Nearly 2,000 people showed their support for The Hospice of St Francis on Sunday when they braved the elements in search of some family fun at the Berkhamsted charity’s popular annual Garden Party.
Despite heavy showers, grey skies and cooler than hoped-for temperatures, families from across Herts, Bucks, Beds and beyond streamed steadily through the gates to attend the biggest community event in the Hospice’s fundraising calendar against the beautiful backdrop of Ashridge House.
“We’re thrilled that so many people turned out – despite the weather – to help us create such a fantastic event with a wonderful atmosphere in support of their local hospice,” said Sarah Ajder, Hospice Community Fundraiser and event organiser.
“It was brilliant to see so many people dodging the showers undeterred and enjoying all the stalls, the entertainment and the plentiful food and drink that was on offer in such a fantastic setting.
“We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who supported the event in any way – from everyone who attended to all our stall holders, volunteers, sponsors Churchill Retirement Living and Sumner & Tabor, and of course Ashridge House for generously hosting. We couldn’t have done it without you!”
Early indications are that the event has raised £22k for the Hospice, which is enough to pay for total care for five patients in its Inpatient Unit for an average stay of 11 days - and only £8k less than last year when the weather was perfect.
There were more stalls than ever before - many of them new - with lots of local companies and producers offering speciality food and drink, gifts and handmade craft items, jewellery and fashion accessories as well as beautiful items for the home and garden, summer bedding and herbaceous plants. This year, classic cruiser motorbikes were on display for the first time.
The cream teas, served in the beautiful historic dining room – to the accompaniment of live music from the Jolly Jazzers - sold out, as did the lamb burger stall, run by Grove Farm Meat, from Great Gaddesden, who had to get in extra supplies to keep customers happy with hot lunches.
Marios ices sold over 250 ice creams out on the lawn, the Pimms, sponsored by local solicitor Sumner & Tabor, was flowing, while The Craft Stop, run by Berkhamsted market stall holder Sue Basil, sold over 60 colourful hand-made scarecrows. “They seemed to be really popular gifts for Father’s Day,” she said.
The Punch & Judy stall was as popular as ever, together with a crop of other children’s entertainment including face painting, circus skills, magic shows and balloon modelling.
Hospice CEO Steve Jamieson said: “I was overwhelmed by the turnout and the warmth expressed for the Hospice. I want to say an enormous thank you to the community, stallholders, staff and volunteers who turned out and generously supported us. Despite the mixed weather we had an enormously successful day.”
Anna Brown, Director of Hospitality at Ashridge House, said: “It’s great that so many people came despite the sun showing its face fairly briefly. We’re delighted that it went so well and that it gave the local community the chance to support the Hospice and enjoy the House and Gardens at the same time.”
Michael Durso, 52, from Boxmoor, who attended with his sister Valentina, from Dunstable, and his nephew Daniel, said: “The weather would never deter us from supporting such a marvellous event. My godmother passed away in the Hospice six years ago and the care she received was wonderful. We come every year and are only too happy to support such an amazing cause.”
Mum of two Victoria O’Dea, from Gallows Hill, Kings Langley, attended the Garden Party for the first time with husband Garfield and sons Harry, five and George, 3. She said: “It’s been a fabulous family day out and a great opportunity to get some fresh air in a beautiful environment while supporting a great cause at the same time.
“The boys have loved it – Harry won a coconut on the coconut shy, they thought the Circus Skills and Hook a Duck were great and the cream teas and Pimms went down a treat - we’ll definitely be back next year!”
The next big event for the Hospice is its ninth annual Midnight Walk starting at 9pm on Saturday 27th June. For more information or to sign up now, visit: www.stfrancis.org.uk/midnightwalk