Orkney garden trails open for 2015 season

Orkney’s unique fund-raising garden trails are now open for the summer season, with organisers promising a real treat for visitors.

Fifteen gardens are featured across two Orkney trails, open between 7 June and 19 July, with a third covering South Ronaldsay accessible from late June until early July. The participating gardens are all open on a Sunday, with some offering refreshments and home bakes.Orkney Garden Trails, Quoy of Houton

All monies raised by the trails goes to charity, with 40 per cent earmarked for the Friends of the Neuro Ward, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

“All the gardens taking part are wonderful examples of what can be achieved in Orkney and they’re sure to surprise and delight everyone who comes to view them,” said trails organiser and retired head teacher, Caroline Critchlow. “The garden owners take an enormous amount of pride in their work and will be making sure the 2015 trail is the best yet in terms of the breathtaking colour and sheer variety of planting displayed.”

Caroline, who runs an award-winning, five-star self-catering business at the Quoys of Houton, established the garden trails to help raise money for charity after her husband Kevin was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2013.

Although the 22-hour-long operation to remove Kevin’s tumour was a success and he’s now almost back to full fitness, his road to recovery has been long and demanding, with several follow up treatments and consultations needed in Aberdeen. It was during the couple’s regular commutes from the islands, and their extended stays in the Neuro Ward at ARI, that the seed of the Orkney Garden Trail concept was planted.Orkney Garden Trails, Kierfold

“The ward is used by a wide range of patients suffering from Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neuron Disease and other rare auto immune neurological diseases, in addition to folk with brain and spinal tumours of every type, and head injuries too,” explained Caroline. “The staff were absolutely brilliant, but the facilities for patients and their families were very poor. The fabric of the building and the décor were badly in need of renovation and it was clear the ward wasn’t receiving any charity funding.”

Caroline, who is also a board member with Orkney Tourism Group, was instrumental in setting up the Friends of the Neuro Ward ARI charity, with the aim of raising £70,000 by the summer of 2015 to coincide with refurbishments being carried out by the NHS. The money will furnish and equip a respite room for patients and relatives on the Neuro Ward providing them with a tranquil and peaceful space. In addition, the charity will be helping refurnish the patients’ day room.

One of the first charity events organised by Caroline and Kevin was an open garden day at their home in 2013, which attracted hundreds of people and raised £1,200 to buy a new sofa for the ward.

“It was a great success and set me thinking about the fundraising potential of a formal garden trail in the islands,” says Caroline, whose idea got the backing of the Scotland’s Gardens charity. “We got five Orkney gardens to take part in the initial trail last year, with more than 600 people visiting and over £9000 raised for a number of charities, including the Friends of the Neuro Ward ARI.”

The garden trails have proved popular with local people and visitors from around the world alike and, according to Caroline, have helped dispel the myth that nothing much grows in Orkney.

“People are quite often stunned by the quality of gardens on the trail, but it’s all about gardening in context and understanding and working with the environment,” said Caroline, who moved from Derbyshire to Orkney with Kevin in 2007. “Creating shelter around the garden’s edges is vital, as is using plants that are native, adapted to coastal locations and resilient enough to endure the almost constant wind we have in Orkney. Roses and alliums grow well here, as do perennial geraniums and alpines, papaver poppies, hydrangea and olearia. And, of course, we also have far more trees than people realise!”

She added: “The trails are real Orkney gems and, with their aims of delighting and inspiring visitors, while raising much needed funds for charity, they’re something we’re all immensely proud of.”

Full details of the Orkney Garden Trails, along with a downloadable leaflet, can be found at – www.scotlandsgardens.org/news/the-orkney-garden-trails-june-july-2015

Note – Quoylanks garden in Deerness will now not be opening. Cream teas for Orkney Garden Trail No. 1 will be served at the Dalkeith Polytunnel, Grimbister.

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