Pensioners transform Sidmouth wasteland into award-winning garden

Chairman's garden volunteers Rob Matthews, Michael Hide, Liz Matthews and Penny Ball

Chairman's garden volunteers Rob Matthews, Michael Hide, Liz Matthews and Penny Ball - Credit: Archant

A decade’s work by volunteers - now with an average age of 70 - has transformed an overgrown expanse into an award-winning scenic spot that is bursting with colour.

The chairman's garden in 2007

The chairman's garden in 2007 - Credit: Archant

Known as the chairman’s garden, it sits on the boundary of the Bedford Lawn car park and Sidmouth Tennis, Cricket and Croquet Club.

It was players of this latter sport who saw the potential of what was ‘waste’ land on the edge of their beautiful green and started digging.

Liz Matthews, whose husband Rob also volunteers, said: “We just kept working and working, bringing stuff from our own gardens and hoping we’d do alright.

“Next thing we know, we’re getting gold medals from Sidmouth in Bloom and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

Volunteers working on the chairman's garden in 2007

Volunteers working on the chairman's garden in 2007 - Credit: Archant


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“Last year, the RHS rated us ‘outstanding’. It gets better every year.”

She said judges from Canada had assumed they had used mechanical diggers but they were soon informed them it was all done by hand.

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All the work is funded by the club and the volunteers - Liz and Rob, together with Penny Ball, Michael Hide, Kelvin and Sue Dent, Anne Reece, Margaret and Edward Colman and Geoffrey Steatham.

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