Gardeners’ club facing closure after 80 years

A GARDENERS’ club that has been running for 80 years is facing closure.

Downend Horticultural Society was founded in 1943 as part of the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign to grow food during the Second World War.

But a decline in attendances since the Covid lockdown means the club is in desperate need of new members, and volunteers to run its committee.

Originally known as Downend Food Production Club, members grew vegetables and managed poultry and game.

The club flourished after the war and by 1948 it was staging a flower and poultry show in Downend’s old scout hall, on the site of the current Co-op car park.

The show then moved to Christchurch Parish Hall, where it was held twice-yearly, in spring and summer.

Horticultural society treasurer Roger Davis said the shows were “highlights of the Downend village year”.

The society ran outings and evening visits to gardens in and around the area, at one point booking all three vehicles operated by Don’s Coaches in Soundwell Road.

Its monthly talks on gardening, first held in Downend Baptist Church and more recently in the Assembly Hall opposite, on Salisbury Road, continue to this day.

During the 1960s it hosted an episode of the BBC’s long-running ‘Gardeners Question Time’ radio programme.

But the society’s 80th annual general meeting, at the Assembly Hall on Thursday December 14 at 7.30pm, will be its last unless more people join.

The meeting will include a talk on wildlife in the garden and is open to all – anyone who wants to help revive the club should come along.

Roger, who is currently the society’s only serving committee member, said: “It is very sad that, because of dwindling numbers, we are likely to have to close the doors of the society for the last time at the end of this year.

“Some of the drop in attendance could likely be laid at the door of Covid, but it is a shame to see this once-thriving society having to close, as it is only one of two gardening clubs that are open in the evening, and therefore suited to full-time working people.”

Andrea Cross, from Downend, joined because her grandparents were members, and wants to keep the tradition going.

She said: “Our next meeting could be the last. It would be so sad, but if the number of members continues to drop off and no-one else stands for the committee, there will be no one to keep it going.”

For more information about the society call Roger on 0117 957 1703.

Last month another group, Lincombe Barn Gardening Club, announced its closure.