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News Update





News Update - April 2017

Dear Friends


Thank you again for your excellent support during 2016. All four of our Open Days were well attended, which makes the considerable efforts of the volunteers all the more worthwhile.


I am always pleased to see our members and visitors enjoy the entertainment we put on at our Open Days. September 2016 saw the return of the very popular ‘Southampton Ukulele Jam’ group who were particularly lively from start to finish and very much appreciated by all watching. They will be back in September. The Duke of Wellington’s Regency Dance Group were also a marvellous attraction. Their dance demonstrations in the hall are always very well received as they bring the house and grounds into historical perspective. They will be returning in July.


Heritage day picture


The displays of vintage cars also gave the house the right historical flavour and we look forward to seeing more cars at our Open Days in May and September. We are always pleased that ‘Meridian Winds’ are able to entertain us on our March and July Open Days, we are lucky to have such an accomplished wind band playing for us.




The Gregg School’s Soul band provided the musical entertainment on our May Open Day, it was pleasing to hear the skilful musical performances of the students from the school. Visitors continue to enjoy the plant stall provided by Mayfield Nurseries, a very worthwhile mental health charity which we are pleased to support. 


The formal gardens were, as always, beautifully presented and maintained during 2016 and my grateful thanks go to our wonderful gardening volunteers, Janet and David Harley in the Sunk Garden and Rosaleen Wilkinson in the Herbaceous Borders and Herb Garden. Their work receives very valued support from Rod Clay whose expertise is so very much appreciated. To complement our volunteers, we have this year just appointed a new two-day a week gardener whose focus will be solely on the formal parts of the gardens and arboretum; we welcome Ted Waite.

House from gardens



Tim Lee-Harper, the school’s groundsman, has again worked wonders to ensure the hedges, grass and general grounds look in excellent shape, so as to fully complement the formal areas. Tim’s efforts are very gratefully supported by the volunteer ‘Posse’ ably mustered by Jacky Searle. The Posse has become a very valued group who help in the grounds on a number on Sunday mornings during the year and at our Open Days. A big thank you goes to everyone involved.


As always there are so many to thank for their active support during the year, in particular all members of the Committee and Posse, and our very valued treasurer, Peter Wilkinson. Peter is also on the committee of the Hampshire Gardens Trust, who have been very supportive of our gardens


Nicky Pickett, the school’s catering manager, also deserves a special thank you, along with her team of excellent helpers, for providing members and visitors with tea and wonderful cake.


I reported last year that, with the help of a large grant from The Hampshire Gardens Trust, we had started an important pergola restoration project. I am now pleased to confirm that this project has been completed and we are now confident that the pergola will serve us well for many more years to come. My grateful thanks go to Peter Wilkinson for driving this forward.


I am also pleased to announce that the school has completed its project to build a new Science, Home Economics and teaching block on the old tennis court in the arboretum. When you visit this year please wander into the arboretum to have a look at how well it fits in with its surrounding. The project has also given us the opportunity to landscape the surrounding area, which now looks particularly neat and tidy.


The new building is called ‘Hart’ in recognition of Roger Hart’s many years spent as Headteacher of The Gregg School. Although he retired as Headteacher a few years back, he is still involved as a school Trustee and also teaches a number of Drama lessons. Roger instigated the school’s move from Winn Road to Townhill Park House in 1994, without him it would not have happened.


The new building has also enabled the school to stop using Lady Swaythling’s Boudoir Room as a classroom, which has now been renovated and forms a fitting tribute to the building’s history. A closer inspection is a must for those visiting on Heritage Day in September.


We again held two Members’ Days during 2016. A day in August for picnics and a BBQ; and an autumn day that saw a private tour of the house, where areas were accessed that are not seen on our Heritage Days. Another two Members’ Days will be held this year with further details at the bottom of this newsletter.


I do hope that all members will renew their membership for 2017, as this will help with the continued development of the wonderful Gertrude Jekyll gardens and other emerging areas.


It is with some sadness that I end my report to announce my forthcoming retirement in August 2017. I will have been Bursar at The Gregg School and Chairman of the Friends for 17 years and see a very different house and grounds from when I started. I am so very much thankful for all the support and friendship afforded to me by members and volunteers alike. I am always proud to show people around the grounds and revel in how much has been achieved over the years.


