Spindle Cottage sits on the edge of a quiet Somerset village. The house and adjoining holiday cottage have been lovingly rebuilt over 50 years by master craftsman Alban and his wife Angela, and both are chock full of hand crafted quirky features. With the arrival of their three grandchildren, Alban began building in the garden – each child has their own beautifully crafted playhouse – a perfect facsimile of a gothic hall, a mediaeval thatched lodge and a Victorian post office (complete with reclaimed post box). There is also a castellated outside loo and a jousting tent! Small wonder then, that people jump at the chance to spend time in this amazing space. Angela and Alban explain how they came to open their garden to the public and how Dorothy House has benefited.
‘It all started with the National Garden Scheme – we planned to open for them and make tea and homemade cakes for the visitors. Then a neighbour in the village suggested we apply to go on a BBC TV programme called Open Garden. Our garden was chosen! We met Carol Klein (from BBC2’s Gardener’s World). She came as the expert to give advice on our garden. She’s such good fun. The garden was open to the public for the nursing charities that the NGS supports– loads of people came because they all knew they’d be on the television.
That’s how we started off. We did it for about five years and we loved it but we wanted some of the money to go to other charities rather than just the ones the NGS picks. So we decided to do our own thing. We opened the garden in aid of the village church – then for the recreation ground. About three or four years ago, someone asked us if we’d open for Dorothy House and we said yes. We’d done a lot for the village so were happy to spread our wings a bit. Dorothy House is local to us and we wanted to do something for the community. Dorothy House hit the spot.
The garden looks good in June, so we decided on a June date. Dorothy House offered some help too. They helped serve cake and took money on the gate. Meeting community fundraiser Yvonne from Dorothy House was lovely. She said there are so many interesting things to look at in the garden and so many different places to sit that people could spend a whole afternoon here. So we thought we’d have some music as well. Our friends are folk musicians – Alan sings and Fiona plays violin and John plays squeezebox – they set up by the fireplace next to Tom’s Lodge in the garden and played during the afternoon. We took about £1,300. It worked really well. We served cream teas in the covered gateway. Anyone who didn’t want to sit outdoors came and sat indoors in our sun room. We have a holiday cottage here – we always warn any holiday guests there will be a lot of people about. They usually come and join in. Last year we had 300 people round and made £2,000 for Dorothy House.
As you can imagine, parking for 300 people in a small village could be a real headache. We’ve always relied on our neighbour’s field for parking but that’s not available now – so we’ll do an open garden, but for small groups so people can book in advance. We’ll still support Dorothy House. We’ve done it enough now to know how it works and what works well. We’ve often gone out to other Dorothy House Open Gardens. You may have seen our garden on BBC 2’s Gardeners World and Channel 4’s Shed of the Year with George Clarke. What good fun we’ve had and it all happened by sheer chance. So now we are happy to take groups, clubs, families and friends, by appointment. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org