The Bicycle Boys: An Unforgettable Garden Tour

The Gardens Trust and County Gardens Trusts (CGTs) have teamed up with the RHS Lindley Library to create an online exhibition called The Bicycle Boys: An Unforgettable Garden Tour. In 1928, young landscape architecture students Loyal Johnson and Sam Brewster cycled around the UK visiting over 80 unforgettable gardens.

Loyal recorded their journey, experiences and the gardens they saw in a diary and photograph album, which were donated to the RHS Lindley Library by his son in 2015. They provide a fascinating snapshot of 1920s life, and of the gardens they visited, many of which had suffered from the shortage of gardeners after the First World War. This map shows their route and all the gardens they visited.

Fiona Davison, Head of RHS Libraries and Exhibitions, could see that Loyal’s archive would make a fascinating online exhibition, which would tie in with the Gardens Trust’s Unforgettable Gardens campaign and benefit from the local knowledge of the CGTs. Together, we could use Loyal and Sam’s journey to highlight historic parks and gardens, show how vulnerable they can be and how research helps us understand and protect them.

The Bicycle Boys photo and a modern view of the canal at Hestercombe
The canal terraces at Hestercombe on 4 August 1928 Credit: RHS Lindley Library/Chris Lacey

Last autumn the call went out to those CGTs along the Bicycle Boys’ 1500-mile route for help with information about the gardens they visited in each county. Twelve CGTs answered our call and provided background research about both the history of the garden and how it had changed since Loyal and Sam visited. The exhibition also includes photographs of the gardens as they are now. In many cases these show the exact same area snapped by the Bicycle Boys all those years ago.

The canal terraces at Hestercombe today Credit: Chris Lacey

Now you can follow their unforgettable garden tour online and gain fascinating insights into the high and low points of their trip, the history of the gardens they visited and what some of those gardens look like then and now.

View the exhibition here:

Find out more about our Unforgettable Gardens campaign

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Painswick Roccoco Gardens, the Red House, Photo © Joab Smith