Oldway Gardens Volunteer Group is celebrating its first anniversary, formed following Torbay Council’s decision to withdraw its gardeners from the grounds of Oldway Mansion in Paignton.

The gardens at Oldway MansionThe gardens at Oldway Mansion

The group of volunteers, led by Tim Eley and his committee, look back proudly on a year spent maintaining the gardens and successfully bedding in more than 500 new plants, paid for by small donations from interested visitors.

The gardens are Grade II listed and were originally created by the illustrious French designer Achille Duchêne at the turn of the 20th century.

M. Duchêne worked extensively in France and America but rarely in the UK. Aside from Oldway, he is best known in this country for the redesign of the formal gardens at Blenheim Palace in the 1920s.

To raise revenue from visitors, local residents and dog walkers, the volunteers run a thriving plant stall and a recently opened Tea Hut, ensuring a steady stream of income to reinvest into projects such as renovating the 32 benches installed in the gardens.

The plant stall at OldwayThe plant stall at Oldway

Many of these benches had previously been dedicated to local people, but had unfortunately deteriorated.

Less glamorous but equally important tasks are carried out by unsung heroes such as Bev, who can be seen picking up litter early most mornings.

The work of the volunteers has been greatly assisted by the community payback scheme run by the Devon Probation Service. Their efforts have been significant and ever present, and their positive and outgoing attitude has helped to achieve real progress.

However, with a garden of 17 acres, the work never ends.

Oldway Gardens Volunteer Group’s present plans include repairing the balustrades, purchasing gravel to restore the paths, and renovating the Gardeners’ Yard, a focus for training and nursery work.

The group is actively pursuing possible sponsors to support some of the more significant projects that need to be undertaken.

The group’s efforts have been complemented this summer by the colourful Devon Rocks and Stones display, which has drawn many visitors to the area who have gone on to give generously to the group.

The group is keen to attract more volunteers to support working parties on Mondays and Wednesdays, and to be involved with the plant stall and the Tea Hut. They are looking for enthusiastic people committed to saving the gardens of the English Riviera’s American-born French villa. Can you help? If so, talk to any of the volunteers working at Oldway.