COWFOLD HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY
Cowfold Horticultural Society (CHS), has been part of village life since 1958.
Prior to this date there was a Village Produce Society (VPS), set up during the Second World War to encourage people to “Grow their Own” vegetables, to help in the War effort. The VPS helped with donating excess vegetables, swopping seeds and giving general advise. The VPS carried on after the War into the 1950s, to be changed to the CHS in 1958.
Below is a very “potted” history of the Society, I have taken just some items of interest from records kept.
1977 – CHS was “given” a piece of land adjacent to the car park by the Parish Council, with the intention of presenting a Silver Jubilee Garden.
No archives held for the period 1958 – 1984.
1984 – but we can see from the minutes kept, that the Society had a Committee who arranged, trips, talks, and also had a “Trading Post”, which gave members a discount on seeds, plants, compost etc., One trip mentioned is the day trip to Vann Gardens, near Godalming. Looks like it was a good day out – howeverthe coach driver got lost – this was before the days of Sat Nav! Other visits that year were to Heaselands, near Haywards Heath, Forest Lodge Gardens near Farnham, and Hinton Admiral Gardens in Hampshire. It is noted that all visits went well, and special mention was made to the “lovely teas” supplied at the various locations. The CHS also took on another flower bed to be maintained for the enhancement of the village. One of the show cups, the Herron cup was stolen from a member’s home, and was replaced by the Insurance. Membership cost was £1. For single and £1.50 for family members and there was a total of 114 members. The CHS had a Spring and Summer Flower Show in 1984.
1985 - Showed an increase in the number of meetings to monthly and were all well attended. “Trading Post” continues to provide a valuable service to members. Trips to Wisley and Wakehurst, Keepers Cottage at Lindfield and to Star Plants at Bognor, were all successes. It is noted that the winter of 1984/85 was extremely cold, and affected the entries to the Summer Show. An Annual Supper was arranged and well supported. Also noted was that the committee would in future produce a programme in advance. Again there was a Spring and Summer Show. Also noted that the Beatrice Townsend cup had been stolen and replaced.
1986 - It is noted that there are now 113 members. Visits again to Keepers Cottage in Lindfield, and also to Leonardslee. A mention of a Plant Sale – was this the first one? The Spring and Summer Shows are noted to have a good standard of entries. Talks and slide shows on planning, planting, pruning, feeding, were all well attended. The Annual Supper was to include some kind of entertainment (?). It was decided to have a proper constitution for the CHS, which has now been written and accepted.
1987 – This year of the “Great Storm”, it was noted at the AGM, thisaffected a visit to Hillbrook, but other visits to Nymans and an outing to Compton Acres, Poole Pottery had been well received and enjoyed. “Trading Posts” still going well, and it was agreed to purchase garden implements for “loan” to members. Entertainment at the Annual Supper included bellringers and the Worthing Youth Orchestra. Membership 142.
1988 – Membership now 130. Both the Spring and Summer Shows showed a loss, caused by additional printing expenses. The CHS agreed to donate a tree to the village to replace one that had been damaged by the 1987 Hurricane. (No information as to what tree was donated or where it is planted). A BBQ was held in a member’s garden for the first time. Another visit to Keepers Cottage, and to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park at Petersfield. (Trip to Wisley cancelled due to poor support). Message went out that more committee members required to help share the work load of organising events.
1989 – to 1991– no records found for this period.
1992 – Visit to Rushfields, at Poynings, and to Kew Gardens. Plant Sale was affected by bad weather, however it still made a profit. Again both the Spring and Summer Shows made a loss. The CHS has been accepted to “show” a hanging basket and window box at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1993. “Trading Post” still making a profit advertising “the sale of all things horticultural from Potash to Bug Guns”. Introduction of a Plant Swap in the Autumn proved successful with members bringing along plants to swap with other members (with no monies changing hands). Yet again another cup – the Kleinwort Cup was stolen and again replaced by Insurance. The summer BBQ now seems to be an annual event.
1993 – Plant Swop moved to April, proved very successful. Visit to Camelia Botnar Nurseries and the introduction of a another success, the walk around the village showed the wide range of gardens in the village from small cottage garden to rambling acres. Good weather contributed to the success of the Spring and Summer Shows, making a profit for the first time in many years. Entries to the Chelsea Flower Show were displayed around the village, (no medal yet), and agreed to try again in 1994.
