The link between the King and our village is rather tenuous but, I think, worth mentioning, and I am quite proud of it!
When the Gardening Club in Nether Kellet was thriving (it began in 2004) we met monthly in the Village Hall to hear speakers from far and wide on all matters of landscape and horticulture. We also provided a great sales table at Field Day, had Open Gardens in the village on two occasions and visited many much larger, formal gardens in Lancashire and Cumbria. We even visited, by special permission of the Governor, the enthusiastic tomato growers at the Fylde Open Prison and were offered tea in the Board Room with the Governor who seemed pleased to talk to us after our tour (I particularly remember the glorious and huge polished oak Boardroom Table where we had our tea!). When visiting speakers came to the Village Hall and had reached the end of their presentation, our questions were answered and refreshments were served. During that part of the evening we asked the speaker to write in our ‘autograph book’ a tip from the earlier talk or a note about the person he/she had been speaking about.
Over the years, these ‘autographs’ built up, and it occurred to us that only the members of the Gardening Club ever saw what had been written. We decided to widen the scope by writing to all the gardening experts we knew. They were journalists, had written books on their speciality or we had heard them on Gardeners’ Question Time or watched them work on TV. We asked them for their gardening tips and eventually we produced a small booklet that was called “Tip Top Tips”. We eventually collected about 30 tips to make the booklet. One of our Cumbrian contacts sent us seven tips!But our letters of request began at the top. Our first letter (and they were all handwritten) went to Buckingham Palace to the then Prince of Wales. Surely he would have a gardening tip? We knew how much he loved his Highgrove Garden? And we received a reply from His Royal Highness! He had expressed an interest in our project and asked his Head gardener to write to us. In due course we received our royal tip.Emboldened by this response, we tried our luck again with royalty, writing directly to the Head gardener at Sandringham, who honoured us with our second ‘tip’.
When this small booklet was finally printed (by students at Carnforth High School), we sent copies to everyone who had given us their tip and even had ‘thank you’ letters from them! We raised a small amount by selling the booklet locally and the money went to Village Hall funds. It was a lovely exercise and very exciting to have so much post coming through our letterbox. So this short article is a tribute to gardeners everywhere and especially to King Charles at Coronation time. Thank you, your Majesty, for taking us seriously.
PS. There is another story to tell about a link between our new King and Nether Kellet Gardening Club which may be in the next edition of Round and About. But if you should wish to see any of the letters, programmes, photographs, maps etc. that were produced in running an active Gardening Club, they are held in the archives at Preston Records Office. You can make an appointment to see them!