History of Rowen Village Gardens Open Day

Apricots growing outdoors near Rowen, August 2017.

The first Rowen Village Gardens Open Day was held on Sunday 23rd May 1993. The idea was conceived by Eric and Mary Knowles, Tan y Capel, Rowen, to raise funds to provide new curtains for Rowen Memorial Hall, which was built in 1980. Mr and Mrs Knowles persuaded the owners of about 16 of the best gardens in the village to open their gardens to the public for one day only.

The Open Day was an immediate success. Tickets were sold from a caravan parked at the entrance to Llannerch Estate, and visitors were given a map, showing all the gardens open for the day. The gardens were open from 11am until 7pm. Visitors started arriving at 10am, and more than 500 people paid £2 each to visit the gardens. The day went without a hitch. Visitors complimented us on the organisation of the event, and they were surprised to hear that this was our first Open Day. One visitor suggested that we should hold the Open Day every fortnight! Teas were served in the Hall, and we sold plants donated by supporters. Coffee was served at Tir y Coed, with proceeds in aid of the Hall. The first Open Day raised £1446, more than enough to pay for the new curtains!

The 2nd Open Day was held on 11th June 1995. The Open Day was organised by Peter McFadden, Llwyn, Rowen. Rain in the morning failed to deter the crowds, and more than 100 visitors arrived before midday, when the rain cleared. 18 gardens were open, including five new gardens. Rowen WI served refreshments in the Hall, the Kenwell boys ran a tombola, and Eric Knowles sold plants. Refreshments were served at Tir y Coed and at Rose Gerlan, and Mrs Peggy Smith sold her poems. The Open Day raised £1570.

The 3rd Open Day on 18th May 1997 clashed with an Open Day at Maenan Hall, but still raised £1791 towards the Memorial Hall. (The 1999 Open Day also clashed with Maenan Hall, but we now work together to avoid clashing). 600 people visited the gardens. The cost of organising the Open Day was just £73, mainly spent on printing and postage. 23 gardens were open. The playing field was used for car parking, to ease congestion around Groesffordd Ro corner, and has been used ever since. Teas were served at Bulkeley Mill, and Seion Chapel raised £250 from the sale of refreshments, towards chapel funds.

The 4th Open Day on 23rd May 1999 broke all records! More than 800 people visited the 22 open gardens. £2934 was raised for the Memorial Hall, plus £400 for the chapel, and £60 for Cylch Meithrin Rowen, from sale of refreshments at Minafon. The ticket price was increased to £3. Car parking arrangements worked well. The garden at Ty Ucha was open for the first time, and several hundred visitors scrambled up the hill to visit the garden, and to enjoy teas there. James Greenhalgh ferried visitors to Ty Ucha by jeep. The cost of running the Open Day was £93.

The 5th Open Day, planned for 13th May 2001, was cancelled because of the foot and mouth disease outbreak, which fortunately never reached the Conwy Valley. The Open Day was moved to 12th May 2002. 1100 visitors paid £3.50 each to visit 26 gardens. £1500 from the proceeds was donated to St. David’s Hospice and £3265 was raised for the Hall.

The 6th Open Day on 16th May 2004 attracted about 1150 people, the most to date. 25 gardens were open and the ticket price was increased to £4. £5156 was raised for the Hall, plus over £1100 from the sale of refreshments, towards Seion Chapel, Ty’n y Groes Chapel, Ysgol Rowen, Clwb Hwyl and Cylch Meithrin Rowen. Refreshments were served at Tree Tops and raised £456 towards the Hall. The cost of organising the Open Day was £412, including £173 for insurance. £4000 of the proceeds was used as the Hall’s contribution to major improvements, including disabled access and toilet, new equipment storeroom and new double glazed windows and new doors throughout. Grant aid was received from WREN and others.

Attendance at the 7th Open Day on 14th May 2006 was slightly down at 900 people. Ticket was price was now £5. £4671 was raised towards the Hall, including £456 raised at Tree Tops from the sale of refreshments. Over £1000 was raised for local good causes from sale of refreshments. The field at Glascoed was used for overflow car parking for the first time. The garden at Llannerch y Felin, Rowen’s only Grade 2 star listed building was open for the first time. The Hall later received a grant of £5000 from Awards for All Wales towards updating the Hall, using the proceeds from the 2006 Open Day as evidence of our own fund raising.

The 8th Open Day on 11th May 2008 again attracted about 1000 people, paying £5 each. We received donations totalling £350 and Seion Chapel raised a staggering £836 from the sale of refreshments. Other local good causes raised a further £660. £4671 was raised towards the Memorial Hall. 23.gardens were open and the cost of organizing the event was just £265, including insurance.

The 9th Open Day on Sunday 9th May 2010 attracted about 950 visitors in the fine weather, and raised £5242 towards the Memorial Hall, including £541 raised at Tree Tops from the sales of teas. A further £1056 was raised towards Seion Chapel and Ysgol Rowen from refreshments. film crew from S4C spent the whole day in Rowen filming for Byw yn yr Ardd, and donated £100 to the event.

The 2012 Open Day on 20th May attracted about 1050 people and raised £5798 in aid of the Memorial Hall, including £652 raised at Tree Tops by Charles and Dee Bell and helpers. This was to be their last Open Gardens, before they moved to Deganwy. £1072 was raised towards Seion Chapel from the sale of refreshments.

The 11th Open Day on 18th May 2014 (which turned out to be a lovely summer) started out windy, but the weather improved later in the day. We welcomed about 900 visitors and raised £5403 towards the Hall, including £611 raised by Ken and Trish Seville from the sale of refreshments at Angorfa. Seion Chapel raised a record £1218 from teas.
The ticket price was still £5 per person.

Our 12th Open Day in 2016 was the last organized by Peter McFadden. We raised £3500 for the Memorial Hall, and Seion Chapel raised £1460 towards improvements to the chapel.   We added the Coed Mawr Hall and Cefn Cae Campsite loop to the event.
The 2018 Open Day was  organized by Ian Trevette and a group of local volunteers, each with a clear role: ticketing, car parking, gardens liaison, refreshments liaison, cash handling, insurance and publicity.  The group included members of Rowen Memorial Hall committee.  Once again, we had good weather.  880 people visited the 24 open gardens.  Ticket price was increased to £6, the first increase since 2006. About £6000 was raised towards the Memorial Hall.

The Open Days have now raised over £50,000 towards improvements to Rowen Memorial Hall, which is one of the busiest and best-equipped village halls in the area. The Hall is used for local activities and for fund-raising events, and it is available for anybody to use to raise funds for their preferred charity. We are immensely grateful to the residents who work hard to make their gardens so beautiful (A few have opened at all of the Open Days) and to the local farmers for the use of their fields for car parking, and to everybody who supports this wonderful event.

The Open Day is now established as a major tourist event, attracting visitors from all over North Wales and beyond. The event involves everybody in the village, and the whole village benefits. We are always looking for more helpers, especially with car parking and ticket selling.

Rowen is ideally situated for an open day, with a wide variety of well-kept gardens, large and small, all easily accessible on foot.  We are always adding new gardens to the Open Day.  There are plenty of nice places to stay in and around Rowen. Why not visit us!   We always welcome feedback from visitors.

The 14th Open Day will be held in 8th May 2022.

Compiled by Peter McFadden, updated March 2021

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