This year we numbered 100 at the Cumbria National Garden’s Scheme lunch, representing 75 gardens- more than ever before. So many in fact that we needed a new venue, which was provided by the barn at Rydal Hall. We also have a new County organiser, Dianne Hewitt. Diane and her husband David have a woodland garden in Windermere, Windy Hall, which is one of my favourites. At the back of their garden is a field in which they keep a flock of rare breed sheep.
Diane was allowed a budget of a mere £4 a head for today’s lunch for which she provided her own lamb and damson sausages, salads, some scrumptious desserts and cheese. I couldn’t help comparing this honest, authentic Cumbrian meal, with our dinner at L’Enclume last Thursday and wondered whether a meal costing many times more had in fact produced similar levels of customer satisfaction.
Diane’s menus contained an intriguing picture of a pretty young girl. The picture, she explained, was of Elsie Wagg, who worked for the Queen’s Nursing Institute and who had the bright idea in 1927 of getting people to pay a shilling a head for the privilege of visiting private gardens. This is how the National Gardens Scheme was born and last year what had begun as a shilling a head produced more than £60,000 in Cumbria alone.