Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Way Forward

Great Dixter

The Way Forward

Christopher Lloyd’s Legacy

In his life-time, Christopher Lloyd (Christo) dedicated himself to preserving a house and developing a garden with a unique spirit that attracted a dedicated and highly skilled team of friends, who shared his passion for this remarkable place. The gardens at Dixter are a unique example of horticultural artistry within a Sir Edwin Lutyens/Nathaniel Lloyd framework. They are acclaimed internationally and loved by the many visitors who have enjoyed them over the years. A prolific author with over 20 books to his name and a lifetime’s work of magazine and newspaper articles, Christo inspired people through his writing as well as opening his garden to the public. This has resulted in Great Dixter being one of the most well-known and documented gardens in the world.

Christopher Lloyd left his estate in the care of The Great Dixter Trust, which he formed shortly before he died. The Trust is a registered charity with a board of Trustees, each of whom Christo selected for their unique understanding of Dixter and for their suitability to care for it and develop it for the enjoyment of future generations.

The First Step: Securing the Estate for the Great Dixter Charitable Trust

The house and gardens at Great Dixter were jointly owned by Christopher Lloyd and his niece, Olivia Eller. In support of the development plans, Olivia Eller has offered to make a valuable gift of part of her share of the property to The Great Dixter Charitable Trust. In addition, the Trust has been invited to apply to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a significant grant towards the purchase of the remainder of the estate. The total cost of the purchase will be in the region of £2 million.

The Trust and staff are currently working with a small network of professionals to ensure that all aspects of the planning and application process required by the HLF are followed carefully, so that Great Dixter stands the very best chance of a successful outcome for this crucial acquisition phase.

We have been greatly encouraged by the generous support of those who have become Friends of Great Dixter. This valuable contribution already puts us in a strong position to proceed with the plan to purchase the estate by the end of 2007.

A Vision for the Future: the Second Phase of Plans

Horticultural Excellence: a perfect training ground

Great Dixter has developed a world-wide reputation for excellence in horticulture. The Head Gardener Fergus Garrett has worked hand in glove with Christo for almost 15 years. Their partnership took the garden to a new level with plantings well-known for their dynamic, exuberant style. The unique character of this style as well as the intensity of the skills required to practise it makes Great Dixter the perfect training ground for aspiring gardeners. In the last 14 years, Dixter (or rather Fergus and his team) has welcomed many trainees from a range of countries and backgrounds to Great Dixter. Here they learn what goes into maintaining exceptionally high standards in the garden from everyday tasks to helping to plan an amazing new planting scheme with the freedom to express one’s creativity. This is an ideal apprenticeship in the trade and has already made a marked impact on the training and development of new gardeners.

When trainees come as volunteers to Great Dixter, they are welcomed into a warm and encouraging environment that cares about aesthetics and quality of life in harmony with the natural environment. Our long term plan is not only to put in place more appropriate facilities for them but also to develop the financial resources to ensure that the education and training programmes that began in an informal way can continue and flourish for years to come.

Improving Facilities

In addition to the acquisition of the estate there are several desirable developments that will enhance the visitor experience, encourage volunteers and facilitate student residencies and apprenticeship programmes at Great Dixter. We would also like to invest in opportunities for learning and sharing experience including holding lectures and workshops and generally promoting a sustainable way of life.

Our plan in the medium term is to carry out necessary repair work to the house, principally to the north elevation. We also plan to develop the barn to create an accommodation block for our students and trainees. The redevelopment of the oast house will provide a lecture, workshop and exhibition space.

Achieving our Goals

Great Dixter has managed its annual budget well and runs on a modest surplus each year. Although opening to the public generates enough income from visitors to ensure that the house and gardens are maintained, there is at present, however, no provision for unplanned repairs or major redevelopments.

In addition to the cost of redeveloping our buildings to enhance the Great Dixter experience, we would like to create a fund that will enable us to promote, develop and manage our training and educational activities, and provide a buffer against unforeseeable demands on our finances or an income shortfall, for example because of very bad weather. Subject to the results of detailed planning, we have a figure in mind of £3 million to underpin the second phase of our plans. A proportion of this would be spent on the capital works and the remainder would be invested to give an annual return for the support of the above-mentioned activities.

Our plan is to work over the next year on a fund-raising and business strategy that will help us to create a truly sustainable future. We feel that our plans are ambitious but realistic and that, over time, and with the help of all our supporters, we will achieve our goals.


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