Vince Davies (Chairman)

Web Site

The Gardens web site can be found at Please log on and see the progress being made within the gardens and grounds and enjoy some wonderful photographs taken at different times of the year.


What can you do to help?

The Friends are always in need of any help that can be given. This is not always a case of being on the physical side! Perhaps you would be in a position to help, for example by:

  • Donating unwanted presents and books for our raffle, tombola and book stall - just bring them with you.
  • picking apples on Saturday 9 September (2-4pm) for sale on Heritage Open Day
  • Fund raising ideas or become a member of the committee
  • Arboretum and grounds clearance (cutting down brambles and holly etc)
  • Renew your membership for 2017 and bring a friend on Open Days

Arboretum and Grounds Clearance Days 2017 – Please see more details in the ‘Volunteer Working Posse’ report below.

If you can help during 2017 please contact Vince, Jacky or a member of the committee (details below) either by telephone, email or at one of our open days.


If you would like to become more involved you would be very welcome, please contact any member of the committee. The current members are as follows:


Chairman and Secretary (School Bursar)

Vince Davies  02380 472133



Peter Wilkinson   02380 781012


Co-ordinators of the Sunk Garden

Janet & David Harley  02380 559949


Co-ordinator of the Herbaceous Borders, Herb Garden and Historian

Rosaleen Wilkinson 02380 781012


Co-ordinator of the North Terrace Borders 

Rod Clay


Co-ordinator of the volunteer ‘Posse’ and local publicity 

Jacky Searle


Committee Members:

Paul Young, Adrienne (Minute Secretary) & Steve Harris, Ann Clay, Vanessa Constable, Ian Morris & Ted Waite.


Grounds Manager

Tim Lee-Harper  02380 472133


Sunk Garden (Janet and David Harley)

On re-reading the Sunk Garden Reports for the last 4 years back to 2013 there is a certain similarity about them – weeds, badger damage, cutting back and replacing plants, but that is what gardening is about.

In 2016 we came to the Gardens 30 times from March 17th after a cold winter, to 31st October when windy and then cold weather brought our work to an end.  During the early summer we replaced lavenders and rosemarys that had seen better days; we shall probably repeat this in the next few months when we see how the garden has fared this winter.  The yuccas, a prominent feature in the garden, need a regular trim each summer.

We were glad to have an extra pair of hands (Rosemary) from mid-September and hope she can join us in 2017.  We hope to start again in early March weather permitting, when we shall see what has survived.  We know from previous experience that the weeds will have had no trouble and will be flourishing too well!!

As usual our biggest thanks go to Rod for his advice, practical help and, if we’re lucky, his company.


Herbaceous Borders and Herb Garden (Rosaleen Wilkinson)

Spring 2016 saw me having a thorough overhaul of the two herbaceous borders nearest the house. They had originally been planted up with rosemary, and over the years the bushes had become straggly and overgrown and too full of old wood. Just pruning them hard was not enough, so I sawed them down and dug out the roots where I was able to do so. I replaced them with new rosemary and lavender. I thought the beds would look horribly bare after such a drastic treatment, but other plants quickly took over and the effect was neater.


I also experimented with a large purchase of perennial wallflowers, Erysimum, in various colours. I had seen that the deer did not eat the wallflowers in the window boxes, so it was worth a try. I was pleased with the result throughout the early summer, although the orange wallflowers unfortunately turned out to be pink.


I was very grateful for the assistance of Ann and Rod Clay. They happened to come for a stroll through the gardens whilst I was planting out a very large number of plants and they stopped and carried cans of water and dug holes for me so that the job was completed by tea-time. This was despite them being smartly dressed at the time!


I started the autumn tidy-up in September, not wishing to get caught out by the weather, but then I tripped up over my wellingtons and hurt my leg, which delayed work for several weeks. I did more work before Christmas but then got overtaken by cold weather and a nasty flu-type bug, so I’m afraid the autumn tidy-up has become spring-cleaning instead. I hope that the borders will be looking good once everything begins to grow again.


