Grace (Gay) Hellyer – Happy Birthday


57-Granny B & W
Grace (Gay) Hellyer


This is one of the last photographs of my mother Gay, before her untimely death on the 11th February 1977.

Gay was born today 9th March 1907 – and will always be remembered with love and great affection. Having researched her life for my book  The Haphazard Gardener, it was only as an adult that I understood fully her many achievements. She was a solid, down-to-earth person – who said it as it was! Not always welcome it has to be said but at least you knew where you were. Not overly tactile, she was a great educator. A teacher both before her marriage to Arthur and after the adoption of their three children, it was she who taught me most about the observation of both the garden and nature in general. She was a great encourager too. Her grandchildren adored her, though they knew her all too briefly.

From the early days after their marriage when they bought the land at Rowfant in Sussex which was to become their home Orchards for the rest of their lives, they worked tirelessly together. It was Gay who drew up the plans for the two up/two down wooden house, roofed with cedar shingle, extended in brick in 1949 to enable my adoption. They worked at weekends to build the original structure finished in 1939, built with their own hands, and with the help of friends. They worked the land together, Gay kept goats as well as chickens, ducks and a cow. They planted orchards of apple, pear and cherry, a nuttery, and a huge vegetable/fruit garden. Hundreds of daffodils were planted, all destined for the local shops.


I think of you daily, feel inspired by your presence and miss you still. Happy Birthday Mummy.

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