This coming Bank Holiday Monday, 25th August, sees a Teddy Bears’ Picnic supporting the work of Chestnut Tree House at Borde Hill Garden, near Haywards Heath in West Sussex.
Our possessions are so often markers in the procession of our lives, reminding us of particular moments and memories. They allow us to share our personal stories with others. It is as if they are in some way bound up in the patchwork quilt of our lives.
The photograph of Binky and Jane depicts a plush fur teddy bear and bunny. They are a little play-worn, their fur rather thin after a lifetime of love and attention, and yet they are beyond price. Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke, the current custodian of Borde Hill House and Garden, tells their story: “Binky and Jane belonged to my late mother, Nidia, and accompanied her when she and her family fled the island of Jersey as the Germans prepared to invade the Channel Islands. They could bring only a few precious possessions with them and my mother chose these two favourites.” The Channel Islands remained under occupation until 9th May 1945. Andrewjohn continues, “My mother always held Binky and Jane in great affection.” It is remarkable that these two threadbare but much-loved characters should represent a little girl’s particular place in the turbulent procession of history in the 20th century.
The garden at Borde Hill reflects the passion of Colonel Stephenson R. Clarke, who purchased the house and grounds in 1892. After restoring and extending the house, he set about creating the garden, funded by his family’s successful shipping firm. Established in 1730, Stephenson Clarke Shipping was, until its demise in 2012, the oldest British family shipping company. I ask Andrewjohn if it could have been one of his family’s ships that had brought Nidia and her family back to England. He replies, “It could well have been; our collier ships did go to Jersey.”
The Chestnut Tree House hospice also seeks to create special memories with its swimming pool, outdoor adventure trails, games and interactive rooms. Those with life-limiting conditions and their families are blessed by being gathered together into this special place with its dedicated and talented team. Chestnut Tree House’s work is deserving of our support.
At its heart, Borde Hill House, an Elizabethan mansion dating from 1590, provides a superb backdrop to the formal seventeen-acre garden, which flows into a series of distinctive ‘garden rooms’, each with its own individual character and style. It is the perfect setting for a Teddy Bears’ Picnic and a great place in which to make fond family memories with games and activities throughout the day.
Binky, Jane and Nidia witnessed extraordinary events in history. Chestnut Tree House bears witness to extraordinary events in the everyday, through its very special work with children and their families – memories which, for them, are beyond price.
Our thanks should go to Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke for preserving and sharing this wonderful garden and for supporting such an important local charity.
The Teddy Bears’ Picnic, supporting Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice, will be at Borde Hill Garden, Borde Hill Lane, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 1XP, on Bank Holiday Monday 25th August 2014, 11am to 4pm. Go and enjoy the fun and the spectacular garden!
For more information on opening times and forthcoming events, go to www.bordehill.co.uk or telephone 01444 450326. To find out more about Chestnut Tree House, its work and how you can offer support, go to www.chestnut-tree-house.org.uk.