Volunteer Working ‘Posse’ (Jacky Searle)

In 2016 our lovely volunteers gathered on the Sunday mornings, the week before each Open Day, to help make the gardens look as good as they can for our visitors. Our focus last year was mainly helping in the Sunk Garden and Herb Garden where there is a never ending demand to clear the paths of moss and evict the weeds. We also scheduled an additional afternoon to pick apples from the orchard to raise funds for more plants on the September Open Day.


We extend our thanks to those who give their time, to Rod Clay who provides us with direction and to Nicky the school cook whose home made cake at half-time is probably the greatest incentive!


We’ve had two working sessions so far in 2017 - the remaining dates are on the following Sundays from 10am to 1pm - 25 June, 3 September with possibly another date in October (to be decided) as well as the annual apple-picking session on Saturday 9 September (2-4pm)


You don't need to be able to come to all the sessions or even all of any one session - we would encourage and welcome anyone to come along and do as much or as little as you are able to offer. The combined effort all counts and really does makes a difference. Its such a treat to have the beautiful grounds to ourselves even if the occasional Flybe plane momentarily spoils the tranquillity.  


Please do contact Jacky Searle via email and/or see more details on the website page You will be given a very warm welcome and of course CAKE.



 Report on Townhill Park House Gardens for the Hampshire Gardens Trust

(Peter Wilkinson)


In October 2016 the last twelve pillars of the pergola were repaired, and we can look forward to spending our hard-earned money on other areas of the three acre formal gardens, which we look after.


The autumn tidy-up began as usual, clearing the herbaceous borders, the Sunk garden, the terrace borders and the Herb garden of tired plants, weeding, clipping and digging over the soil in readiness for the bark chippings and mulching in the Spring. The gravel paths, particularly in the Herb garden, needed to be sprayed to reduce the weeds and the overhanging plants to be cut back.


One suggestion for improvement was put forward at the autumn committee meeting, namely to replace the wrought-iron gates which used to stand at the entrance to the Sunk Garden in the days of the Swaythling family’s residence. Entrance gates will certainly enhance the beauty of the Sunk Garden.


Much work has been done to re-instate the area immediately surrounding the newly-built Science Block. Inevitably the builders spoiled the edges of the arboretum adjoining the building, but for every tree that was felled, two trees have been planted, and a thousand daffodils have been put in as well as formal grassed areas. The path running through the arboretum has now been re-established. The whole area is now looking smart and pleasing to the eye.


The Gregg School has very recently employed a gardener for two days a week, who will work in conjunction with the Friends and take advice from the Friends, who not only have good knowledge of how a Gertrude Jekyll garden should be restored, but also of which plants grow successfully in the soil conditions and which plants will survive the ravages of the resident deer! Those volunteers who have seen the sun rise and set more often than others will be glad of the help!



Sunday, 19th March from 2pm-4pm which was an extremely successful day with 200 people coming to see the daffodils and enjoy tea and cake whilst listening to the music of Meridian Winds.


Monday, 1st May (Bank Holiday) from 2-5pm.

Enjoy the bluebells and blossoms in the arboretum.  The school’s Soul band will be playing and there will be a classic car display in front of the house.


Sunday, 2nd July from 2-5pm

This is when the gardens are most colourful and Meridian Winds will again be playing. There will also be a Regency Dance demonstration from The Duke of Wellington’s Dancers, performing in the hall


Sunday, 10th September 2-5pm

This is Heritage Day and the house will again be open for guided tours by the school’s students. There will also be another classic car display in front of the house and music from ‘Southampton Ukulele Jam’.


Tuesday 8th August from 3-7pm – Summer Picnic.

Bring your own picnic and a rug or your chairs to enjoy the gardens in full bloom. A basic BBQ will also be available with sausages and burgers.

Tuesday 17th October from 2-5pm – Autumn Colours with a tour of the house or gardens. Help yourself to a bag of apples from the Orchard … if there are any left to be had!

Members may also bring non-member guests to the picnics. We would ask that members’ guests make a donation of £2 each towards the gardens.

The aim of these openings is for members to relax and enjoy the gardens.


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