Martyr Worthy Plant Sale 2018

I knew that it was going to be a good year for the Martyr Worthy Plant sale when one lady (and her long suffering children) arrived a week early for the off!

Some are attending the Martyr Worthy Plant Sale for the first time, some have attended for ‘years and years’.  But whether novelty or family tradition, there is a build up of excitement as the queue stretches from the garden entrance at Chilland House all the way back to the car park. Andrew Impey describes the crowd management as ‘kettling’ referencing the practice of riot police in managing crowds.

And there is always huge excitement in the queue as everyone waits for 10am to come and for the barrier to be lowered.  Some have likened it to Black Friday in Oxford Street, but surely nothing so vulgar as that in the Regency beauty of the garden at Chilland House!  But don’t underestimate the determination of some gardeners to get exactly what they wanted in the bargain basement prices of the sale. As one resident mentioned, ‘there are a number of people here I know quite well, but greeting them is impossible.  They only have eyes for the plants!’  But fortunately there was no need for a baton charge or water cannon as the crowd of very good natured Itchen Valley residents and those from as far as Long Barn and Alresford happily chatted in the beautiful sunshine before the gate was opened.

Turning the corner, laid out like jeeps ready for D-Day, rows and rows of wheel barrows ready for the off. The deal being to acquire your plants and put them in your wheelbarrow before taking all your prizes to the desk to pay and then collect them at the bottom of the garden.  Very well organised indeed!

Arriving in the main sale area there was a huge array of plants along a corridor across the immaculate Chilland House garden.  To the right a stand for cakes and beyond it, in a surprisingly cool green house, teas and coffees.

The real experts were in first and out first. But the sale is not for chatting (although a lot of people were enjoying doing so) because if you turned your head for a moment that perfect agapanthus might actually be removed from your wheelbarrow…..I think a sermon on coveting another’s agapanthus might well be due…

A huge amount of work!  I made the huge mistake a few years ago of comparing the amount of work on the Martyr Worthy Plant sale with the work involved in organising a fete….I am not going to make that mistake again!  Everyone works very hard for all the events put on for the church over the year.  So there really is no comparison and we are immensely grateful to everyone who gets involved in fundraising.  Thank you!

In the case of the plant sale it is months and months of work in cold wind and rain (and even snow recently) as the ‘little darlings’ (that’s not a reference to the co Chairs, of course….) are cosseted against inclement weather. We are so grateful for what the co chairs Katherine Impey and Sophie Parry and all their helpers have done over the last two years to get ready for the sale.  And this is the first year for Lee Tovell to carry (ably assisted by his wife Pauline) the responsibility for the organisational side of things. Following in the shoes of an Admiral cannot be easy, but everything was brilliantly smooth and efficient and we are most grateful to you as well!

There are so many people to thank who have been involved: all those who helped with potting up, providing plants, moving, pricing and labelling plants; those who provided cakes etc for the produce stall and ran it and the coffee stall; car parking, totting-up, taking money and loading up cars with endless plants. Too many people actually to list accurately.  But thank you so much!  And a very special thank you to Tim Clapp for helping provide many of the plants which so added to the quality of those available this year.

Very gratifying that the sale raised £7500 for Itchen Valley Parish.  Simply amazing.

And it is not just the fundraising which makes the difference.  It is all about meeting people, building that link between neighbours which is so important in creating a community.  A community in which we are delighted to live.

As a bit of a novelty, I did some audio interviews with people in the queue and subsequently in the sale which follow and I hope are a fun addition to what we do on this site: 

Thank you all so much everyone.

Alex Pease

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