde Hall for their new Learning Centre. We were given two tickets for the Centre’s launch in June, and these were offered to members in a ballot which was won by Linda Keightley.

After many years of declining membership, we are delighted to announce that 18 new members joined the Trust this year. After reviewing the membership list in the context of the new General Data Protection Regulations which the Board administered in May, the total number of members is now 170.

So a lot of excellent news to report; however today also marks the loss of two key members of the Board of Management team, Michele Freeman and Jill Plater.   

For the last ten years Michele has brought her enthusiasm, commitment and exceptional organizational skills to coordinating our Events’ team and its programme. Today she steps down from the role to take a well-earned break, and we offer our sincere thanks for all her work and dedication, not only in Events, but across the Trust’s operations.  This has included acting as our Treasurer in the extended period before Stephen’s appointment, and effectively this year as a Vice-Chair, supporting Thadian in his first year in post. 

Jill was a founder member of the Trust in 1996, subsequently becoming a Trustee and leader of the Garden History Research Team. She played a major role in the production of our detailed Inventories of gardens and designed landscapes for Braintree, Chelmsford, Epping Forest, Maldon and Uttlesford.  More recently, in the absence of other volunteer support, she spent two years almost single-handedly producing our latest inventory, that for Brentwood. 

Under Jill’s direction the Garden History team produced the highly successful volume Lancelot Brown and his Essex Clients (2015).  This year, to celebrate the Repton bicentenary, and with only limited support, Jill revised and updated EGT’s 2000 publication, Repton in Essex.  Due for publication shortly, Jill’s revision incorporates recent new discoveries about Repton’s work at a number of sites. 

The Trustees wished to place on record their immense appreciation of Jill’s extraordinary contribution to The Trust over the last 22 years.  We are, therefore, delighted not only that she has agreed to become the first appointee to a new strategic team of EGT Patrons, but that last month, she was recognized by The Gardens Trust, as its 2018 joint-winner of the prestigious Gilly Drummond Volunteer of the Year Award. From all of us, Jill, sincere congratulations.  

Between them, Michele and Jill have been the two critical pillars that have sustained the Trust through many years of difficulty caused by a lack of volunteer support. For a membership organisation like EGT to be dependent on only a handful of individuals is not a sustainable operational model.  Therefore despite all this year’s exceptionally good news, EGT remains in a highly precarious position.  While the Board can see potential for the organisation to become viable and sustainable through increased cultural and social relevance and impact, ultimately this will only be achieved if more volunteers come forward to enable it.  This means that if Essex Gardens Trust is to have a future, your Trust now needs YOU!


August 2018 - Member's draw for the Plant Symposium at Beth Chatto Gardens

Mat Hull, a designer working for the landscape architecture practice, Liz Lake Associates (an organisational member of EGT) won the ticket assigned to an EGT member working in any aspect of landscape or gardens.                                                      On winning, he said: "I am extremely delighted to discover that I am the prize winner of a professional's ticket to the Beth Chatto Ecological Plant Symposium. I am very excited to be attending both days of the event and look forward to hearing from inspirational professionals in my field.                                                                                                                                          "I am a Writtle University College trained landscape designer and enjoy working on both garden designs as well as larger landscape schemes. My passion is planting design. I relish trialling planting combinations full of texture and succession, and strive to develop this by learning as much as I can and continuing to practice. I also practice these techniques underwater by aquascaping as a hobby in my aquariums.                                                                                                                                  "With so many influential speakers, I hope to be further educated and look forward to being able to chat with some established designers to find out their current interests and discover how they got to where they are in their careers.             "So soon after the sad passing of Beth Chatto, from whom we learned so much, I will be spending time reflecting on and celebrating her life, achievements and legacy.'

