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Ludlow's Secret Gardens will welcome visitors


Joan and Chris Birkett in their garden in Temeside, Ludlow
Joan and Chris Birkett in their garden in Temeside, Ludlow

It's a rare opportunity to explore some of the area’s loveliest gardens, which are usually hidden from public view.

Every year hundreds of visitors travel from far and wide to peek beyond the gates of the Secret Gardens of Ludlow.

The one-day event, which this year takes place on Sunday, June 19, will once again feature a variety of stunning gardens, all in walking distance of the town centre.

"On offer is a selection of 10 lovely gardens, diverse in style, size and setting ranging from a courtyard garden behind a book shop, to sweeping lawns, a woodland garden with some rare trees and everything in between, offering views of Ludlow Castle, the river Teme or the Shropshire hills and beyond," says Cy Jones, who has been head of the event’s organising team for virtually its entire history.

Secret Gardens was launched in 1990 by LARFE (Ludlow Assembly Rooms Fundraising Events) to raise money for the lively arts, community and entertainment centre, which runs as an independent charity.

The popular fundraiser regularly brings in between £8,000 and £11,000 every year and 135 gardens have opened to the public since the first event.

"Secret Gardens is our biggest annual fundraising event for Ludlow Assembly Rooms. It attracts visitors from a wide area and the funds raised are crucial to the continued success of the Assembly Rooms," says Cy.

For garden owners, who all work hard to make their gardens look as inviting as possible, it's a chance to let visitors explore and share the beauty of their horticultural havens.

Visitors will be able to explore 10 diverse gardens

Among those opening their gardens for this year's event are Joan and Chris Birkett, who live in Temeside.

It will be the third time they have taken part in Secret Gardens and they are looking forward to welcoming visitors.

"The garden faces south and over looks the river. I think people are quite surprised by the garden and the lovely setting because it's not what they expect when they approach the house from the street," says Joan.

The couple have been tending to their plot, which includes colourful beds with a variety of different flowers, including foxgloves, and a seating area, since 2001.

"We do spend time gardening but we don't let it rule our lives. I'm not one for digging things up and taking them in for winter. I like the garden to look after itself as much as it can but we do have a holiday-let in the garden so we do like to keep it looking spick and span as our guests share the garden with us.

"It's such a pretty spot, it's pleasure being out in the garden when the weather is nice," says Joan.

Flower farmer and florist Kim Ralph is also opening her riverside garden at Temeside for the first time as part of Secret Gardens.

Her plot features beds of annuals and perennials, which she says were all chosen for their quirky beauty, nostalgic appeal and fragrance.

Her cutting garden was planted from scratch 16 months ago, after her previous plot was devastated in the 2020 flood.

Every path, wall, fence and bed was replaced after the flood flattened the plot and washed-up thousands of weed seeds.

Kim Ralph in her riverside garden

"Initially designed to give me plenty of cut flowers for my own enjoyment, the patch has been so productive that I’ve now established a micro-business, The Ludlow Flower Farmer, using Facebook and Instagram to reach clients, and share my love of growing and foraging.

"I now seasonally provide customers with lovely bunches of old-fashioned, fragrant garden flowers. The sort of flowers that butterflies love.

"The planting is close and practical, with patches and rows of flowers jammed in, so that I can cut regularly and plant successionally. I choose colourful varieties with good vase life.

"The garden features many cottage garden favourites such as Snapdragons, Love-in-a-mist, Poppies, Sweet Williams and Foxgloves alongside lots of varieties of fragrant Mint, Eucalyptus and dainty grasses.

"Dahlias, Rudbekia, Alstroemeria and Scabious are planted for late summer. These are all flowers that aren’t generally imported – they don’t travel well out of water and are too delicate to endure long transportation.

"But when they are locally grown, they are fantastically vibrant, full of interesting shape, movement and nostalgic. These are the flowers that many of us grew up with in our grandparent’s gardens," explains Kim.

*Secret Gardens runs from noon until 6pm on Sunday, June 19. It costs £10 for a ticket/ map which provides entry to all gardens, available online from or by calling 01584 878141.

They can also be purchased in person at Ludlow Assembly Rooms Box Office, Castle Square, which is open between noon and 3pm and between 6pm and 8pm, Monday to Saturday.

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