Judi Dench returns to Charlecote

Saturday 16th June, you’ll perhaps know that day if you were in Warwickshire, it was the day it rained. Heavily. It also happened to be the day of our garden party in honour of the National Garden Scheme’s 85th Birthday. We thought we’d had our fair share of rain over the Jubilee weekend but clearly not. But we’re British, and we didn’t let the rain stop play!

Judi meets the Warwickshire NGS Team

Charlecote was one of the gardens who opened under the NGS scheme in its very first year, back in 1927. We had a bit of a 1920’s theme on the day with traditional games on the lawn, vintage cars and music filling the green court and our house too!

We had a variety of different things happening on site throughout the day. Families were lending a helping hand in our plant nursery, our warden and gardener led guided walks, and the brilliant garden volunteers happily went about their work chatting to visitors about how they care for the grounds and their volunteering roles. We were joined by a variety of local groups who set up stalls on the paddock. These groups included people we work with currently – Warwickshire Bee Keepers, Warwickshire College, Transition Stratford, Wellesbourne Allotments and also charity groups supported by the NGS.

The ‘star guest’ was the lovely Dame Judi Dench. We were honoured to welcome Judi back to Charlecote. She knows us well, having spent 12 of her happiest years (her words not mine) living in the village with her late husband and family. Judi recounted stories of her time at Charlecote, including a rather amusing tale of being accused of poaching deer from the park. When confronted her husband merely said, ‘if we were, we’re in good company’!

Judi presented a number of awards to local garden owners who have opened for 10 years under the NGS. Unfortunately it was just after the presentations, the heavens opened and many of the crowd ran for shelter. But not Dame Judi. She visited all of the stall holders stopping to chat under their gazebos whilst the rain pelted down on the flimsy canvases. The last people she spoke to were the Bedworth Wind Band. Unfortunately some of them had gone home as it was getting a bit late in the day but Judi insisted they play something for her. Have a look at our video to see what they played for her…

Oh and a word of advice – if you are expecting movie stars they may not have the most appropriate footwear. We now have a very famous piece of wood that was used to stop Judi’s kitten heels sinking into the grass!

For more photos from the day visit us on facebook or flickr.

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