2012 Balchin Family Gathering – Bramley Village Hall, Surrey

It is official – 2012 was the wettest year since UK record keeping began. It has rained almost every single day since May – except Balchin gathering Day. This is definitely becoming a trend; it rained for our first Gathering in Guildford in 1994 but since then we seem to have had sunshine.

Bramley Village Hall was our venue once again. It has excellent facilities, allowing plenty of space for display and a well equipped kitchen where the wonderful Crittenden family were at work. Mr and Mrs Crittenden have looked after us for a number of years now and always conjure up a wonderful spread for lunch, plus a plentiful supply of teas and coffees. There was also room for displays of our Balchin archives and Coronation and Jubilee photos and artefacts.

The day got off to a good start, although our numbers were a little down on previous years. Several people had sent apologies, having other commitments for the 9th. We were also saddened to learn of the sudden death of Rae Balchin. Although Rae is no longer with us his presence was very much felt. Rae’s brother David gave a moving tribute and unveiled a splendid memorial trophy that he had organized in conjunction with the Sunbeam Tiger Club, of which Rae had been a founder and very active member. Another tribute to Rae gleamed in the car park – the wonderful 1966 Sunbeam sports car that Rae had spent 14 years lovingly restoring. A very real testimony to his skill and dedication.

Diana’s collection of letters that her mother had sent home from a 1935 school visit to the Rhineland proved fascinating insights. Diana remarked how, as her parents approached retirement, they had attended a pre-retirement course. The tutor had advised course members to clear out and throw away old documents and correspondence as ‘their children would not be interested’. How glad we are that they came home vowing to do no such thing. Items from Diana’s family archive have regularly enthralled Balchin Gatherings.

Other treats included an update on Balchen’s Victory, our chairman’s talk on the Knights bachelor, recollections on Jubilees and Coronations and information about Richard Balchin, the first  Balchin published writer, but the star of the afternoon was definitely Gertrude Jeykll. How to describe it? Well really, you had to be there. Gertrude Jeykll, who died in 1932 was a famous garden designer, horticulturist, artist and writer who lived for much of her life in Bramley. As we settled down after lunch a stunned silence fell on the hall. A little old lady, dressed in black, appeared. She introduced herself as Gertrude Jeykll and, using old pictures of Bramley and modern photographs of the same locations, took us on a tour of Bramley and its history. I knew that it was Gill Bryant but she was so good that even I had to keep reminding myself that it was her. Lots of other people were flabbergasted when she re-emerged totally transformed into her normal wear and self.

Gill has done her Gertrude Jeykll study for a number of local societies. Several people who had seen it had told me how good it was. They were definitely not wrong! We were so lucky that Gill agreed to do it for the Gathering. If you missed it but are in the Surrey area, do keep an eye out for repeat performances; you won’t be disappointed.

Jenny Dixon

Gertrude Jeykll