September 18th, 2011


Barnsdale after Geoff

Yesterday, for the third day running and again contrary to all forecasts, it was a glorious sunny afternoon here. This preserved the tradition that whenever the local NCCPG (Plant Heritage) group holds its meetings, keen gardeners are stuck in the community centre hall with the curtains drawn when they could be in their gardens. So many people turned up for yesterday’s meeting that extra chairs had to be put out, a tribute to the subject of the lecture: Barnsdale after Geoff.

For those not in the know, Geoff Hamilton was the very popular presenter of BBC2’s Gardeners’ World programme, which was broadcast from his garden at Barnsdale. In 1996 he died, unexpectedly and too young, leaving many people, including me, surprised to find how much they missed him. The question then was: what to do with the garden? Part of the garden and the nursery were Geoff’s, already open to the public. Other areas, the television gardens, couldn’t be visited. Geoff’s middle son, Nick, is the horticultural one and responsibility for the garden fell to him. When a famous gardener dies, the question is always whether to preserve the garden as it was or move on. I’m all for moving on and so is Nick Hamilton, although he felt, rightly I’m sure, that people would want to see the gardens they’d seen on television. Barnsdale covers eight acres of Rutland, is run on organic lines (without preaching, thank goodness) and is full of interest.

Nick Hamilton is as down to earth as Geoff was and a lively and amusing speaker, so a good time was had by all. He had anecdotes about his father, frank remarks about the BBC which I won’t repeat and plenty to say on the difficulties of running such a garden, welcoming the public and making ends meet. Here he is, looking remarkably cheerful for a man who’s driven for four and a half hours through dreadful traffic to reach us, talked for an hour and a half and then has to drive home again. Does he look like his Dad, or what?

Barnsdale Gardens
are open all year except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
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life on mars

Weekend Viewing

A fascinating Culture Show special yesterday evening about the writer Hilary Mantel. She spoke of her childhood, her illness and her writing methods; time just flew by. I was particularly interested to learn that she feels she needs ‘a boring life’ in order that the excitement can be in her head. What’s in her head is pretty disturbing and by the end of the programme I was thinking how glad I am not to be her. Very well worth catching if you missed it.

This evening, Sunday, can you believe it? The BBC has been stupid enough to put up Spooks against Downton Abbey! Ratings wars, still? Much as I enjoy Spooks it’s no contest. Can’t wait to see the chaps in uniform and I’m also hoping that Private Eye will bring back its Downturn Abbey series.