‘There is a sense of order in the garden’

by ANTONY CLAY

Winthrop Gardens organiser Anna Chester (left) with volunteers in the cafe. From left to right are: Barbara Smith, Margaret Moran, Diane Elliott and Sue Ellis.

IN our ever more frantic world it is nice to find a place to get away from the hurly burly of everyday life.

There is one place where you can find a bit of peace and quiet – as well as a nice brew.

The word about Winthrop Gardens in Wickersley near Rotherham has been spreading fast and the number of visitors is on the up.

At Christmas, people were flocking in to enjoy festive afternoon teas but folk call in to look at the imaginative garden displays throughout the year.

Indeed, people have been known to take a detour off the nearby M18 motorway to take a break at the attraction on Second Lane, off Morthen Road.

Winthrop Gardens, which is run by eager volunteers, was taken on by Wickersley Parish Council back in 2016 as a community garden – and it is proving a good investment.

Cllr Sue Ellis, chairperson of the parish council, is always enthusiastic about Winthrop Gardens.

“We had a small amount of money to take it over as a community asset,” she said.

The land was formerly contaminated land when it was taken over and run by another organisation for ten years prior to the parish council adopting Winthrop Gardens.

A view of Winthrop Gardens

Now, the one-acre community garden is a well-tended tranquil spot full of colour and scents.

Visitors can wander around and see different garden themes which will vary throughout the year.

“There is a sense of order in the garden,” said Sue.

“We pride ourselves as having a lot of time for people.

“It’s glorious in the summer. We are in the sun all day.”

The glorious garden displays are thanks to a dedicated band of around 60 volunteers who work throughout the year planting, watering and tending the floral offerings.

Sue said: “It’s fabulous having the volunteers. It would be difficult for us as a parish council to run it without their goodwill.”

The team is led by head volunteer gardener Martin Ford who opted to start volunteering at Winthrop Gardens after moving to Yorkshire from Shrewsbury where, as luck would have it, he just happened to be a lecturer in horticulture.

Now he enjoys spending time at the attraction.

As he said: “I just get job satisfaction. It’s work without doing a paid job.”

Martin said that volunteers are hard at it all year round except for a fortnight break for Christmas and New Year, although people still have to pop in to water the plants even then.

The cafe at Winthrop Gardens.

“We are creating a sensory garden, a garden of peace and tranquility,” said Martin.

“We are trying to get more fragrances to stimulate more senses and offer more sitting places for our visitors.

“All the garden volunteers integrate well with each other and enjoy being here. We will take ownership and make it the best we can.”

Martin said that the Gardens contain unusual trees for the area and there are plans to develop attractions such as a fairy garden. There are surprises such as a large elephant sculpture and a wishing well which means that Winthrop Gardens has as much for children as it does for adults.

There is a popular cafe and space for groups to meet. The venue is popular with dementia sufferers and their carers, as well as women’s groups, Mothers’ Unions, and disability charities.

The Atrium offers space for groups to meet. One such group is Flossie’s Crafts run by Dawne Wells which she started as an opportunity for members to be creative and to socialise.

Member Gloria Shaw, of Rockingham, said: “I came to the cafe after having a knee replacement. We came a couple of times and someone said we are starting a craft group and would you like to come? My sister said to go.

“I would say they are a lovely bunch of ladies. We are all very friendly. It’s nice especially if you are on your own because you make new friends.”

There is also Curiosity Corner where items donated by wellwishers, such as books and ornaments, are sold to bring in a bit of extra cash for Winthrop Gardens.

Money is always needed to maintain what is there already but in the future there are hopes to develop the bricks and mortar at Winthrop Gardens to provide better buildings.

Anna Chester, Winthrop organiser, said: “We will need to do some development at some point. The temporary flat-roofed building will need to be replaced.”

Funding is always sought and branches of the Co-op in Wickersley, for instance, have helped out in recent times.

Being part of this year’s National Open Gardens Scheme on June 22 and 23 also brought in new visitors.

Normally, there is no admission charge to the Gardens.

Winthrop Gardens has been taken to their heart by the community with people donating plants and also buying them. There are many regular visitors -– individuals, couples, families and groups – who either enjoy sitting out in the open air or having a coffee or a pot of tea in the lively cafe.

Anna said: “Quite a few elderly women will come on their own and feel safe.

“In the last last couple of years we didn’t open over winter but now we have developed a clientele therefore we need plants to fit all seasons

“Our afternoon teas are very popular. At Christmas, for instance, we did Christmas afternoon teas and made 293 in six weeks. Throughout the year we make around 850.

“We do social good here.”

The Winthrop Gardens dementia cafes are popular and helpful. Eighty per cent of the Gardens’ volunteers have undertaken dementia awareness training.

Summer opening has begun at Winthrop Gardens with the premises open Tuesday to Thursday between 10.30am and 4pm.

Other attractions this summer include a Ladies Day on September 12, and Yorkshire Day on August 1. There are also Supper Nights on July 12, August 16 and September 20.

Volunteers are always sought – both old and young – and the number of visitors seems on the rise.

Winthrop Gardens is full of surprises and has proved to many a pleasant place to visit and volunteer. It certainly has become a “community asset”.

FACTFILE:
Budding volunteers can call Anna Chester on 07397 039226.
For information on Winthrop Gardens, visit http://www.winthropgardens.org.uk or follow it on Facebook @Winthrop-Gardens.

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