The Somerset Gardens Trust was formed in 1990, one of a growing number of County Trusts affiliated to the overall national body, The Gardens Trust.  It is a voluntary organisation and educational charity working with garden owners, local authorities and the community in order to protect and care for the county’s parks and gardens.  It is financed through members’ subscriptions, donations, legacies, grants and fund raising events.

The Trust’s purpose is to –

  • Survey and record historic and interesting gardens, parks and landscapes in Somerset and to make the surveys available to the public.
  • Comment upon and respond to any inappropriate planning applications.
  • Support the conservation and repair of these gardens, parks and landscapes through grants, where appropriate.
  • Encourage the love of gardening in school children and promote careers in horticulture.
  • Promote horticulture, historic gardens and landscapes to the public.
  • Arrange visits to privately owned gardens in the UK and overseas which will help members understand the many styles of garden history and garden designs.

The importance of the Trust is that it fills a significant gap. Gardens rise and fall and can only be restored by a new owner with surveys of the garden and landscape in their glory (for example Halswell House and Park being restored by its current owner and Hestercombe by Philip White and the Hestercombe Trust). Property developers often ignore history in making their plans. Who is to protect these gardens and landscapes? Coun­cils may want to do so but, without clear evidence of what will be lost, they find it difficult to refuse planning applica­tions.

The Trust executes its functions through three Committees – Research & Conservation, Education & Schools and Events.  Each Committee is made up of members who have volunteered their time.  No special skills are necessary but there is a range of skills that would be a bonus; some knowledge of surveying, of documentary research, of organising events and of education.  There is a Council to encourage and support all three committees; the Coun­cil Secretary who co-ordinates its activities, and the Membership Secretary who communicates with the members and administers the website.

Click here to read about the History of the Trust