"Charis and Charismatic"

Members travelled by coach to Herefordshire to visit the gardens of Charis Ward at Abbey Dore Court and Sir Roy Strong's The Laskett, two wonderfully contrasting gardens in lovely countryside south of Hereford.

We arrived first at the plant lovers' garden at Abbey Dore Court, featured in recent years on "Country House Rescue", where the garden, lovingly created over the past 47 years is still run by 84 year old Charis Ward.

Although the sun refused to come out during the morning and with the poor spring weather making gardens everywhere three or four weeks behind, the huge variety of plants, including collections of allium, geranium, hellebore, paeony, pulmonaria and bamboo were admired. Charis was in demand answering questions when more information about a plant was needed.

The six acres of formal and wild gardens and the riverside walk to the littlemeadow arboretum over the bridge, gave an indication of more to come during the summer.  It would be lovely to go back later in the year when the herbaceous perennials will be at their best.

The sun came out during the short drive through the lanes to the village of Much Birch, where the group was met by the charismatic former Victoria and Albert Museum director, historian and landscape designer Sir Roy Strong.  He spoke to the group for a while about the history of his unique 4 acre garden, developed since 1973 by himself and his late wife, the designer Lady Julia Trevelyan Oman.

The Laskett was strongly influenced by other gardens they admired, including certain Italian gardens, gardens of friends and the renowed gardens at Hidcote Manor.  The garden has 21 separate "garden rooms" all divided by well tended hedging and topiary of mainly box and yew and connected by a labyrinth of pathways, with monuments and decorative features commemorating highlights in the careers of Sir Roy and his wife.

The gardens are looked after by two gardeners four days a week and they were helpfully on hand to answer questions.  The group soon set out to explore and could easily have enjoyed more time there, such were the delights around every corner.

Both gardens had a good selection of plants for sale and some lovely souvenirs are now planted in Wyre Forest gardens.  Both gardens were loved for different reasons; Abbey Dore Court natural and full of lovely plants and The Laskett very personal, formal, full of architecture and fun to explore. 

A return visit is very much looked forward to.

John Payne.

6th June 2013

"The Answer Lies in the Soil"

"Something new inspires me with every trip back to Ryton", says TV gardening presenter Rachel De Thame, who first visited Garden Organic at Ryton on Dunsmore near Coventry, as part of her horticultural studies at the English Gardening School.

The U3A gardening group were similarly impressed on the July 1st visit to the organic gardens voted by BBC Gardeners World viewers 'favourite garden in Central England'

The fine summer's day gave an opportunity to enjoy a day exploring the 10 acres of inspirational gardens, home to the leading UK organic charity.

The guided tours covered many of the individual gardens, displaying every aspect of the organic approach.  The gardens show in a glorious way how gardeners can work with nature to achieve a space that is wildlife friendly, environmentally sound and still create beautiful and productive results, including practical solutions to combating pests and diseases without resorting to chemicals.

A convincing display comparing soil treatments is shown in four test beds of vegetables, the one with no treatment having poor growth and the others all thriving due to the effects of various forms of soil treatment and natural fertilizers.

Of great interest was the Biodynamic garden, which utilises the effects of the sun, moon and planetary forces to plan ground preparation, sowing, cultivation and harvesting.

The is a small organic garden originally created for the 1989 Channel 4 series 'All Muck & Magic' shows all the essential features of organic growing can be included, even a pond feature.

Garden Organic began life in 1954 as the Henry Doubleday Research Association, its founder being Lawrence Hills and his wife Cherry.  They devoted their lives to popularising the benefits of the plant 'Comfrey' which is rich in essential nutrients making an ideal compost and natural fertilizer, and to the overall organic and traditional approaches to gardening.  The resurgence of allotment gardening and the self sufficiency movement in the 1970s prompted the move to Ryton.

Lawrence and Cherry Hills are remembered in the Memorial Garden a sensory garden using plants with bright colours, scents and perfumes, sound and movement.  Their work is now continued by staff and volunteers who continue to promote the benefits of natural approaches to horticulture and campaign to preserve the use of old varieties of flowers, fruit and vegetables.

The Rose Garden, much admired by the members features a combination of over 50 Modern English roses along with Old Rose types, interplanted with herbaceous perennials and bulbs in alternating beds of spring and aurumn flowers to be at their best before and after the roses' flowering periods.  The magnificant display of rose bushes is helped with a mulch of two barrows of garden compost per 10sq m.

In all there are more than 25 different garden areas showing the wide variety of ideas, as well as plant sales, shop, and cafe and a visit is well worthwhile.

John Payne.



Wyre Forest U3A Gardening Group Trips by Coach 2015.

To book seats on any of the coach trips, please contact Janice, 01562 755660  or email,  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Friday 10th July 2015

Visit to Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Winterbourne House and Gardens

The coach will leave Brinton Park entrance at 9.15am, ready for entrance into the Botanical gardens at 10am.  The tea shop will be open.  Visit the Tropical houses, the Bonsai collection. the Arid gardens and see many other lovely garden beds.

At 12.15pm the coach will take us to Winterbourne House, where the tea room will be open for refreshments.  Members will be split into 2 groups for the Garden tours beginning at 2pm and 3pm, lasting an hour.  Winterbourne House will be open, where you can visit 2 floors of the Edwardian Arts and Crafts period, plus the Coach House Gallery.

We will leave for home about 5pm depending on the weather.

Cost £18 each, which includes coach fare, driver's tip, entrance to both places and garden tour at Winterbourne, based on a full coach.  Money in by 1st May 2015 please.

Please note that this trip is now full, I have names on the reserve list.


Monday 10th August 2015   


Visit to Powis Castle and Gardens, Welshpool,  Powis.

The coach will leave Brinton Park entrance at 9am to arrive at Powis for 10.30am.

You will have all day to explore the world famous gardens and to marvel inside the Treasure House of Wales as well as seeing the wonderful collection of Indian treasures displayed in the Clive Museum.

There is a licensed restaurant, a coffee shop and gift shop.  Plants on sale. 
Free maps will be available on arrival.  We will be leaving the property about 4.30/4.45pm

Powis Castle is a National Trust property.

Cost of the trip including coach fare and drivers tip:  Money in by 1st June 2015 please.
For NON  National trust members  £18.60  discounted entrance fee
For National trust members  £8.30,  card details needed by 1st June.

This trip is now fully booked but I have opened a reserve list.


Monday 14th September 2015   Biddulph Grange Gardens

There are TWO seats available on this trip.

The coach will leave Brinton Park entrance at 9.15am to arrive at Biddulph Grange for 11am opening. There is a tea room, gift shop and plant centre, Note, there are quite a few steps around the gardens, but plenty of places to sit down,    Will leave about 4-4.30pm

These gardens have recently been restored by the National Trust and were featured in January on the TV programme, "Gardens from the Air"

The gardens are an example of a high Victorian horticultural masterpiece, full of quirky intrigue and surprise.  The plant collection was sourced from around the world and the separate gardens take you from China, Egypt, Himalayas to Italy, via caves, tunnels and water features.  The date of this trip is designed to take in the beauty of the National Collection of Dahlias.

Cost of the trip inc coach fare, driver's trip:  Money & card details in by the end July 2015

For NON National Trust members,   £15.75,  discounted entrance fee

For National Trust members,   £8.50

To book seats for any of the coach trips, please contact Janice on 01562 755660  or email,   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.