The Valley Gardeners was founded in the year 2000. Several keen gardening friends, living in the Itchen Valley in Hampshire, had the idea to start a club for like minded residents of the villages and towns in the Winchester area. Now, 21 years later, the club has 120 members (as well as a substantial waiting list) and is a thriving part of local life. Members enjoy not only the 16 plus events organised by the Club each year but the friendship and social interaction which comes through the shared love of gardening and plants.
Club meetings take place every 2nd Tuesday of the month, from January to November. In a varied programme of events, there are talks and lectures from experienced garden professionals, garden historians and designers, as well as demonstrations and workshops of practical gardening skills.These take place in the Itchen Abbas & Avington Village Hall at 2.30 pm, after which tea and biscuits or cakes are served. We also hold purely social gatherings, such as our Annual Lunch, which are hugely popular. In addition to our printed programme of events, we put on 3 evening meetings each year, covering a diverse range of horticultural subjects, with alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments provided!
In the warmer months of the year, The Valley Gardeners visit interesting and beautiful gardens throughout the south of England. This might be an afternoon visit to a local garden in Hampshire or a day long excursion by coach to a more distant garden (or two), often with lunch and/or tea included in the day's itinerary. We have introduced Study Days recently when a small group of members concentrate on a specific topic with refreshments provided of course! In 2020, David Hurrion taught us how to create our own cutting garden and the year before we had a study day all about permaculture from Maggie Harland.
We organise an annual holiday by coach, visiting gardens in different areas of the country and in 2012 we made our first foray overseas, to Normandy to see some stunning French gardens and a unique opportunity to visit the French version of the Chelsea Flower Show, at Courson. In 2019, we visited 4 wonderful gardens in Essex including the iconic Beth Chatto garden.
Like everyone and every organisation, 2020 has been a challenge but we were able to offer our members a revised programme of events, working within the Covid 19 rules and regulations. Unfortunately, our holiday for 38 members and guests of a two night/three day trip to 7 gardens in Monmouthshire and South Wales was one casualty of 2020 so we are re-arranging it for 2021. We will stay 2 nights at the 4 star St. Pierre Park just outside Chepstow and enjoy wining, dining and socialising with our fellow Valley Gardeners. Highlights of 2020 include having socially distanced visits to other members' gardens in the Itchen Valley when larger gardens open to the public were closed and displaying wonderful photographs of our own gardens on the Club website so everyone could see the beautiful properties many of our members work so hard to achieve. It was a real morale booster for us all!
So we go into 2021 hopeful that we can pick up our usual garden visits into the Spring and Summer while the early months we will still be relying on the magic of Zoom to bring our fantastic speakers into our living rooms. The wonders of technology have certainly helped us keep in touch with each other and the world of gardening since March this year.