When the magnificent Flete House, near Modbury, throws open its spectacular gardens and grounds exclusively to raise funds for St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth on Sunday, July 30, resident Adrian Wardle will be remembering the compassionate care his wife, Amanda Audley, received at home from the charity’s nursing team five years ago.
A semi-retired publisher and expert on the history of the Grade I listed house and its equally impressive grounds, Adrian worked for more than two decades as deputy manager at Flete, where Amanda was the longstanding and much respected assistant housekeeper before she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Amanda was well looked after at Derriford Hospital, then she was able to have St Luke’s visit her at our home in South Brent. That was something you don’t forget,” said Adrian.
“It’s all very well having medical intervention but the personal help from St Luke’s carried a lot more weight and made her terminal illness more bearable. She had a very peaceful passing.”
Adrian now lives in a flat on the ground floor at Flete with Pippin, the little tabby cat he and Amanda got a few months before her death. From there he can enjoy every day the beautiful and eclectic vistas that are being shared, for one afternoon only, with St Luke’s supporters.
The 12 acres of Grade II listed and elegantly landscaped parkland grounds include the charming Italianate gardens, a well-stocked shrubbery, water gardens, and a host of impressive specimen trees that take pride of place on the garden map, not forgetting the panoramic views of the picturesque South Hams countryside beyond.
Adrian will be escorting a limited number of lucky visitors – first come, first served on a rare and fascinating guided tour of the grand reception rooms of the gothic styled house, home to the aristocratic Mildmay family from the late 1800s, which was designed to host distinguished guests, including royalty. The rest of the handsome building, parts of which date back to the 16th Century, is now divided into 29 private leasehold apartments.
The annual event, part of St Luke’s spring and summer Open Garden series sponsored by NFU Mutual Plymouth, is a golden opportunity for anyone who loves beautiful historic landscapes, but it has also become something of a pilgrimage for people who took their first breaths at Flete House when it became Plymouth’s maternity hospital during the Second World War.
Adrian explained: “Lord Mildmay was only living in a corner of the house at the time. When Freedom Fields Hospital was bombed, he offered Flete House as a maternity hospital for the city. Around 11,000 babies were born there between 1941 and 1958 when the unit returned to a rebuilt Freedom Fields. People do love to come here to see where they were born.”
The gardens will be open from 12 noon to 5pm on Sunday 30 July, with plenty of parking available close by, toilets on site and guide dogs only allowed. Admission is £6 per person and under 16s go free. Teas, coffees and fresh homemade cakes will be served, and St Luke’s Compassionate Friends are bringing a pop-up stand where visitors can learn more about this initiative to support people who are bereaved. You’ll also find an exciting display of vintage cars on the driveway, courtesy of the MG Owners’ Club.
Wayne Marshall, St Luke’s Open Gardens Coordinator and New Partnerships Lead said: “We are so grateful to everyone at Flete House for giving us exclusive access to this stunning Devon estate, allowing visitors to experience the unique gardens and raise funds to support St Luke’s important work in the local community. We can’t wait to welcome you all.”