1994 – Yet again the Spring and Summer Shows made a loss, discussions as to changing the format from 1995. (Dispense with the Spring Show). Plant Sale had lower sales, but profits still up. Plant Swap’s move to April has become a hilarious event (?), Visit to the Bird of Prey Centre at Hilliers. It was noted that the BBQ in June was rather wet! Entry to the Chelsea Flower Show did not earn us a medal, but an invitation to exhibit again next year. “Trading Post” reported overall sales down by 25%.
1995 - We won a bronze medal at Chelsea Flower Shower for our entry of hanging baskets/tubs. A drought and hosepipe ban taught everyone to mulch, and this proved successful for the entries in the Summer Show. Visit to The Clock House for the annual BBQ.
1996 – The introduction by the CHS was “Cowfold in Bloom”, judging front gardens in the village for their kerb appeal, to include business premises. With the help of a donation from the Parish Council CHS took on the function to plant and maintain the hanging baskets in the village. Visit to the Exotic Plant Nursery at Nuthurst, and the annual BBQ this year was in Partridge Green.
1997 – CHS introduced the “Yearbook” to be distributed to every household in the village ,to increase awareness of the Society. Financed by advertising. Again exhibited at Chelsea but no medal. Visits to Wych Cross and Sissinghurst well attended. Entries from children in the Summer Show, attracted good attendance at the show, although still made a small loss.
1998 – A visit to Geoff Hamilton’s Barnsdale is the highlight of the year. Also visit to Wisley. Membership noted as down, but no figures to substantiate. Annual Supper replaced by “Old Time Music Hall”
1999 – As well as continuing to maintain the hanging baskets the CHS have now taken on the task of supporting three tubs that have been donated by King and Barnes. Plant Sale an all time success. Visits to Ashington Nursery, and a trip to the lavender fields of Norfolk was on the hottest weekend of the year. A wine tasting trip to Denbies Vineyard went down well. A team from the CHS won the coveted cup at the British Legion Poppy Appeal Quiz.
2000 – The CHS donated a Whitebeam tree to the village to celebrate the Millenium. The main trip of the year was a weekend awayto Hidcote Manor, and Barnsley House in the Cotswolds. Another trip to Leondardslee. Anonymous donation received to assist with the planting of the hanging baskets and tubs in the village. A Barn Dance was held to replace the Annual Supper.
2001 – A new watering device introduced to help with the onerous task of watering the hanging baskets (thanks to Peter Fairhall for this wonderful invention). “Trading Posts” ceased to trade, after many good years. However the seed order will continue, and the loan of implements will still be available. Visits made to the Warnham Nature Reserve, and West Dean Gardens.
2002 – The Silver Jubilee Garden was updated to celebrate the Golden Jubilee Garden. Visits to Kew gardens, Great Dixter, and High Beeches, with a 4 day trip to the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Horsham District Council donated new larger baskets for the village, and further donations received from Oakendene Estate, and the Parish Council to help with the planting and maintenance.
2003 – Horsham District Council donated bulbs to be planted in the Golden Jubilee garden, Good year for visits – 5 made – High Beeches, Savill Gardens, Beth Chato Gardens, Marchants Cottage Garden, and a 4 day trip to Monet’s Gardens in France. Summer Show held in Village Hall, after many years held on the Recreation Ground.
2004 – First ever “Open Gardens” – to open private gardens in the village to the public – 22 gardens opened. Very successful, but hard work. Visits made to Sheffield Park, Squerrys Court/Penshurst Place, and a 3 day weekend trip to Brussels/Bruges and the Carpet of Flowers.
2005 – The introduction of the Pizza and Skittles evening to replace the Annual Supper made a pleasant change. Visits to Gilbert White’s House and Hinton Ampner, Shipley Mill, and a private viewing of Northsprings in Fittleworth. The Plant Sale and 2nd “Open Gardens” provided much needed funds. CHS purchased its first computer and printer.
2006 – Repeat of the Pizza & Skittles evening. Visits to Hannah Pescher Sculpture Gardens, and Hogs Back Brewery, introducing new ideas into the CHS Programme. Due to drought conditions/ hosepipe banthe hanging baskets were not planted this year. The Summer Show will be on same day as Village Fete, in order to bring in more exhibits and people. The 3rd “Open Gardens” with a return visit for those exhibiting their gardens in order to view others arranged. Plant Sale highly successful, and Summer show increased entries. 10th Anniversary of Cowfold in Bloom is still proving a winner around the village. Again our team from the CHS won the British Legion Poppy Quiz.
