Open house for Dave’s wartime garden tribute

The garden at 12 Ansell Road, Ecclesall is opening to the public
The garden at 12 Ansell Road, Ecclesall is opening to the public
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Dave Darwent’s Sheffield garden provided fruit and veg during the war – despite an Anderson shelter being sunk in the ground.

Created in 1928 by his grandparents, Frank and Beatrice Dyson, the garden still has its original rockeries, roses and borders.

Dave started to develop the garden in 1986, ultimately to try to recreate the look and feel of the original.

A programme of restoration was undertaken based on the original planting plans – with Dave using his grandparents’ notebooks for guidance, together with his mother’s recollections and photographs.

In particular, some of the older roses which had died have been replaced with identical varieties and every rose in the garden now carries a label identifying it. Annual bedding plants of the same species used in the ’30s and ’40s now fill the borders and baskets.

Now its gate is being opened to the public as part of the annual National Gardens Scheme, where private gardens opened in aid of charity.

Dave, an associate lecturer in initial teacher education at Sheffield Hallam University, says: “I grew up knowing this garden largely as it is now.

“As soon as the gardening bug bit me, I wanted to see the garden return to the glorious riot of colour it must have been just after the war, when the garden must have been in its heyday.

“My mum first mentioned to me five or six years ago that I spend so much time and money on my garden that I ought to open it up to the public.

“I left it as a chance remark, but then she said it again a year later.”

Dave was persuaded to open his garden after meeting other people who take part in the scheme – and this is the fourth year he has taken part.

He says: “I thought my garden was too small, but was told that people like small gardens and gardens which they can relate to.

“When I opened for the first time I didn’t know what to expect, but I had quite a lot of visitors.

“Most of them who came on that first day were positive and said exactly the same, that people like small gardens because they can relate to them.

“I’ve spoken with other people who open their gardens and they always say ‘you know you always love your own garden, but when other people say it’s good it makes it worthwhile’.

“I look forward very much to welcoming more visitors who would share my passion.”

Dave is opening the garden at 12 Ansell Road, Ecclesall, today and on Monday, May 5, from 11am to 5pm each day.

Admission is £2.50, with children free of charge, and cream teas and light refreshments are available.

Visitors are also welcome by appointment, in groups of five to 15, by contacting Dave on 0114 2665881.

Over at 89 Endcliffe Vale Road, Broomhill, Lyn Challands is preparing to open her garden before she moves away.

She and husband Andy are planning to move to France and are in the process of refurbishing a property there.

She says: “I am designing the garden out there, so once the builders have left I will be doing my garden and spending a lot of time out there.

“I won’t be able to look after a garden as big as this and be out there.”

Lyn started opening her garden, complete with chickens, as part of the Broomhill Festival along with her neighbours.

When the opportunity came up to have her garden in the NGS’ Yellow Book, she jumped at the chance.

The 59-year-old says: “Gardening is my hobby and passion. I have health problems so it is like my therapy. I can only manage a few bits at a time when the weather is decent.

“I love my garden and it felt like sitting an exam and getting an A* if it was in the Yellow Book.

“I feels a nice thing to do. When we have done the Broomhill Festival it has felt like a big garden party and this will just be a bigger party.

“Opening it with the NGS feels like the pinnacle of my gardening career.”

Plants and refreshments will be on sale, along with pieces of art.

The garden is open on Sunday, June 22, from 5pm to 7pm, and admission is £3.

In Meadowhead, Christine and Keith Littlewood are preparing to open their garden once again.

The couple have opened the gardens at Fernleigh, their home on Meadowhead Avenue, for 15 years in aid of good causes.

They are opening the garden, which covers just under a third of an acre, on Sundays, June 29, July 27 and August 31, between 1pm and 7pm.

Admission is £2.50, or free for children and refreshments will be on sale.