5 Minutes with...
PUBLISHED: 17:29 15 June 2015 | UPDATED: 17:29 15 June 2015
Louise Rout, manager of Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden, which is celebrating its 40th year of opening to the public.
What do you love most about working at Fairhaven?
Every day is different but what I love most is introducing new people to the garden and solving their queries – what’s that flower or bird? Welcoming regular visitors is also very special.
What was your first job at Fairhaven?
When I was nine I volunteered to help clear tables (my mum was working in the ticket office at the time). I kept asking for a job and George Debbage, who was head gardener and garden manager, told me I had to wait until I could see over the counter! My first paid employment was when I was 13, doing a visitor survey. The next year I had a summer job washing up in the tearoom. I was made gift shop manager aged 16, working at weekends and in school holidays, became a full-time employee at 19, and succeeded George as garden manager in 2007.
Do you have a a favourite season in the gardens?
Definitely the winter, it’s very special. It is a great time to spot otters and kingfishers, and the snow and frozen water make wonderful patterns. When I was a teenager, I developed a passion for photography. George used to let me explore the garden during the winter – this was before we opened year round, so I had the garden to myself – it was magical.
What do you think visitors enjoy most?
It’s the ever-changing experience. We call Fairhaven a garden for all seasons from spring flowers, to autumn reflections and winter beauty and, of course, the wildlife that changes with the seasons.
How has it changed in the 40 years since it first opened?
Up until the 1987 gale, the garden was very much as it had been in Lord Fairhaven’s time, but we lost 1000 trees overnight. George started the plant sales and opened the tearoom to help raise funds to restore the garden. We have a new green tearoom and the entire garden is now fully accessible for visitors in wheelchairs or mobility scooters.
What are you looking forward to at Fairhaven this summer?
We have our annual Green Festival and Green Boat Show on Sunday, June 21 - a great day for the garden and local charities and green businesses. The Pantaloons return on July 3 with their take on Pride and Prejudice, and our Summer Sunday concert series begins with St Edmund’s Youth Orchestra on July 5. I’m also hoping to find time for a leisurely trip on our boat!
Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden, South Walsham, NR13 6DZ; 01603 270449; www.fairhavengarden.co.uk. Open daily 10am-5pm, plus Wednesdays to 9pm to the end of August.