Winchester gardens open their gates

Now that the sun is beginning to shine, thoughts of summer evenings spent relaxing in a tranquil garden seem rather appealing. Do you ever wonder if you could improve your impatiens or develop your delphiniums? Winchester City Council’s tourism service thinks it might have the ideal source of inspiration, thanks to the return of its Hidden Gardens event on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 June.

‘Hidden Gardens’ is a whole weekend given over to all things horticultural in aid of charity. A range of private homes and establishments have kindly agreed to open their gates to the public during the weekend to allow the curious to find out more about gardens and gardening. Included are beautiful private gardens not normally open to the public, lesser-known public gardens, three allotment sites and special talks on a horticultural theme.

Winchester College is offering a rare opportunity to visit the Warden’s Garden, while the library at Winchester Cathedral will be displaying some medieval horticultural books. The Deanery is a magnificent example of what can be achieved with 3 acres in need of restoration, and don’t forget to visit Queen Eleanor’s Garden behind the Great Hall as the gardener will be on hand to enlighten visitors on the merits of a medieval garden.

Beyond Winchester, the wider district is offering yet further opportunities for curious garden-lovers to peek over the garden gate. Fort Nelson near Fareham will be using the weekend to launch its brand new ‘flora and fauna’ tour, while Alresford has two gardens to offer - one with its own natural spring.

It was here, at Chalk Springs, that the Mayor of Winchester, Councillor Jean Hammerton, officially launched the Hidden Gardens weekend on Monday, ably assisted by garden owner Jerry Ashmore.

Antonia Perkins, from Winchester Tourism, said: "We are all looking forward to another flower-filled weekend. As a newcomer to the Winchester Tourism team I was unaware of the sheer variety of gardens to be found around the Winchester district - it just goes to show what there is to be unearthed. Thanks go to all those who have helped us to build such a colourful programme for the return of this popular event."

To enjoy these and other gardens, a special Hidden Gardens programme must be purchased in advance, priced at £5 per person or £8 per couple, with accompanying children free. Once purchased, the programme permits unlimited entry to all participating gardens and events, including those where an entry fee would usually apply. In these cases the fee will be waived on production of the programme, which is available from Winchester Tourist Information Centre.

The proceeds from the sale of the programmes will go to the Mayor of Winchester’s Charities. For further information and programmes contact the Tourist Information Centre on 01962 840500, email, website