Sidmouth Garden Club celebrates 60th anniversary

THIS summer sees the 60th anniversary of Sidmouth Garden Club, formed from the ashes of an earlier society, affectionately known as The Cottagers, in 1949.

THIS summer sees the 60th anniversary of Sidmouth Garden Club, formed from the ashes of an earlier society, affectionately known as The Cottagers, in 1949.

Vice-president and show director John White, 82, has seen a decline in membership since its highest recorded figure of 274, a decade ago, but figures are creeping back up towards the 130 mark and he wants to encourage more to join.

"We have got to move with the times and may have to consider having the shows on a Saturday to attract people who work, although people work Saturdays and Sundays as well now," said John, who joined the club in 1992.

He wants to encourage the younger generation to join who are becoming "more and more interested in growing vegetables.

A qualified judge and lecturer at such events, John was chairman for 12 years before taking on his present roles.

He said one of the group's aims was to "improve the knowledge of people in their understanding of the processes in growing plants."

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Chairman John Vaughan said: "When the club started up again in 1949 it had a lot of titled people around, such as Colonel and Mrs Campbell Watson, who really got it going."

He is delighted Sidmouth Museum has invited the club to be part of its Natural Beauty display for this season although the committee has little in the way of artefacts to exhibit.

"The Cottagers - Sidmouth and Salcombe Regis Cottagers, Artisans and Amateurs Flower Show to give its full title - did not have records, although we have one of the earliest schedules in our possession dated July 1940."

Alan Jones, president emeritus, became a committee member of Sidmouth Garden Club in the early 1970s.

In 1978, Mrs Campbell Watson, its president, died and the club's summer show, then held at Powys House, had to relocate to the front lawn of Green Gables Hotel.

At this time the spring and autumn shows were held at St Teresa's Hall.

By 1983 when Mr Jones was president, new venues, at the Arts Centre and United Reformed Church Hall, were obtained for talks.

"In 1993 we had to vacate St Teresa's Hall," said Mr Jones, "We were fortunate to be able to have our three shows and all talks at All Saints Church Hall, which has become our permanent home.

"In all the 60 years the club has had some of the finest horticultural experts and authorities in the country to entertain us with their knowledgeable talks and presentations.

"The club is thriving, but needs more members to assist officers and helpers. There is no doubt the club has a wonderful future and the next 60 years will be even better."

Sidmouth Garden Club celebrates is actual anniversary on July 16 with what promises to be a riveting talk by Professor Sir Ghillean Prance, former director general of Kew Gardens, who now lives in Lyme Regis.

"He is one of the foremost authorities on flora in the world," said Mr Wright. "Before becoming director general at Kew he was DG of Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in New York."

Its summer show will take place at All Saints hall on Thursday, June 18, from 11.30am, while the autumn show is on Thursday, September 10.

*Anyone wishing to become a member of the club in its 60th year, can contact its secretary, Paddy Chew, on (01395) 576971.