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Lewes gardeners celebrate 10 years at the station

Volunteers Sarah Boughton (left) and Mary Sautter (right).

The station gardening group at Lewes Railway Station is celebrating 10 years of work in keeping the platforms and waiting areas looking lovely.

Lead volunteer Mary Sautter first became involved at the station when she was part of the Lewes Little Gardens scheme, which aimed to tidy up small corners of the town. Through town councillors Ruth O’Keeffe and Stephen Catlin, the opportunity to adopt planters at the railway station came up, and Mary offered to help.

The team, called Lewes Pots and Plants, started work in 2013. They then ‘adopted’ the station through Community Rail Network with a commitment to making it a welcoming, pleasant and attractive place.

Mary had previous experience as a fundraiser for the Friends of Lewes Victoria Hospital and she put her entrepreneurial spirit to good use. The group had no funding to begin with, so Mary asked companies in the town to contribute to the cost of buying plants and gave them the chance to add their name to the planters with a paid sponsorship. The same system operates today, with annual contributions from businesses in Lewes covering the group’s expenses.

“All the businesses were keen, and everybody was very nice,” Mary said: “People signed up on the spot. It was a win-win because we obtained money for plants, and they got to promote their business.”

Planters in bloom at Lewes Station.

There is now a team of four people who carry out gardening work twice a week, all year round, with their own potting shed, tools and supplies. Mary explained: “We do everything. We decide which plants to put in and when to change the displays. The nice thing is we don’t have any interference from anybody. And, if the station looks neat and tidy, people don’t drop so much litter.”

The team are environmentally aware and look for plants that require little maintenance and can tolerate dry weather, as well as growing their own compost in an area tucked away behind some of the flower beds. There is also a former beehive, now used as a bug hotel to attract insects.

Fellow gardener Sarah Boughton joined the group when she had some spare time after being a Nature Reserve volunteer. Sarah said: “I like the community activity and being outdoors. It’s enjoyable and something regular I can do. I also like being on the station and seeing the trains.”

The group’s work has won the admiration of ex-rail minister and former Lewes MP Norman Baker, who is now the chair of the Sussex Downs Line community rail steering group with Southeast Communities Rail Partnership.

Norman said: “Lewes Station is one of the most attractive stations on the whole rail network. We owe a huge debt to Mary and her team who have managed this for years on behalf of the town. They are some of the great unsung heroes of Lewes and we thank them for their work.”

Lewes Pots and Plants in numbers:

  • 10 years working at the station
  • 4 volunteers gardeners
  • 10 fruit trees
  • 11 troughs
  • 19 round tubs
  • 40 metres of herbaceous borders