2007 – Enjoyed an evening at the “Dogs” (Greyhound Racing), as well as our Pizza and Skittles Evening, both being a success. Wet conditions meant the Cowfold in Bloom was judged a month later than usual. The Plant Sale again broke all records, and the Summer Show in conjunction with the Village Fete, had increased entries, but overheads were costly. Trip was a 4 day break to the Isle of Wight, good weather and a wonderful driver meant we had a wonderful break, visiting the Botanical Gardens, Carisbrooke Castle, Osborne House.
2008 – A spring trip to Exbury Gardens, and another visit to the “Dogs”. Trip to Weymouth cancelled due to lack of interest. The 1st Village History Day – we had a table “selling” the horticultural society. Plant Sale – best ever, down to good weather and using two nurseries for supplies. After 3 years on waiting list, visit to Highgrove was a real treat. A visit to the Healing Garden in Worthing brought about much interest. Cowfold in Bloom delayed again due to poor summer weather. The Summer Show still costly but smaller losses.
2009 – Pizza and Skittles returned, Trip to Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Romsey, and also a private visit to Parsonage Farm (NGS) in Kirdford. Another record year for the Plant Sale, and entries up again at the Summer Show.
2010 – Pizza and Skittles again. Trip to Fittleworth House (NGS), and Wiston House (NGS).CHS has now got its own website www.cowfoldhs.co.uk, which shows all information on meetings, Summer Show Schedule, Photos etc., The Summer Show was on the hottest day of the year. Anonymous donation meant we were able to purchase bikini vases for use at show (instead of borrowing them).
2011 – Photography workshop arranged, all proceeds given to St Catherine’s Hospice. Usual Pizza and Skittles evening. Plant Sale up again, and Summer Show entries increased, with more children’s entries, so still no profit. Only visit was to Lancing College, as trip to Compton Acres cancelled due to lack of support/too costly. Change of name to include after CHS, “Your Gardening Club”, in order to bring in more members. Return of the Summer BBQ for members. Programme shortened because of delays in repairs to village hall floor.
2012 – Visitsto Dark Star Brewery, Partridge Green, and to the Prairie Gardens at Henfield. In conjunction with NGS also visited new garden in Ashington. London Plane tree donated to village to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, planted on edge of recreation ground. Summer Show was a success even though the Summer was dreadful.
2013 Started the year with our Skittles evening at The Bull, also took a walk through Tottington Woods, Small Dole, with the Woodlanders. Plant Sale success even though weather has been cold and wet.
2014 – The ever successful Skittles evening in February, followed by a programme of good talks on “Poisons,Parasites, Potions and Pests, Herbs, The Woman’s Land Army, and Witches Warlocks and Wellingtons. We also did trips to Houghton Lodge, Stockbridge, and Birchfields Nursery (Jack Dunckley). Membership down to 72, as we have “lost” some very good friends in 2014.
2015 - A visit to see the snowdrops at Pembury House in February started our Society calendar. Skittles at the Fountain, Ashurst proved to be our usual success. April saw us visiting the Tulip Festival at Pashley Manor (weather could have been better). Various speakers through out the year included talks on the "front garden", "the language of flowers", Japanese gardens, and Chanctonbury Ring as well as our Plant Sale, and of course the summer show - this year in a brand new marquee.
2016 - The year started in February with a visit to the Snowdrop Festival at Westlands Court. Then of course we had the annual skittles and pizza evening in March. April's meeting was John Baker on how to grow Dahlias, with our usual plant swop. May saw the ever popular Plant Sale, and a visit to Ramster Gardens, and also a talk by Mark Saunders. July is taken over by the Summer Show, which was as always amazing. Also in July Cowfold had a flower festival, and our members toured the gardens open to the public. In August we held the annual BBQ. September we had Professor Ray Broughton talking on companion planting. October we had an old member of the Society, Glynis Docker, who returned to talk on the traditions of Sussex recipes. And our year ended with the ever popular AGM. With 3 members of the committee standing down, we were delighted to welcome 4 new members to the committee. Changes to the constitution will be confirmed once ratified with the RHS.