Thanks to our volunteers at Standen

We could not have completed even a quarter of the Garden Revival project at Standen without the dedication and sheer hard work of our volunteers. Over a hundred volunteers, over countless hours, transformed the garden back to how it looked in its 1920s heyday. Angela Hogman and Frank Bidnall were here right from the start and talk us through those early days, inspired by the new discoveries and undeterred by rain drenched digging.

Angela: We were down in the bamboo when we suddenly discovered a tap in the undergrowth. We couldn’t figure out why this tap was there. James did some investigating, I think, and we realised it was connected to the garden pond. Of course, you couldn’t see the pond because it was underneath all the overgrown bamboo. And the cascade steps - we discovered them.

" It was exciting because you were at the beginning of finding out something that nobody knew."
- Angela Hogman, Standen Garden Revival volunteer

Q: Were you aware that the garden perhaps had these hidden secrets beforehand?

Angela: When we discovered the pond we began to realise ‘maybe there’s this and maybe there’s that’. As we gradually cleared the garden we were finding rocks and walls that we didn’t know about and there was the edge of a border that we didn’t realise was there. It was quite a time of discovery.

Q: So it felt quite exciting?

Angela: It did. You looked forward to coming, thinking ‘oh what are we going to find today, what are we going to clear?’

Q: Frank, when you came to Standen what was your experience of the revival, what stage was it at?

Frank: It was in the first few years of revival and there were a number of major projects. Before that an awful lot of work had already been done and also a contractor had been brought in. By coincidence that contractor worked out of Nymans and knew James and was also my motor biking companion. The bamboo had gone across the field into the woods, it had migrated. It was everywhere. So fortunately, being a contractor he had heavy machinery to do that. 

Angela: yes and I remember using a pickaxe! 

Contractors clearing the bamboo using heavy machinery
Contractor clearing bamboo at Standen, West Sussex
Contractors clearing the bamboo using heavy machinery

Frank: The more we cleared, the more we got a vision for what could be there, and that carried on for a couple of years. It wasn’t a 5 minute job. I can remember working right through the winter into early spring.

The woodland volunteers were brought in around that time as well because there was a lot of heavy work putting in drainage and electricity across the whole garden.

When we finally cleared the bamboo at the back of the pond, it raised the issue, well how do we stop it coming through again? It had gone under the ground and was popping up all over the place. There was then the idea of building the wall and that saw the start of another separate set of volunteers, who started to get very proficient at building walls and you’ll find them all around the garden. The same group of volunteers, started off working only on a Thursday, but the work got so big that they were victims of their own success. James would come round and say ‘oh that one looks good, could you do another over there?’ And that spread.

" Another separate set of volunteers started to get very proficient at building walls and you’ll find them all around the garden."
- Frank Bidnall, Standen Garden Revival volunteer
Garden pond in the Rosery
Swimming pond at Standen
Garden pond in the Rosery

Angela: I enjoy it anyway, but I really did enjoy those first few years when we were discovering things. It was exciting.

Frank: I think perversely we enjoyed the challenge of doing it in the winter when the weather was foul. You’d come in and find they’d had a machine come in and dig a trench with special scooping bucket. You’d think ‘oh, that’s good’, and thinking ahead ‘we’ll put the cables or the pipes in next week', come back the next week and say ‘where’s the trench gone?’ It had all caved in and we’d have to go back to it with spades. 

Angela: Bad weather never stopped us, we came in every Thursday regardless, whether it was snow, hail; we worked in the lot really. I can only remember one day where we went home early and that was because of torrential rain. Otherwise we’ve always just kept going. 

Thanks to Angela, Frank and all of Standen’s remarkable volunteers the garden restoration is complete and one of the finest in the South East. They continue to work in the garden, caring for it through every season and making new innovations.

Thank you

Get involved at Standen

Feeling inspired by Frank and Angela? If you're local to Standen, with a few spare hours a week, why not join us in caring for this special place.

In their own words....

Want to know more about the work that happened at Standen? You can hear more from some of our dedicated team of Garden Revival volunteers on their early experiences of the project and a few of their most memorable moments.