Open Garden – Danesbury’s Victorian Fernery
With all the history, hard work and preparation behind us, the Danesbury Victorian Fernery was ‘opened’ to the public on Sunday afternoon 18th June as part of the Welwyn Festival’s Open Gardens Programme.
Friends of Danesbury Local Nature Reserve welcomed over 100 visitors at the entrance and guided them safely around the site, pointing out the many exciting discoveries made since the site was cleared in September 2015.from what was a veritable jungle. All visitors were given illustrated Leaflets which showed the dramatic progress which had been made since then.
The site is still very much one of ‘work-in-progress’, but visitors were able to see the man-made ‘Pulhamite’ Grotto and the Dropping well, albeit without water yet, and the path over the top of the Grotto which was uncovered as recently as April 2017, and which already provides exciting clues to the whereabouts of the ‘gorge’ and the place where a rustic bridge would once have crossed over.
After their tour of the Fernery, and on a very hot and sunny day, the trees in the Fernery provided welcome shade, and a little breeze. Visitors were able to relax and enjoy the Victorian Cakes and drinks prepared by volunteer helpers Hilary Ward, Anne Beattie and Isabel Darby who had spent many days baking; not forgetting cakes generously provided by the Codicote WI too. A vote of thanks is owed to all the volunteers and their helpers for working so hard to create such a successful and memorable afternoon.
But the highlight of the afternoon, filmed by Welwyn Film Record Society, was the ‘surprise’ introduction to each other of Valerie Chrisman whose great great great great grandfather was James Pulham whose son James 2nd built the Fernery for the Blake family in 1859/60, and Alison Venning whose great great great great grandfather was William John Blake himself, whose gardener Anthony Parsons designed and planted the Fernery garden which in 1881 was described in an RHS journal as ‘the best fernery to be found in the home counties’.
Before the Fernery is next ‘Open’ the Friends will need many more volunteers, particularly those with gardening skills, as we re-commence the replanting of the formal Victorian flower beds as near as possible to the original, and tackle the task of making the fernery once again ‘the best Fernery in the Home Counties’.
For more details please contact John Roper,
Leader of the Friends of Danesbury Park Local Nature Reserve.