Hertfordshire Humans – Just Being

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Sarah Marsh – Garden Designer

It was a pleasure to meet Sarah Marsh who is one of the many volunteers of ‘The Friends of Danesbury Local Nature Reserve‘. I happened to meet Sarah whilst trying to find Danesbury Fernery in Welwyn. It was a beautifully sunny Sunday in February and I hoped to get some good photographs of the Fernery.  It was pure luck that I met this lovely lady and her husband Ian there. Sarah is a garden designer and was asked to design a garden around this so called “Nob art”.   It was a joy to see one of our local people busy planting out this area in an effort to restore it and bring it back to life. Such a humble lady, she was very keen to stress she is just one part of a larger team of people, who are all working hard to improve this unusual and rather mysterious area.  I look forward to going back in the future and seeing these plants flourish.

Aside from the Fernery project, Sarah is also part of the national garden scheme, whereby gardens are opened for charity and she has also organised the open gardens at Welwyn Festival time.

This volunteer group has been organising monthly Work Parties throughout the year for some 20 years. In one of the fields at Danesbury Park – Welwyn sits a fenced off and derelict Victorian Fernery, which was built in 1859/60 by the then owner, William John Blake, and his renowned gardener Anthony Parsons. A fernery is a specialized garden for the cultivation and display of ferns. It is built in an old chalk pit, and incorporates artificial stonework (known as Pulhamite) manufactured in situ by James Pulham & Sons, a Broxbourne based Company. Pulhams were tasked with constructing a grotto, a dropping well, a pass, and a rustic bridge over a gorge. It was hugely successful and an 1881 RHS Journal described it as ‘the best fernery to be found in the Home Counties’

Sarah along with 15 other volunteers have been working hard to restore this hidden secret in Welwyn. If you would like to join this group then contact John Roper who is the chairman by emailing John at chairman@danesburyfernery.org.uk. I was so impressed with Sarah as her enthusiasm for this project was captivating. Sarah made me laugh talking about how the Fernery is full of ‘nob art’- well done to Sarah who in my book is one of those hidden heroes of Hertfordshire devoting her time to restoring this Fernery.


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