By Val Dawson

Go on admit it.  When you take a gentle stroll around the town – any town - how many of you peep through windows… or peek into neighbour’s gardens?   In recent years visiting gardens has become a national obsession with the addition of tea and delicious home-made cakes - well, who can resist?

The National Gardens Scheme was founded in 1927 raising money to help nurses from the Queen’s Nursing Institute.  Opening private gardens for ‘a shilling a head’ was revolutionary but became an immediate success with over a 1000 gardens taking part.  In 1948 the NGS joined forces with the National Trust and more prestigious gardens were opened.   In 1980 it became an independent charity. 

Currently, over 3700 gardens are open throughout England and Wales where proud owners show off their varying styles.  The Yellow Book is the bible for all of us who delight in this relaxing past-time.  Last year a new name appeared in the Cheshire and Wirral section.

Emma Dearman, husband Joe and their 2 children had lived in St John’s Rd, Knutsford for 12 years when they felt the need for a larger – much larger – garden.   In 2006 they bought Somerford in Leycester Rd.  It was ideal – an Arts and Crafts house, built in 1909, set in over an acre of land and in much need of a stylish makeover. 

It has been a major project for them ever since.  Fortunately Emma and Joe are blessed with boundless energy and loads of contemporary ideas.  She also teaches part-time in Manchester, is a volunteer at Arley and Knutsford Heritage Centre.  She has had more formal gardening training via Reaseheath and at Tatton Park with (now retired) Sam Youd. 

First priority was removal of a large leylandii hedge to be replaced by an avenue of stunning cube-headed hornbeam.  From 2009 the total re-design began with the help of their Architect and a professional designer.  Beeches, though magnificent, were crowned and other trees and shrubs had to go from an otherwise featureless flat space.  The garden would be divided up into smaller areas of interest. 

The solid oak Mackintosh inspired pergola, with roses gently climbing around, is superb and sets an elegant style for the whole of the garden.  Croquet and pond lawns, sculpture, snail-trail through a wooded area, fernery and wonderful herbaceous and perennial borders complete the picture. 

So, after all their hard work – Emma can be seen mowing at 7am -  and using the garden just for friends and family it was suggested that NGS might be the next step. The local organisers were called in and the inspection took place.  Somerford was open.  Clearly they were impressed.  So will you be! 

Meet Emma and Joe on Friday July 4 6pm-8.30pm £5 inc glass of wine, and enjoy a special performance by a string quintet.  Sundays,  July 13 and August 10 (12 – 5) £4 (inc Tea and Cakes, of course!)   Plant sale proceeds to Knutsford Heritage Centre. 

Where to find it: Somerford, 19 Leycester Road,  Knutsford,  Cheshire & Wirral  WA16 8QR