The garden at Sandham Memorial Chapel
The garden at Sandham is made up of two distinct areas. The orchard and meadow at the front of the building were planted in the 1920s when the Chapel was built. The Garden of Reflection at the rear of the Chapel was designed and planted in 2014 as part of a major project to mark the centenary of the First World War.
The orchard and meadow
The orchard and meadow, the lime trees lining the drive and the native hedging around the entire garden all date back to the building of the chapel in the mid 1920s. The chapel was built on land purchased from the Carnarvon Estate (now better known as Highclere Castle, of TV's Downton Abbey fame) and records show that the hawthorn, berberis, dog rose and holly that make up the hedges surrounding the garden were originally sourced from the estate.
The age of the orchard is reflected in the diversity of the apple trees, which include many rare and unusual varieties, both cookers and eaters. Prince Albert and Bramley’s Seedling both date from the early 1800s, while Newton Wonder and Charles Ross, first raised at Welford Park, not far from Burghclere, date from the late 1800s.
Keeping old apple varieties alive
As some of these trees reach the end of their lives, we have been working closely with the National Trust’s Plant Conservation Centre to ensure that cuttings are grafted on to new rootstock to keep these unusual varieties alive.
Just inside the front gate is a magnificent oak. This tree, along with its twin (now sadly just a stump) were presented by the West Berkshire Branch of the Salonika Reunion Association in 1960, in memory of Stanley Spencer. Today they are surrounded by benches which provide a shaded spot to sit and reflect on a warm summer’s day.
The four box bushes at the top of the brick steps are modern replacements for identical bushes planted in 1928. The borders in front of the two cottages host snowdrops and daffodils in spring, with the fragrant Hidcote lavender taking over in the summer, providing a haven for bees, butterflies and a range of other insects.
In the spring, the meadow bursts into life with scatterings of daffodils, before the grass starts to grow in readiness for a profusion of wild flowers. Yellow rattle, knapweed, poppies, ox-eye daisies, and a variety of orchids, provide colour and interest through the late spring and early summer.
As well as the ripening of apples, and cyclamen poking their heads up through the grass, the autumn also brings a profusion of fungi. While the damp conditions in the orchard may no longer be perfect for the apples, they do ensure that there's a wonderful selection of fungi, not least the spectacular wax caps.
The Garden of Reflection
The garden at the back of the chapel had originally provided flower borders and vegetable plots for the occupants of the almshouses. As part of a major project in 2014 to mark the centenary of the First World War, the area was redesigned and replanted to create a Garden of Reflection, a peaceful and tranquil space for visitors to reflect on the chapel and paintings.
The project was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Hampshire landscape and garden designer Daniel Lobb was commissioned to work with stakeholders and voluntary groups to design and create the Garden of Reflection.
Who did the work?
Over 60 volunteers including Sandham’s own team of garden volunteers, servicemen and women from Tedworth House (a recovery centre run by Help for Heroes), horticultural students from Sparsholt College, people from homeless charity St Mungo’s and members of horticultural therapy charity, Thrive, spent eight months completing the garden.
It’s now well established, with the native hedging providing a natural frame around the garden, as the original hedging does around the orchard. The varied flower borders provide colour from March to November with planting chosen to reflect themes from the chapel paintings, as well as the site’s original purpose as a cottage garden.
The small shop has a selection of gifts and books. Picnic spots provide ideal places to bring your own refreshments and enjoy the surrounding garden.
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