The Gardens at Sandham Memorial
The gardens at Sandham are made up of two distinct areas. The orchard and meadow at the front of the building were planted in the 1920’s 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 1920’s. The chapel was built on land purchased from the Carnarvon Estate (now better known as Highclere Castle, of Downton Abbey fame) and records show that the hawthorn, berberis, dog rose and holly which 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. Lane’s Prince Albert and Bramley’s Seedling both date from the early 1800’s, whilst Newton Wonder and Charles Ross (first raised at Welford Park, not far from Burghclere) date from the late 1800’s. American Beauty is an eating apple originating from Massachusetts in 1854. As some of these trees reach the end of their lives, we have been working closely with the Trust’s Plant Conservation Centre to ensure that cuttings are grafted on to new root stock to keep these unusual varities alive.
In the spring, the meadow comes alive with scatterings of daffodils before the grass starts to grow in readiness for a profusion of wildflowers. Yellow rattle, knapweed, poppies, oxeye daisies and a variety of orchids provide colour and excitement through the late spring and early summer.
Just inside the front gate is a magnificent oak. This tree, along with it’s 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 perfectly shaded spot to sit and reflect on a warm summer’s day.
As well as the ripening of apples and cyclamen poking their heads up through the grass, the autumn also brings a profusion of fungi. Whilst the damp conditions in the orchard may no longer be perfect for the apples, they do ensure that we have a wonderful selection of fungi – not least the spectacular wax caps.
The four box bushes at the top of the brick steps are modern replacements for identical bushes originally 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.
The Garden of Reflection
The garden at the back of the building had originally provided flower borders and vegetable plots for the occupants of the alms-houses. As part of a major project at Sandham 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 Heritage Lottery 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.
Following initial groundworks, over 60 volunteers including Sandham’s own incredible 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 some eight months – the equivalent of over 320 days’ work – to complete this new and very special garden.
‘It was really important to me to quietly absorb the special atmosphere of the place and create a design that sits harmoniously next to the historic chapel, existing meadow and orchard’ said Daniel, whose simple design for the garden was inspired by the formality of the chapel building. ‘I hope it will provide both the opportunity for quiet reflection and an active gardening space for the various partner charity groups and volunteer gardeners which have helped bring my design to life’.
The garden is now well established, with the new 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.
A polytunnel and cold frame allow us to grow plants of our own, from cuttings or seeds, to restock the garden and to raise additional funds to help us care for the chapel and gardens.
The gardens are tended and cared for by a hardworking group of dedicated volunteers – gardening normally takes place on closed days, helping to ensure that the gardens remain a place of peace, tranquility and reflection for our visitors.