Lancashire Gardens - Mere Magic Garden Trail

Lawn with sundial, a bubbling water feature and stone figures

Lawn with sundial, a bubbling water feature and stone figures - Credit: Linda Viney

When cash was needed to repair the Methodist Church, the seeds were sown for a scheme which has lasted seven years. Linda Viney reports

Raising money is always a challenge but seven years ago, when funds were needed for Mere Brow Methodist Church, it sowed the seeds of a scheme to boost funds by villagers opening their gardens. It was so successful that it has now become an annual event and this July 300 visitors went and more than £3,000 was raised. A percentage went to this year’s charity, The Legacy Rainbow House at Mawdesley.

Known as the ‘Mere Magic Garden Trail’, volunteers work tirelessly to ensure visitors have a great time even laying on a vintage bus to take people between the gardens.

It is no surprise the gardens are beautiful - Mere Brow was primarily an agricultural village and has excellent soil. I met up with one of the volunteers, Joan Holcroft, who has been a member of the church since she was ten.

‘The event has grown every year and the enthusiastic gardeners work hard ensuring their plots are looking their best. No, I don’t open mine but help in many other ways.’ Joan told me. ‘We have six to eight gardens each year of varying sizes and types, some have opened every year since the beginning others drop out for varying reasons and new ones come in.’

I then went off to get a taster - next door to the Methodist Church is Fingerpost Cottage with purple clematis had a delightful cottage garden style garden it had originally been lived in by the local smithy - hence the topiary anvil. The blue aconitum (monkshood) stood proud and blended beautifully with delicate pink roses, white astrantia swayed in the breeze. Ornamental conifers form shelter and a backdrop and the bees were taking nectar from the lavender lined up in front of the hedge, there was also a ‘wishing well’ which stood adjacent to the drive.

In the grounds is a tiny cottage complete with corrugated roof is surrounded by rambling roses and once was the home of ‘Old Peggy’. This elderly spinster made treacle toffee sticks which were wrapped in newspaper and sold for an old halfpenny to children to supplement her income along with glasses of pop.

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Moving on we went to a courtyard garden which has been designed round the original farm building, I could see it has year round interest from the shrubs and trees. It shone with a kaleidoscope of colour from the planting surrounding the lawn. A bubbling water feature added tranquility, stone figures stood by, one was a ‘golfer’ which gave the indication of the owner’s hobby, and the sundial watched over by a fairy was surrounded with plants. The ornamental peacock was home to colourful french marigolds, whilst roses, phlox and astilbes flowered among the bedding. By the window a cascade of flowers, from blues through to light and dark rich pinks, tumbled from the window box.

We visit another cottage-style garden, again climbing roses surrounded the porch and added interest on the red brick wall of the house.

The long border adjacent to the main road was vibrant from the orange from the lilies and red of the heleniums. There were many natural features including a woodland, which on the hot summer day provided welcome shade. Here, hostas planted in a curved border surrounded the lawn and the ‘Black Lace’ eder contrasted with the green.

A meandering gravel path led round to the rear garden, a wall separated the garden from the open countryside behind, a mix of shrubs and perennials filled the borders providing colour and texture. Planted up pots and an old bicycle added another dimension.

Visiting gardens like these not only give you ideas but Mere Brow had laid on teas, ice creams and yes you could buy plants from a specialist nursery. I was sorry to have missed their open day but vowed to try and make it next year. It is thanks to the hard working volunteers and garden owners that charities benefit and Mere Brow certainly has the community spirit.

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