Dear Kewites and Friends,
I just cannot believe that it is almost five months since I sent everyone copies of the Christmas newsletter, as I have said before, “Where does the time go?”
The Guild Committee has met a further two times since Christmas and along with a number of day to day issues to keep us occupied, our most important piece of work has been the submission to the Charity Commission of our application to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). These arrangements, aimed at the Kew Guild being able to meet the present legal requirements of the Charity Commission, were agreed as long ago as the AGM in September 2015. They have been an ongoing issue for the subsequent Presidents and particularly Bob Ivison, who has been the lead committee member on this issue. Earlier in the year the submission was finally made and then a response was received from the Charity Commission that was far from positive, which left your committee in doubt as to whether they were going to be able to take this matter forward.
Given this, at the February meeting of the Trustees it was decided that to take this matter forward, we needed help from specialist solicitors who were experienced in dealing with the setting up of trusts and the creation of their constitutions. This proved to be an inspired decision and I am glad to be able to report that our response to the Charity Commission’s queries, which was put together with the aid of the solicitors, has been very favourably received. The Charity Commission has indicated that with some minor changes to wording in our submission, they would be happy to accept the Kew Guild’s application for CIO status. A report on these matters will now be placed before the Trustees at their meeting on the 1st June 2017 and it is expected that we will then be in a position to finalise our application and agree it with the Charity Commission. It will be almost two years since the matter was first discussed at an AGM and I must offer my thanks to the past Presidents and again, Bob Ivison for all the sterling work that they have put into this project to bring it to fruition.
This year’s Kew Guild’s programme of events is now well under way with two of the visits already having been undertaken. In February we visited Bennington Lordship Gardens, near Stevenage, for our annual “Snowdrop” start to the year. Well over twenty members braved a cold, but dry day and enjoyed a landscape of superb snowdrops of all sizes. Many of us were taken by the flower sizes of some of the newer hybrids and one that really caught the eye was Galanthus Sarah Arnott, an absolute star! In true Guild style the cold late morning visit was combatted by a visit to a local hostelry for lunch and the pleasure of sitting by a blazing fire.
In April we visited Guernsey, on a trip that came about when Raymond Evison received the Honorary Fellowship of the Kew Guild at last year’s Guild Dinner. Raymond kindly offered to host a trip to Guernsey in 2017 to visit his Clematis nurseries and local private gardens – an offer that I wasn’t going to miss out on. I worked with Raymond on putting together a four day visit and I must say as we planned the visit I wasn’t sure what the take up of the package would be like and initially we planned only 15 places. I needn’t have worried, the Guild members were just as excited about the proposals as I was and within 24 hours we had reached our maximum number for the visit of 24.
The visit itself was a great success and we visited a number of superb private gardens along with an eye opening tour of Raymond’s Clematis nursery, where we toured the whole of his production side, where plants were being grown for the European and American market. We were also very lucky to see the “secret” side of his business, where we were allowed to inspect the new Clematis cultivars for 2017 which are planned to be released at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. The Clematis fans amongst us Guild members are really in for a treat this year, but I can’t tell you any more, as we were “sworn to secrecy!!”
The real success of the event was the weather, as we had four days of beautiful clear weather without a cloud in the sky. I was so impressed with Raymond’s links to the weather Gods, as I was told that the previous week had seen Guernsey blanketed in fog. I was amazed how much “earlier” Guernsey was to mainland Britain and when promised banks of flowering Bluebells, I was to say the least, a little sceptical. But there they were, along hedgerow banks stuffed with early wild flowers and in one garden a magnificent Paulownia tomentosa, in full flower.
As I am writing this newsletter Di and I am preparing ourselves for this weekend’s Guild trip to Compton Acres in Dorset and Exbury in Hampshire. This great visit has again been fully booked and I am especially looking forward to enjoying two of my interests at Exbury, one the family, Rhododendron and two, a ride behind their famous steam miniature railway. What better way to enjoy a visit to Exbury for an ageing gardener / steam buff, than to travel the over one mile track around the gardens watching Rhododendrons and Azaleas pass me by, whilst taking in the intoxicating aroma of smoke and steam.
If you haven’t been to a visit this year, there is still a chance for you as there are a further two trips planned in June and August when we visit Devon and Chatsworth respectively. But don’t delay, as on this years’ experience they are filling up fast – check the Guild website for details as they become available. I look forward to welcoming the stalwarts of the Guild’s visit along with those who have yet to try these very friendly and relaxed visits to superb gardens
– try us, it is a lot of fun!
Plans are now well underway for this year’s Guild Dinner in the Cambridge Cottage, Kew Green, on the 25th May and we have again managed to arrange free entry to the garden for all those that are attending the dinner. The guest speaker at this year’s dinner will be Richard Barley, the Director of Horticulture, Learning and Operations at Kew who, I am sure, will give Guild members attending the dinner, an up to date insight into the future management and development of the gardens. We will also be presenting Chris Beardshaw, of Chelsea Flower Show and Gardener’s World fame, with the Kew Guild Gold Medal. I look forward to this special evening in the Kew Guild calendar.
Finally, thank you for reading this newsletter which outlines the work of the Kew Guild and more importantly, I hope, reminds all the readers that there is much pleasure to be found in being an active member and enjoying some of the activities of this special organisation. I look forward to meeting up with many of you at one of the remaining visits this year or at the AGM on the 9th September.
With kindest regards,
Alan Stuttard, President of the Kew Guild