24 February 2021

The founder of Minstead Trust, Rev. Tim Selwood, reflects on the life and contribution of Master Thatcher Simon Sinkinson to Furzey Gardens.

Furzey is of course well known for its rare plants, vibrant spring colour and tranquil location. But for many it is the distinctive thatched structures and dozens of fairy doors dotted around the garden that give Furzey its distinctive quirky feel.

These structures are the creation of our much loved friend, creative genius and Master Thatcher, Simon Sinkinson, who sadly passed away this month.

In July 2021 one of Simon’s final creations – Oakwood Theatre – was brought to Furzey Gardens as a lasting tribute to his role in the gardens.

Simon first came to know of Furzey Gardens when he worked as an apprentice on the roof of the newly built gallery some 45 years ago.

It was not long before he took on responsibility for all our thatched roofs and in the years that followed re-thatched them all at least once.

Furzey Cottage and Furzey House

Simon had a warm personality and a wonderfully whimsical sense of humour. This led him to secretly place fairy doors deep in the Forest where walkers, and especially children, might come upon them by chance.

He then offered to make some for Furzey and over the next few years their number grew to house a steadily increasing population of illusive fairy folk. These caught and fired up visiting children’s imagination, as witnessed by one four year old who came up to the gallery, very excited, saying ‘I saw a fairy and it turned into a butterfly’.

There is no doubt that Simon’s creativity has done a great deal over the years to put Furzey on the map and make it the success it is today within Minstead Trust. Like so much of what he did, Simon made them all free of charge, just for love.

Simon did not, of course, stop at fairy doors. He designed and built many of the beautiful and curious buildings that we have in the garden today. The Elf Bower down by the lake, Typhoon Tower, The Giant table shelter, Heaven’s Gate and of course the Chelsea Building which contributed such a large part to our winning the gold medal in 2012 are just some of Simon’s creations at Furzey.

Heavens Gate and Typhoon Tower structures designed and built by Simon Sinkinson

However, his most enduring legacy for the Trust is the way in which he not only embraced our caring ethic but helped to shape it in so many personal ways. He loved being with learning disability work teams around the garden.

Simon has been, throughout his life, a deeply spiritual, thinking, caring man. At the moment, those of us who knew him well will feel so much poorer for losing him in this way. However, that is the time to stop and reflect that, as he has enriched our lives, so we may learn from his example, an ongoing inspiration to us all.

In due course we shall find a suitable way to commemorate his life. In the meantime, dearly beloved Simon, go in peace, but may our memories of you grow fresh and green in the place, and amongst the people, you loved so much.

Our loss is, of course, nothing compared to that of his family so please remember and pray for his wife and children.

Midas Mansion Fairy Door, by Simon Sinkinson

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