Gardening Column: Belper’s Well Dressings & Open Gardens

The last four weeks saw Belper buzzing with an exciting range of events. Belper Open Gardens, The Food Festival, Well Dressing and The Belper Games were just a few of the bigger events which saw hundreds of people come to Belper from all over the UK.

I am fortunate to be involved, as the organiser, in two of these events – the open gardens and the well dressing. The open gardens took place during the last weekend in June and brought large numbers of visitors from far and wide, who followed a trail of 25 gardens. I am extremely proud to say that the collection of private and public gardens which were on display would be very hard to better by any of the other sets of Derbyshire open gardens. There is a great variety of sizes and styles of gardens on display, all of which are of an excellent standard. Some of the gardens offered scrumptious home baked refreshments; others provided musical entertainment and a number had plants for sale.

Despite the wet start on the Saturday, the event was a huge success. It raised almost £2000 for charity; the £1500 profit from the ticket sales has now been distributed amongst a number of Belper Charities: Hope for Belper, The Toy Library, The Cottage Project, Belper Goes Green, Belper Women’s Group and The Well Dressing.

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The Belper well dressing, an ancient and historic community project, was a huge success too. There were 16 wells displayed at The River Gardens and outside the Methodist and Christ Churches from 15th to the 21 July. The work commenced a week before and although it takes in excess of 40 hours to prepare each well, it is always greatly enjoyed by all who take part. It was wonderful to see so many diverse groups and individuals working together to create such beautiful works of arts, all made using natural materials such as flower petals, leaves, bark, stones, wool, glass, beans, coconut etc. The groups that took part this year were: Belper School, Long Row School, Strutt School, Methodist Chapel, Christ Church, Unitarian Chapel, Friends of River Gardens, Belper Players, Belper Women’s Group, Belper Gardening Club, Rosemary and Cynthia, Alton Manor Scouts, Girl Guides and Whitemoor Centre.

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The event was officially opened on Sunday; the wells were blessed during a procession from Christ Church and which culminated in a concert by the Derwent Brass Band at the River Gardens. Hundreds of people brought picnics and enjoyed the glorious sunshine in the gorgeous historic setting.

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Words and Images by Kathy Fairweather

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