Spotlight on Sandie Fairclough: A volunteer for all seasons

Published on: 05/07/2021

For the past 12 years Wirral Hospice St John’s volunteer, Sandie Fairclough, and husband Colin, have opened up their beautiful garden in Heswall, as part of the National Garden Scheme (NGS), to benefit some really important national charities, like Hospice UK, MacMillan, Marie Curie and more.

The national charities are beneficiaries of the small entry fee which is charged at some 3,700 ‘Open Garden’ events across England and Wales. Over 93 years of the NGS more than £60 million has been raised.

Sandie has on occasion, reminiscent of Sir Steve Redgrave, said Never Again” at the conclusion of the always busy weekend, however on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th of July*, 2021, they will, for the 13th year running, re-open their lovely garden!

The sale of refreshments, plants and people’s extra donations at Sandie and Colin’s event allow them to make a really nice donation to the hospice too. In all they have raised over £27,000 from 3,400 visitors in their 12 years with some £12,343 donated to the hospice. It really is greatly appreciated.

Last year was more of a challenge because gardens couldn’t open ‘carte blanche’ so only pre-arranged visitors, who had made an advanced booking, were allowed to attend, with strict social distancing guidelines applied. Sandie was still able to make a lovely £500 donation to Wirral Hospice St John’s (as well as £500 for the NGS) on top of a £300 gift which was raised through Sandie’s pretty handmade greetings cards she designs as a hobby in her spare time.

This year the garden can open to all visitors, with people encouraged to observe social distancing guidelines and be mindful of fellow enthusiasts.

Sandie is a County Organiser for the NGS so she lets local gardening clubs, the Women’s Institute, some of Colin’s Freemason friends and her supportive neighbours know she is opening up. Sandie also likes to pay tribute to the many volunteers who serve teas and bake cakes to make the day such a successful fundraiser.

Their garden plot was, once upon a time, mainly a lawn surrounded by mature trees but with Colin handling the landscaping and Sandie the creativity and planting, they now have, what was described by Cheshire Life magazine in 2019, a ‘Garden of Plenty’.

A large pond with Koi Carp has a Monet-style bridge and is fed from a planted stream. A second smaller pond  is where Colin can often find himself, when the weather is nice enough, just enjoying a read or a quiet reflection (with a glass of something refreshing). Bliss!

All around are a bright and colourful mix of rhododendron, many varieties of hostas, hydrangea, heuchera, peonies, campanulas, iris and many more. Eye-catching artefacts are everywhere, an antique mangle, a copper sculpture, three poppies that were displayed at The Tower of London in 2014, interesting wood carvings as well as a restored and planted handcart bearing the title of their home, ‘Inglewood’.

Look out for the golf bag and trolley (pictured above) and which is now adorned with bright blooms, a new feature for 2021.

It’s an ongoing labour of love. I witness Colin’s hard work at first hand as he has cleared an area of around 25 feet by 7 feet around the border and re-shaped and re-planted over 100 new flowers and shrubs which is now ready for ‘Open Garden 2021’.

At the hospice, Sandie is a long-standing and valuable fundraising volunteer. In normal times we see her at least one day a week helping with reception and other essential administration duties while oftentimes she will also apply her customer service skills at various hospice events throughout the year.

When the hospice underwent its transformational garden makeover in 2019 she was integral in the planning group brought together for the purpose, sharing in the many ‘bouquets’ of praise and recognition the hospice received for the way it brought together people from all walks of life to lend a hand in refreshing the outdoor space at the hospice.

When Light up a Life comes around Sandie will join with her volunteer colleagues to help the whole effort to fill the reminder envelopes, be on hand to take donations over the phone, send out the special cards and keepsake tree decorations and help at the switch on service in the fundraising marquee.

In 2016 Wirral Hospice St John’s was honoured with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, Sandie proudly represented the hospice (alongside a young volunteer, Emma McKeown) and received the memento trophy on our behalf from the then Lord-Lieutenant of Merseyside, Dame Lorna Muirhead.

It’s plain to see that our volunteer for all seasons, Sandie Fairclough, makes a massive all-round contribution to hospice life.

Good Luck Sandie! Everyone at the hospice wishes you the very best.