It has been an exciting time across Minstead Trust and Furzey Gardens as preparations were made for our Beneath the Trees at Furzey Gardens event which is part of the New Forest Arts Festival. With a theme which centres around trees to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, the event runs from Sunday 11th June to Friday 23rd June.

This year we've had a varied programme with everything from African drumming to poetry reading and woodturning demonstrations to learning disabled drama performances. Not forgetting our photographic exhibition with contributions from learning disabled photographers across Hampshire being displayed alongside local photographer Paul Robertson.

Showcase of skills

Preparations for the event began back in March with students from Minstead Trust preparing two impressive works of art in textiles and ceramics. You can see these finished pieces of work on the wall outside the Gallery Gift and Coffee Shop and in the display and photographic exhibition in the coffee shop. Do take the time to admire these on your visit to the gardens.


We'd like to thank photographers from New Milton Gateway Club, New Forest Community Link and Winchester Community Link, along with students from Minstead Trust for their contributions to the photographic display.

Performance art, demonstrations and workshops

Our programme of performance art, demonstrations and workshops has been fairly busy this week. Here's a rundown of what we've been up to.

Sunday afternoon Southampton Brass Ensemble and Strait Banana filled the air with a variety of music as visitors to the gardens relaxed on the main lawn, enjoyed a pot of tea in the Gallery, or took a stroll around the garden. You could even here the music from the band down by the Lake.

On Monday our woodturning demonstration with students from Minstead Trust and Hampshire Woodturners Association was visited by That's Solent TV channel. You can view the news piece here which includes an interview with Madeleine Durie, our CEO. During the demonstrations our students have been learning how to make porridge stirrers, plant dibbers, honey spoons and little pots. Items made in these workshops are for sale and all proceeds go back to the work of Minstead Trust.


Tuesday afternoon, visitors to the garden were able to join our Head Gardener on a guided walk of the gardens. This walk focused of some of the trees around the gardens which have interesting tales to tell. You can still follow the tree trail around the garden and discover some of these trees yourself. The tree trail will be in the gardens until Sunday 25th June.

On Wednesday morning, "Pandora's Box" a learning disabled drama group from Minstead Trust performed three short plays; "The Boy and the Apple Tree", "The Pear Tree and the Farmer" and "The Ugly Tree". The students have been rehearsing for the last couple of months and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to perform for an audience at the gardens. Well done everyone.


Here's a short snippet from "The Ugly Tree"

Our Woodturners were back in the Bug Barn again on Thursday morning. A different set of students were able to show their skills, whilst learning some new skills. We are very thankful to Hampshire Woodturners Association who provide the support to our students.

Personal Poet, Fiona Mobbs, provided a different flavour to the events on Thursday afternoon. With poems for all ages, Fiona has a catalogue of short poems to entertain and inspire. There was even time for Fiona to take inspiration from the gardens to create a new poem about a ladybird. We can't wait to hear how that turns out. Fiona will be back in the gardens on Wednesday do come along if you get the chance.

The colourful, creative and vibrant African Activities arrived at the gardens on Friday 16th June. Kwame, from African Activities, ran two workshops in the morning creating wonderful elephants and birds from old plastic milk bottles and teaching people about Adinkra symbols and their meanings. These symbols are used in Ghana and Kwame offered people the chance to print their own patterns onto pieces of fabric.


On Friday afternoon the African drums came out and the drumming began. Everyone who wanted to got the chance to join in and provide the captivating beat of the drums. Kwame even got our Minstead Trust students up and dancing.

Saturday at Furzey Gardens was story themed. In the morning and at lunchtime children and adults joined Madeleine Grantham for Tales from the woods. Enchanting stories of trees, woods and woodland folk told in an enigmatic and energetic way.

In the afternoon Squashbox theatre brought their unique show of puppetry, songs and silliness, Tales from the Trees. Craig the Forest Ranger was on a quest to save his neice Teresa Green (more commonly known as Red Riding hood) from the big bad wolf. Meeting crazy characters from the forest and friendly forest creatures along the way, the show was both educational and entertaining and the perfect way to round off this weeks programme of events.

In the second week of the New Forest Arts Festival

We had lots more events scheduled in the gardens.

On Tuesday afternoon, our students from Minstead Trust's Bin and Bass drumming group demonstrated their skills. Starting their individual warm up rhythms, they then drummed along to many pop music hits and thoroughly enjoyed themselves despite the hot weather.  


Here's a short clip from their performance

On Wednesday morning, Pandora' box performed their three short plays again

Our Woodturners were in action in the bug barn again on Monday and Thursday mornings.

Friday afternoon saw our Minstead Trust dancing group return to the gardens. This week they were showing their Morris Dancing skills which help with memory, coordination and teamwork skills.


Finally as Beneath the Trees drew to a close on Friday 23rd June, we held our Wine, Cheese and Trees fundraising evening with guided tree walks, wine and cheese experts, a harpist and the launch of our "Sponsor the trees" appeal.