Press Releases

Uni Museum's garden afternoons give charities grounds for delight! – University of Reading

Release Date : 08 July 2009

This July, the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) is holding two special charity afternoons in its gorgeous garden to celebrate the National Garden Scheme. On July 11th and 12th, visitors to MERL's garden can not only enjoy its stunning beauty but also learn about some of the plants and their uses.

On Saturday 11th at 2.30 and 3.30pm, Giles Reynolds, Deputy Head of the University grounds, will be giving guided tours of the plants in the garden and explaining the thinking behind the schemes. On Sunday at 3pm, Dr Stephen Jury from the University of Reading's School of Biological Sciences and Curator of the Herbarium, will give a talk on the garden's aromatic herbs.

On both days, visitors will see a display illustrating the history of the garden which in its heyday was the pride of the Palmer family, the founding benefactors of the University. Families can also enjoy garden games, a scavenger hunt and the new Gnome Trail! Purley Park Trust will be running a plant stall and refreshments, including cakes made locally by members of the WI for Country Markets, will be available.

The days also represent a fantastic opportunity for the public to view MERL's Grow your own! exhibition which opened last month. The exhibition explores how gardening and growing your own vegetables have become embedded in English culture.

Kate Arnold-Forster, Director of MERL, said: "We are absolutely delighted to be welcoming visitors to our lovely garden for the first time as part of the National Garden Scheme. This is an excellent opportunity for people to enjoy the garden as well as learn about the Museum's involvement in the history of gardening."

The Museum (MERL), which is owned and managed by the University of Reading, first reopened the garden at the rear of the new Museum building in May 2007. Since then the garden has become a firm favourite with local people as a beautiful and peaceful haven in central Reading.

When the garden was restored, most of the plants were selected for their historical, medicinal, or culinary interest. The garden is made up of a herb physic garden with fruit trees and a lavender walk, a Victorian border and naturalistic perennial planting. There is also a collection of ash trees, a beautiful old Mulberry tree, a wildflower meadow, lawn, and a 1940's and modern allotment.

The MERL garden is open on July 11th and 12th from 2 to 4.30pm. Entrance is £2.50 per adult (children free) or £4 if combined with a visit to the RISC rooftop garden also open for NGS (12-4pm) just 10 minutes walk away. All proceeds will go to the National Garden Scheme charities, which include Macmillan Cancer Support and Marie Curie Cancer Care. For further details visit


Note for media: Media are welcome to attend. If you wish to come along, please contact Alison Hilton, marketing officer, on 0118 378 8660

Notes for editors:

1. More information about the Museum of English Rural Life

The Museum of English Rural Life, in Redlands Road, Reading, was founded by the University of Reading in 1951 to reflect and record the changing face of farming and the countryside. It houses designated collections of national importance that span the full range of objects, archives, photographs, film and books. Today, it forms part of the University's Museums and Collections Service. The Museum operates as a major resource and research centre for the history of food, farming and the countryside with links into the School of History and other academic departments at the University.

2. More information About the University of Reading

The University of Reading is one of the foremost research-led universities in the UK. Founded in the nineteenth century and gaining a Royal Charter in 1926, we offer a wide range of programmes from the pure and applied sciences to languages, social sciences and fine art. New research and the latest thinking continually feed into undergraduate teaching, with our academic staff working at the forefront of their fields of expertise.

3. More information about the National Garden Scheme.

Every year NGS gardens across England and Wales welcome over half a million visitors. Our tradition of opening gardens of quality, character and interest is supported by our Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales. Few people realise that through this we raise £2 million each year for nursing, caring and gardening charities. Since 1927 we have raised over £45 million (£25 million in the last 10 years). Our office is small so most of the money goes straight to the charities we support. Most of the 3,600 gardens are privately owned. Some open as part of a group which gets the whole community involved. But all the gardens are enjoyed by the garden owners and their visitors, funding charities to help people who are ill or under stress.


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