We hope that everyone has been keeping well at this difficult time.  The HGT has been monitoring developments in relation to the Coronavirus pandemic whilst we have been working from home as the HGT office at Jermyn’s House remains closed until July.  Hampshire County Council who own and run Jermyn’s and the Hillier’s Arboretum has now opened the Arboretum with entry restricted to membership only through a timed-ticketed system, with reduced capacity and opening hours.As challenging as the last three months of lockdown has been, and in spite of the terrible consequences for those individuals and families who have lost loved ones or faced the very real challenge of losing their job, for many people it has also meant there has been more time and a slower pace of life, with more opportunities to be outside in gardens, parks and the wider countryside as we have enjoyed the extraordinary spring sunshine (which comes with the additional watering regimes to help us to overcome severe drought conditions). Furthermore, this period of compulsory isolation has often given us time to become more involved in helping to manage our own gardens as well as supporting neighbours who need assistance, and, for many who have not previously had the opportunity or inclination to be involved in the process of gardening or landscape management, they have become more aware of the process of managing and connecting with the plants and the environment on a daily basis. This might be for aesthetic purposes, or to grow vegetables and fruit, or perhaps to take exercise in an unfamiliar outside environment when normally they would head to the gym.

At the same time, those of us who have the privilege of being able to enjoy private garden space, and – more latterly – access to public parks, there is also a much greater awareness that a very significant number of people do not have any access to private or public gardens because the design and structure of their home or accommodation doesn’t include any personal space. And, in some cases, entire accommodation blocks have no balconies or terraces, no shared open space, and no proper access to local parks or the wider landscape with its network of local footpaths.

Sadly, as is often the case with the combination of very busy lives and high population densities, it is only in times of crisis such as this that we are reminded of what mistakes architects and planners have made in the past, and we identify what we all need to do differently and better in the future to improve the quality of the green spaces around us for the wider well-being of all. We are also reminded of how crucial it is to give everyone an opportunity to maintain a real connection with the natural world, and by doing so it will help to ensure we are also taking good care of our health and well-being. Access to nature and a chance to enjoy the process of growing plants and food can provide a vital calming element to our lives, as well as a sense of relief and achievement during these difficult times when our normal reference points and the usual reassuring sense of rhythm has been disrupted.

Being outside and being given an opportunity to interact with the environment and the plants and other organisms within it can be highly beneficial, but being outside also provides the opportunity of simply observing the natural environment in a more passive way – perhaps watching clouds pass by, or looking and listening to birds, trying to identify and observe the many different species can often help encourage children and young people or adults to develop much more interest in what is going on around them. Just by having more time to watch trees burst into leaf or to see the gradual process of spring shrubs come into flower, can help individuals to become more aware and take an interest in the flora and fauna which form such a crucial part of our local ecology and the gardens and parks which we are so passionate about.

For those of you who have been unable to venture outdoors during lockdown, it has still been possible to enjoy the natural world from indoors, and thanks to some creative internet and television programmes such as the Chelsea Week reviews, we can still visit gardens, albeit ‘virtually’.  With regards to our own HGT events’ programme, we have inevitably been obliged to cancel many visits, but currently we are still hoping to run some Autumn visits, and have been working on a rolling three-month period to arrange refunds for all cancelled events.

I hope we will be allowed to meet up at an HGT event before too long, for as enjoyable as it is to interact with plants, there is nothing quite like talking to a fellow enthusiast about our mutual interest in our wonderful gardens and parks that form such a crucial part of the Hampshire landscape.

Thank you for your continued support, it is very much appreciated –  hope to see you at an HGT event soon.

With best wishes

Ted Wake