The Friends of Eastcote House Gardens Management Advisory Group was formed in June 2008, with the specific purpose of enhancing the gardens and buildings, in conjunction with the London Borough of Hillingdon. The ‘Friends Gardening Group’ came into being around the same time. The compass of the Friends work has expanded and there is now a Countryside Conservation Group, with responsibility for Long Meadow and the River Pinn.
FEHG have raised funding to restore and improve the Gardens. Starting in 2009 with a successful application to the Big Lottery Fund for replanting the Walled garden, including revitalizing the four Herb Beds originally planted to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. This project was successfully carried out, with full community involvement. The day of the ‘Big Plant’ saw 47 volunteers plant 1083 plants. Local schools also helped. All returned in the autumn to plant several thousand bulbs in the Walled garden and the Rockery. The Garden was formally opened by the Mayor of Hillingdon as part of a Celebration Picnic in July 2010.
In April, 2010 the Rock Garden was re-planted, with a donation from TaylorWimpey. Bluebells were planted in the woods near the Pinn, funds coming from an anonymous donor.
A wild flower meadow was started in 2010 and was extended in 2011, as part of the Olympic/RHS project ‘Mad about Meadows’.
December 2011 saw the planting of an orchard to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the funding and labour all came from FEHG and local people. The orchard was dedicated by the Mayor of Hillingdon at the Jubilee Picnic June 2nd 2012.
The ‘Friends’ works in the gardens have not gone unrewarded. The ‘Friends’ were awarded the highest award in the 'It’s Your Community’ section of the London in Bloom 2010. 2011 and 2012. London in Bloom, Community Garden Category 2011 2nd place. London in Bloom Park of the Year 2012 Gold Award.
The Gardens were awarded Green Flag status in 2011.
The ‘Friends’ are members of Royal Horticultural Society, Hillingdon Arts Association, and Eastcote Horticultural Society. Entering their first Flower Show in March 2011, they were awarded a 1st, 4x 2nd and 2x 3rd places.
Regular entries into the EHS flowers shows have brought forth cups and medals:
J. S. Ranger Cup for the highest points in Daffodils 2012 & 2013
Hurford Rose Bowl for highest points in Roses 2011 & 2012
Bertram Park Rose Bowl 2011& 2012
RHS Banksian Medal for Horticulture 2012.
The work to improve the Gardens is only part of the project; the Grade II listed buildings, the Stables, Dovecote and Garden Walls are all currently on the English Heritage ‘Buildings at Risk Register’.
In 2010 a Steering Group was formed with members from the Friends of Eastcote House Gardens, Eastcote Residents Association, Ward Councillors, Local History Society and Council Officers. The group drew up a Conservation Management Plan, funded by English Heritage and LBH.
In 2011 emergency works were carried out on the buildings funded by LBH to stabilize them whilst the Steering Group made a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Stage 1 was successful and Stage 2 was submitted in February 2013, for 1.6 million pounds. The result will be known in June 2013.
Should the bid be successful, all structures will be conserved, and an extra building erected to house Tea rooms and Toilets, making the Gardens much more visitor friendly.
The FEHG are now fund-raising the amount required by the Heritage Lottery Fund for match funding 25K cash and 25K in kind [i.e. volunteer hours spent at EHG]. Hillingdon Council are also required to contribute match funding as well.
During the preparation of the Stage 2 bid a three day Archaeological dig was carried out, including a detailed exploration of the structures. This has shown that the site was occupied in the 12th & 13 centuries, far earlier than previously thought. Should the bid be successful then there will be ‘digs’ involving the community during a 4 year period.
Working with schools and young people is a very important part of the Friends’ vision, Local Schools and Uniformed Groups visit regularly for gardening sessions, local history lessons, and take part in activities such as the annual Tree Dressing and the archaeological dig. Each year the Hinman Shield is awarded to one of the groups for their work.
This was a project started by Sheila Liberty and Margaret Ward Dyer in the 1980s.
The Friends of Eastcote House Gardens are indebted to the Leader of the Council, Cllr. Ray Puddifoot, for his support and belief in this project.