As part of its on-going 60th Anniversary celebrations 3 National Trust representatives, namely Gill Honeyman, Guy Cary and Lin Goncalves attended a wonderful, and exceptionally well organised event held at La Rochelle Country House on Saturday 31ST October 2020.The documentary film, presented by Robbie Honey (see previous post), was projected on the tower wall on Friday evening, the 30th, with an almost full moon hanging in the clear sky behind the tower and a clear star-lit sky graced the evening.
Harvey and Debbie Leared have most certainly revived La Rochelle and breathed new life into every part of the property. We had a long and interesting walk around the botanical gardens and they are in pristine condition – lawns and pathways are manicured and immaculate and the old waterway is once again running through the gardens down to the dam, attracting birds and butterflies along the way.
The lovely wooden bench – tribute to The Curtain Foundation, Nick Roditi, Simon Goldberg (and others) is well situated in a quiet and pretty spot overlooking one of the ponds. The Trust is humbled by the measure of generosity shown by Mr. Roditi to enable the NTZ to restore the orchid houses and the gardens, all of which are looking really beautiful and well tended by the long-standing senior member of the gardening staff, Nicholas and his team. There is also a memorial bench in appreciation of the work done by Daryl Plowes for the NTZ.
Before the luncheon on Saturday the 31st, the invited guests were treated to a delightful programme in the formal lounge, of well-loved oldies spanning the past 6 decades, by the Phoenix Choir of Harare, whose voices belted out such favourites as “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”, “Fly me to the Moon”, “Mr Sandman”, “Annie’s Song” and “Fiddler on the Roof” – to name a few, in the lounge, tastefully furnished and with blooming orchids to grace the tables.
The Phoenix Choir who entertained the guests before lunch
It is an amazing coincidence that, after a couple of botanical scares in the shade-house, the rare and beautiful Vanda lombokensis orchid named after Lady Virginia, IS BLOOMING for only the 3rd time in 60 years, right now….a fitting tribute to the philanthropist couple who collected the orchids and exotic plants which all still thrive in the gardens at La Rochelle today!
Vanda lombokensis orchid
Nina Bauer’s many years of hard work and dedication was acknowledged on the occasion too, in the form of two, laminated and bound volumes of the glass signature panels with the biographies of MOST of the signatories. An enormous thank you to Nina and to Heather White, now in Australia, for their many hours, days, weeks, and now YEARS of work to get these volumes done in time for the 60th Anniversary of the Trust. Nina Bauer inspecting her hard work in the 2 volumes of signatures off the glass window panels
Pre-lunch drinks served overlooking the gardens – fresh iced herbal teas, wines and sparkling wine,
with delicious snacks
Harvey Leared welcomed all the guests to La Rochelle and spoke of the National Trust and the developments over the past five years, which have been quite remarkable considering the ‘challenges’ one faces!
The luncheon beneath the trees in the gardens in the front of the house was a splendid menu with chicken liver pate followed by a sumptuous buffet with roast rolled beef, baked ham, pickled bream and a selection of tantalizing fresh salads and rolls, and baby potatoes in their jackets, with lashings of butter and fresh herbs from the kitchen garden
One can only imagine a content couple looking down on the event, perhaps from the tower window, and saying to one another how happy they were to see such a fitting tribute to their legacy being played out on the lawns below, under a rich cobalt blue and cloudless sky, in the gardens they both so lovingly engineered and nurtured.
Guy Cary, from the NTZ Nyanga Committee, who attended with Ms Gill Honeyman of World’s View, gave a great speech, likening the National Trust’s properties within Zimbabwe to a medieval crown, with it’s jewel-inlaid ermine and 3-pointed ‘crown’ of jewels, the most significant of which is the La Rochelle jewel in the crown of the NTZ!
Guy has been very familiar with the history of the National Trust and of the Eastern Districts area spanning a number of years and is a commendable speaker! Guy spoke freely and easily of the history of La Rochelle and the generosity of the Courtaulds and of the eastern districts area in general. Being close to the Indian Ocean to the east, the area has a dynamic history dating back a few hundred years to the slave and gold and ivory traders plying the Indian Ocean up and down the east coast of Africa.
The gardens at this time of the year are looking superb, with many blooms to admire both in flower beds and on some of the trees.
A new succulent garden was officially opened to mark the occasion and a tree was planted to remember and commemorate the life of the late Gordon Addams who passed away very suddenly recently. Gordon was a long standing member of the Eastern Districts community having managed some of the top small hotels in the region for a number of years and lately, ‘Gordon’s’ in Mutare, until his death.
After lunch, the water-colour painting by Margi Grobelaar, which Margi had donated to the Trust some time ago, was auctioned with Des Becker ably filling the post of last-minute appointee of the position of auctioneer. Bidding was brisk with a more-than-expected and very generous winning bid from Gill Honeyman – a huge thanks to Gill!!!
Guided walks were arranged of the botanical gardens and orchid houses and also to the herb trials and the drying and packing shed.
On Sunday at lunchtime guests were treated to another, informal concert before lunch.
It is hoped that La Rochelle and the National Trust of Zimbabwe, will continue to welcome guests from near and far – and grow to develop the existing ties with INTO and INTO (Africa).
Compiled by Lin Goncalves