Green-fingered and growing

Date Posted: 08/08/2017

Vic and Barb Shepherd

We talk to Vic and Barb Sheppard, chairman and vice chairman of Chichester and District Gardens and Allotments Association, to find out more about their experiences as group organisers.

So, tell us how the group started?

The Club itself started in 1941 and was originally called The Dig for Victory Club. After the Second World War, the name was changed to Chichester and District Gardens and Allotment Association.  This successful club has now been running for more than 70 years, but we’ve been organising for about 25 years.

We have about 150 members and it’s growing all the time - our reputation seems to be good and we are getting members from far and wide. Most are over the age of 80 so we tend to stick to UK trips. Our criteria is to simply love gardens and gardening.

What types of trips do you and your group take?

We do something every month. We’re meant to be a gardening club but that doesn’t mean a thing in terms of where we go – we go wherever the group wants. 

Throughout the year we have different outings like a visit to the pantomime at Christmas, a summer barbecue and an annual show.  Additionally, we have a 'special' trip subsidised by the Club - this year we are going to the Birmingham Tattoo. 

What trips do you have lined up for this year?

We have quite a lot lined up for this year such as a visit to the Festival Theatre to see Running Wild, and outings to RHS Wisley in Surrey, Hever Castle in Kent, Bursledon Brickworks in Hampshire, and Broadview Gardens in Kent. This month we are visiting a composting and recycling site - after all, we are a gardening club.

We also have up to two affordable five day holidays a year. 

Can you recommend any tour operators or hotels to other GTOs?

We use Crawley Coaches for our holidays and Emsworth and District Motor Services, which we have used for our day trips for many years. I think the best tour operator we have used is Torquay Travel. We have also used Dunwood Travel, Isle of Wight Tours and Daish's – they’re all good as well.

The group at Dorchester Show

Pictured: Vic and Barb's group at Dorchester Show.

Tell me a little bit about your roles within the committee

Well, our roles are chairman and vice chairman. In these roles we aim to provide a cohesive element to the Club, manage the committee members, make them feel valued, and thank everyone for all their input. We also try to bring a bit of fun into whatever event or meeting we have. You have to let members know that it is their club and you have to encourage all input. It seems to work for us. But we don’t do everything, we have such a strong, hard-working committee. 

If you had to choose, what is the best trip you’ve had?

The best holiday was to Valkenburg - it was in the days when everyone was under 80 and could get travel insurance. Since then all the holidays have been good because of the camaraderie. One of the best day trips was to the Anderton Boat Lift, simply because it was different.

Hever Castle has to be our favourite, though – it’s just original.

What is the most rewarding part of being a GTO?

It’s a very vibrant and successful club and people all gel together. We’ve had people say to us that it has been their saving grace. 

I enjoy going out with the club and seeing everyone enjoy themselves – they have all become our friends. At the end of the day this is the most rewarding aspect.

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