Witheby gardeners receive Sidmouth in Bloom award

A pair of gardeners who picked up the council’s slack were recognised with another award for their efforts in Sidmouth.

Sylvia Gibbard and Kathleen Marshall have maintained their little patch of land at Witheby for the last two decades.

The resulting garden, around half an acre, has just received its third community award from the Sidmouth in Bloom judges.

It is a community attraction, with some people coming back year after year to view its progress, and others donating unwanted furniture and plant pots.

Sylvia said: “We’ve had soil from everybody’s gardens and we try to use every item we’re given – even the cat’s second hand!”

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After 25 years of neglect, the impenetrable jungle of brambles and deadwood at the old Witheby house took the two ladies years to correct – and they just kept going.

Beginning with a desire to see some daffodils from Sylvia’s flat, the pair then developed the land on the opposite side of the road, hacking back hedges and taking out waste from the old manor building.

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The duo entered the competition in the 90s, but the fashion was for pristine gardens and the judges didn’t know what to make of them.

When the rules changed, Sylvia and Kay received an award for outstanding achievement in 2008, and an award for thriving in 2010.

Sylvia said: “We didn’t know if it was the garden that was thriving or us!”

She said benefit to the community is more than just somewhere nice to sit, and works in both directions.

Sylvia explained: “A lot of people who come down are lonely.

“One lady thanked my husband for talking to her – she said she hadn’t spoken to anyone in two days.”

Kay and Sylvia are out in the garden most afternoons, and are always happy to chat.

Their work is being recognised at the Sidmouth in Bloom awards night on October 24 at Knowle House.

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