This September we had the pleasure of visiting Waterperry Gardens in the countryside of Oxfordshire. The sun was gleaming and we had a productive day of filming ahead of us. Little did we know the extensive history Waterperry has and the important meaning this garden remains to have with many.
Pat Havers, Head Gardener at Waterperry gave us an exclusive insight in to the history of these gardens whilst also sharing her own personal story of how she came to work here.
The heritage of the horticultural school, run by the redoubtable Beatrix Havergal with her partner Avice Sanders, remains at the core of what they do at Waterperry. Teaching and learning are essential elements, whether its teaching through their educational courses or sharing the knowledge of staff with visitors and apprentices. The authenticity from their staff and power of sharing knowledge and interest is how Pat first became aware of Waterperry gardens. Her mother was a gardener here when she was just 3 years old and the gardens soon became her playground.
Pat recalls how she ensured she made the most of it; "Living in the village it was every little girls dream to have this haven on their doorstep. I would spend hours running through the beds and asking all the gardeners questions about their work. This soon caught Miss Havergal's eye and I became the youngest student of hers at just the age of 4. My guess is perhaps she did this to keep me out of trouble."
The gardens themselves are evidence of Beatrix’ horticultural talent, in particular the famous herbaceous border. This remains the 'must see' if you visit Waterperry. Its known as 'an object of admiration to visitors by virtue of the gardeners’ continuing faithfulness to its original conception.' The border was principally established for educational purposes, including the striking ‘living catalogue’ of herbaceous plants.
Over the past twenty years the gardens have developed and grown, and many new projects have been undertaken and completed. The gardens now occupy 8 acres and you can find a Formal Garden, the Mary Rose Garden, a Waterlily Canal and the Long Colour Border, and a arboretum in the meadow. Needless to say Havergal's effort to secure a continuity for Waterperry, including growth and excellence, I believe she'd be very impressed.
Whilst we explored the many gardens Waterperry has to offer, Pat also informed us of the current projects and events they run. You can spend your visit getting your home grown apples turned in to apple juice from the orchard, enjoy spotting the wildlife as you wander round the acres or begin your studies with their gardening courses. These courses are taught by a selection of gardening professionals including one of our expert tutors, Andy McIndoe.
It would seem the new owners, School of Economic Science, who bought the gardens from Havergal have ensured her educational vision lives on. They have retained all the staff and continue the day courses that were established by Miss H.
The Subud group once remarked: ‘As one enters the gate, one knows that here is an enterprise which has been the long preoccupation of the past forty years of a group of devoted people. Every plant in the ground and in the greenhouses proclaim this loving care, this spiritual link with the soil. Waterperry is a place to love – it needs love and it gives it back’.
Having spent the afternoon with Pat, I am confident in saying that Waterperry is definitely a place which is loved by many. She explained, "Working here doesn't feel like a job, especially when you enjoy every aspect out if. I love to see people enjoying the gardens and a particular favourite moment . of mine is when people walk round the corner and their faces light up at the herbascious border". I have every belief that the legacy of Waterperry Gardens that Miss Havergal put in place continue to shine through the employees, visitors and gardens themselves.