Belper gardens festival organiser looking for hosts

Belper Open Gardens organiser Kathy Fairweather
Belper Open Gardens organiser Kathy Fairweather

The organiser of the spectacular annual Belper Open Gardens weekend has begun the search for this year’s venues in the hope that more people will get involved in the event than ever before.

The 2017 festival will be held on July 1 and 2, and Kathy Fairweather, 62, is seeking new gardeners to put their homes on the map and join the festivities.

Kathy said: “It takes a little courage and effort to open your garden, but the pleasure of sharing your passion and exchanging ideas with other gardeners definitely makes it worthwhile.

“I have a lot of regulars who will be involved again, but I’m looking to get people on board who have never done it in the past.”

Now retired, Kathy was a founding member of the Belper Gardening Club, and this will be her fifth year leading the event.

She said: “It was started by Sheila Brinkworth, who had the idea it would be a nice way to bring the community together and welcome visitors to Belper.

“I was already involved in the National Garden Scheme, which is a similar idea, so it made perfect sense to me.”

For anyone new to the event, the premises is that a network of homes across the town will open their doors to show off their yards and gardens.

Visitors pay £3 for a weekend ticket and a walking map of the town with all proceeds going to charity.

Kathy said: “It doesn’t matter how big your garden is. We have all shapes and sizes, and I always aim to showcase a real variety of styles.

“Visitors love to draw inspiration for their own gardens, so the more features we can include the better it is for everyone.”

The event takes place over the weekend, but homeowners can choose to be open on just one of the days, and all proceeds go to local charities.

Kathy estimates that the event raises up to £1,400 each year, which has been used to help community organisations including Scout groups, the Belper Arts Festival, well-dressings, the toy library, and Hope for Belper.

Many gardens also see sales of cakes, refreshments, crafts and plants, or arts performances, which can bring in extra income for charities of the host’s choice.

Kathy said: “I usually have musicians in my garden on the day, and we try to make it a good showcase for local talent. It’s nice to get the whole community involved.”

The event regularly sells more than 400 tickets every year, with visitors coming from all over the country to view some 25 gardens.

Kathy said: “Between the Peak District and the Derwent Valley mills there are a lot of tourists in the area. We’ve had people from Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire - even from across Europe.

“It’s nice to be bringing them into Belper, and the map takes them through our most historic streets and shows them what a lovely place we have.”

She added: “Everyone who comes is so friendly, and the welcome and hospitality they get is just as good.”

As well as preparing her own garden on Windmill Rise, Kathy will spend the next six months promoting the event, organising entertainment and visiting potential host gardens.

She said: “People shouldn’t feel under pressure to make their gardens immaculate. The only thing I’m looking for is visitors’ safety, so I’ll check for any hazards.”

After that, comes the most challenging aspect of all for Kathy’s plans.

“I live half the year in hope it won’t rain on one weekend, and so far we’ve been very lucky,” she said.

To talk to Kathy about getting involved in the event, call her on 07779 412702 or email kathyf100@hotmail.com.