The student member winner was Ellie Sims, who is studying for an MA in Landscape Architecture at Writtle University College. This is what she says about her decision to study at Writtle:  "It is one of the best decisions I could have made. My main interest is historic landscapes. I am spending the summer at Cobham. Hall, which is a landscape created by Humphry Repton over 25 years. It's a really inspiring place and I am currently planning to write my dissertation on it. I am also interested in ecology and biodiversity. After my MA I hope to be able to work in historic landscapes and gardens, but who knows what the future holds!”

Here are her thoughts after the symposium: "I had no idea that the symposium would be so big. I was expecting the it to be. 20 maybe 50 people at most- I was very wrong! I also couldn't believe how internationally popular the event was.  Each of the speakers were all so inspiring and engaging. I felt like a magpie attracted to shiny objects. I couldn't take notes fast enough or take all the information in. It would be fantastic if the videos/recordings were available so that I could watch again and share with my course mates. As someone who is so new to landscape architecture, the symposium was an invaluable learning tool. Although I do feel that I will never have enough time to visit all the places I now need to visit or to read all the books I need to read!"

Watch this space for future member offers  - and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/essexgardenstrust/ 

August 2018 - £500 Travel Bursary for Academics

Jill's cat helping with the preparation

Jill's cat helping with the preparation

We are delighted to announce that the 2018 bursary has been awarded to Jill Raggett, Emeritus Reader in Gardens and Designed Landscapes, Writtle University College, Essex, UK.

Jill is planning to visit New York and the High Line, a disused railway line which has been turned into an elevated, linear 2.33km public park. We look forward to hearing about her trip and about the High Line gardens. 

As the quality of entries was so high this year, the trustees agreed to make an award for 2019. This was won by Saruhan Mosler, who plans to travel to Merano and visit the gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle (https://www.trauttmansdorff.it/en/the-gardens-of-trauttmansdorff-castle.html).

These are her words on being awarded the bursary:  What fantastic news! I feel very honoured and happy to be selected for this award by EGT! Thank you and the EGT Board to create such  great opportunities and support academics to be able to explore and research by travelling other places! As you know institutions are not capable of supporting academics in research anymore! 

To find out how to apply for the 2020 bursary, join us and keep an eye on our website and Facebook. Here is a copy of our chairman's letter to pass on to any suitable applicants: 

Dear Garden or Landscape Academic

*£500* Travel Bursary *for Academics*

It gives me great pleasure to write to you on behalf of Essex Gardens Trust (EGT) to let you know about the launch of a new EGT travel bursary designed specifically for academics working in the field of gardens, landscape, and the planning and conservation of the same. The scheme is for academics who either live in Essex, or are affiliated to an Essex institution.

The award is for £500.00, and is to contribute to travel anywhere in the world, that enables the academic to visit gardens or landscapes that they have never visited before.  The sum can be put towards travel, accommodation, entrance fees etc; whatever best enables the trip to take place. 

In return, we ask that within 12 months of our making the award, the academic gives a 45 minute illustrated talk plus q&a about their trip, to EGT's members and guests, at an Essex-based venue of our choosing.  We hope this will enable you to enrich your teaching provision, further your research, and not least, inspire you about the critical discipline to which you are dedicated.

The DEADLINE for applications to this year's scheme is 30th June 2018 (It will be about this time in two years time for 2020).  If you would like to apply, the process is quick and simple!  Just contact us on our email (www.essexgardenstrust.org.uk) providing the following:

- your name

- your discipline

- your institution name

- your Essex home address if your institution is outside of the county

- no more than 50 words describing the garden(s) or landscape(s) you would like to use the award to visit, and why

- your proposed period of travel (so we can plan ahead for your illustrated talk)

By way of appeal, if this is the kind of initiative that is of value to you, then we would love to have your support in enabling us to provide more opportunities of this kind.  In which case please do consider becoming an EGT member. You will find our application form here: http://www.essexgardenstrust.org.uk/membership/

I look forward to receiving your application.

Kind regards

Thadian Pillai

Chair, Essex Gardens Trust

Caring about our green spaces.