CharitiesThe Garden

Which weekend? Or why it’s better to be lucky than good

By June 15, 2019 December 14th, 2019 No Comments

The Cleverness of Me.

“Oh, the cleverness of me”. This is my daughter’s favourite putdown whenever I get too big for my boots – gardening or otherwise. So it is, with some trepidation, that I now, officially, claim credit for “my choice” to open Astley Old Vicarage garden on the first weekend of June for the National Garden Scheme (NGS). At the time my wife referred to my decision as “my mistake, my stupid mistake’. Dangerously, just as Nigel Farage declared to the E.U., I can now smirk smugly “who’s laughing now?” to my wife….

It hasn’t, of course, stopped raining since!

It’s Not How You Start…

Anyway, boasting aside, I wasn’t quite so smug on our opening morning. For one thing, I’d been given a free pass to go to a gig at Rebellion in Manchester to watch Glen Matlock (formerly of the Sex Pistols) and Earl Slick (formerly lead guitarist of choice for David Bowie). They were brilliant, finishing with an encore of “Pretty Vacant” which, perfectly described the state of my head at 5.30 a.m. as I was directed to “get the NGS signs up”. Swiftly followed by the words of encouragement “I have no sympathy – you’re old enough to know better” – the story of my life!

So off I went, visiting all the nearby lampposts to Astley Old Vicarage garden, armed only with a pair of ladders, some scissors and a roll of gaffer tape. Looking for all the world like a geriatric, middle-class cat burglar.

Umbrellas? Who needs umbrellas?

Last minute tidying up was underway as friends and family began arriving with cakes and plants accompanied by the dreaded spitting drizzle. An umbrella search was instigated of the house and gardens, but with disappointing results. Only three were found. Although at 11.30 a.m., three looked to be plenty. Only two visitors so far.

I needed to readjust my expectations….. “Bad weather, a lot of people came last year and might not want to return so soon. Double figures wouldn’t be so bad – would they?”

My mother-in-law, who was once May Queen at the Astley Vicarage, was sat at the front door with Wilf, our black golden doodle (a long story). Wilf had misinterpreted his role, however, and was, instead of welcoming visitors, sending anyone who approached the front gate off into the distance! It wasn’t looking good. I could hear words in my head that hadn’t been written by the Sex Pistols, “mistake” “stupid mistake”…

Build It and They Will Come


It seems most people checked the weather forecast first, then decided to give it an hour, or two, before venturing out. A steady stream of people started appearing at our garden. Even Wilf started to grant them entry, albeit still perplexed and grudgingly. The sun came out and Anne, our friend from Astley Point, was in full sales mode with the plants and my daughter’s Victoria Sponge looking like it would be the first cake to sell out. Initially in her own words “… a bit of a disaster”, she subsequently referred to it as “planned rustic”.

Everyone seemed to enjoy our 2019 version of the Astley Old Vicarage garden. Or if they didn’t, they were just too polite to say so. The new wire sculptures went down well which was better than I had hoped for. Just the encouragement I needed to get me back into the workshop. Especially now as there are no excuses with the rain continuing to descend.

Astley Old Vicarage Garden ‘Open’ – All for a Good Cause

More importantly, we made a good return for the NGS and the charities they support. With great thanks to our family, friends and visitors for all their contributions, we did even better than last year. More than 300 people visited us over the weekend and helped us raise over £2,000.

And a Good Word

And finally, three of our visitors were a group of ladies from Alderley Edge who are part of Wilmslow Wells For Africa. They’re holding a Garden Day on Saturday 29th June. There is more information on their website It sounds like they are definitely worth a visit!

Neil Kinsella

Author Neil Kinsella

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