Sunday, 29 March 2020

Gardening Buddies say fond farewell to stalwart

Gardening Buddies say fond farewell to stalwart

HENLEY’S Gardening Buddies have said farewell to a long-standing volunteer.

Jan Sutton is moving to Sussex to be closer to her family.

She has organised the group’s activities for the last two years, working on a number of horticultural projects across the town.

Miss Sutton, who lives in Emmer Green, said: “They are all such lovely ladies and I have had a lot of fun working with them.

“Everything we do makes Henley look pretty and I take huge pride in that.

“There was nothing like this in Reading that I was aware of and I wanted to do something useful with my time.”

Miss Sutton was presented with flowers and cards at a small gathering of the buddies held at the home of group founder Liz Hodgkin in Nicholas Road.

When Mrs Hodgkin was ill with sepsis two years ago, Miss Sutton took over as organiser to keep the momentum going.

Mrs Hodgkin, a former mayor, said: “I am doing really well now but I can’t do as much gardening as I used to.

“I am very lucky to be here. I was in the intensive care unit at the Royal Berkshire Hospital for three weeks.”

She told Miss Sutton: “You have been marvellous. You don’t even live in Henley and your commitment to the town is amazing.

“When I became ill you took the reins and that was fantastic. I thought that would be the end of it but it was really lovely that you did that.”

She said she was confident the group would continue to meet regularly but was keen to see new volunteers come forward. The gardening buddies started in 2013 to assist the Henley in Bloom committee.

Mrs Hodgkin chaired the committee when the budget was cut and that is when she had the inspiration to start the Gardening Buddies.

“I was very unhappy about it,” she said. “The headline in the Henley Standard was ‘Henley in Gloom’.

“We had some money to buy plants but there were only two parks staff at that time. Gradually we have grown over the years and we have taken on a lot more work.

“Gardening keeps you fit but we try to keep it to two hours at a time. These ladies are all very keen to keep gardening, which is testament to how well Jan has kept it together.

“It was never supposed to be about just one person anyway. It is a team effort and it belongs to everyone.

“The future is bright for the Gardening Buddies. We are optimists but we do need more volunteers.” Miss Sutton said: “When Liz was taken ill we didn’t know what was going to happen and it needed somebody to bring it all together.

“The legacy of the Gardening Buddies will be the 28,000 bulbs we have planted. Every time you see them it fills you with an enormous amount of pride.

“I have really enjoyed being with the girls. Winning gold in the Britain in Bloom competition last year was definitely the highlight.”

She has lived in Emmer Green for the last 18 years and is originally from Sussex, where her father and daughter still live.

She said: “I am sad to be leaving. I have spent a long time in the area but at the same time it will be nice to babysit my grandchildren.”

Anyone who is interested in volunteering with the Buddies should call Joan Edwards on 07752 448510.

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