Gardens now open for all – for charity

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They are the Fylde’s own secret gardens. We all know one. We all pass one. We all linger a little longer to sneak a peek over the garden wall. Perhaps we even have one ourselves.

We may be wistful over the passing of Wisteria Lane from our TV screens, but the real world offers an insight into people’s lives not so far from our own doorstep.

Take Muriel Bradshaw’s patch of paradise at Stalmine, open, for the first time to the public, through the National Garden Scheme this weekend.

Moss Side House on Moss Side Lane is open on Saturday and Sunday, from 11am to 4.30pm and to groups by appointment. Admission is £3 and the proceeds go to charity.

Muriel is one of the forces behind the family-run G Line Coaches, some of the coaches based a little further along Moss Side Lane, so you really can’t miss her beautiful home.

Even the approach is scenic, a winding country lane off the more beaten track of Shard Lane, the A588, through Hambleton. It’s the kind of area you wouldn’t visit in the usual way of things – but once there, you wonder how you could have missed it.

It’s tranquil. Well, initially. For there’s a clamour of bird song.

A crescendo associated with species townies seldom see or hear.

If that’s not entrancing enough the heady scent of flowers will soon lead you by the nose to... Moss Side House.

What started as farm land, in effect, has been reshaped by Muriel’s vision, blood, sweat and tears, into something very special indeed.

She has help these days, a couple of chaps who muck in with the heavy spadework, but this is still very much Muriel’s garden.

A new water feature has been added (just two weeks in the making), but Muriel has that rare gift for making everything look established even when the plants are barely on nodding terms.

Her garden – in effect a series of linked themed gardens – is testimony to her ability to source a find, whether floral, or ornamental. She’s a veteran of reclamation yards, a barterer at markets – much of the stoneware has come from a stall at Poulton from a chap who she used to visit at Skipton Market, for example.

Chunks of near petrified forest have been salvaged from the locality and relocated in her garden. Faces have been carved onto woodwork. Animals, real, sculptured, and imagined, abound. The ponds come with resident carp, waterfowl.

You won’t just find country garden flowers, but more exotic plants, shrubs, annuals, roses.

Hidden areas take first timers by surprise.

Muriel herself admits: “I can turn a corner and still be surprised by what I find. Gardens are great givers. You’re planting hope, really, but other elements contribute too.”

It’s all about the birds and the bees... and the fairly appalling weather we have witnessed this summer.

There’s even a bridge, a waterfall, boat, and a mini gravel beach with deckchairs.

Each garden feature has its own back story which adds to the magic. It’s all immensely charming.

Muriel admits she thought long and hard before joining the National Garden Scheme network as a first timer this year.

It takes courage to open your garden to visitors.

“Part of you wonders whether you’re good enough.”

Then there’s the baking involved, rather than buying as some of us would be tempted to do, in order to provide the cake to go with the tea and coffee for the visitors.

It’s all crucial to the NGS aim of raising money for charity.

It was founded 85 years ago with the charitable focus on nursing and caring.

Without support from the NGS, Macmillan Cancer Support would have been £13m poorer, for instance.

And that’s just one of the charities to have benefited over the years.

Muriel did her groundwork. She visited the only other Fylde coast garden open to the public under this specific scheme: Green Farm Cottage at 42 Lower Green, Poulton.

The half acre of well-established formal cottage gardens, owned by Sharon McDonnell and partner Eric Rawcliffe, are another hidden gem.

It opens on Sunday, from 10am to 5pm, admission £3, children free.

Having already taken part in the NGS to great acclaim from visitors and specialist gardening press alike Sharon and Eric were able to pass tips onto Muriel.

“I’m no longer nervous about it. I’m just looking forward to the weekend,” says Muriel.

The NGS is always looking for new gardens to open particularly as the Fylde is under represented.

If you want to take part in future email county organisers Ray and Brenda Doldon at

n jacqui.morley@blackpoolgazette or tweet her @jacquimorley