Board of Trustees

Peter Hughes KC, Chairman

Peter Hughes is Chairman of the Board of the Gardens Trust. After a career as a barrister in private practice, head of a large London set of chambers, and, from 2007, as a Circuit Judge, Peter Hughes retired from the Judiciary in July 2018. As head of chambers he had significant managerial and administrative experience. He completed a master’s degree course in Garden and Landscape History at London University in September 2020. He lives with his wife in the Lake District, where they care for an Arts and Craft house and garden. He is a member of the Cumbria Gardens Trust and, having been a member of the Garden History Society, of the Gardens Trust.

Christopher Blandford, Vice Chairman and Conservation Committee Chair

Chris Blandford is a landscape architect, master planner, and heritage specialist. He is Vice Chair of the Gardens Trust. Until 2017 he was Chairman and CEO of the award-winning CBA Studios, which he founded in 1977. Working nationally and internationally, he gained a broad range of technical experience in both the conservation and development fields, as well as considerable managerial and commercial expertise. He is a Fellow of the Landscape Institute, President of World Heritage UK, Vice Chairman of the South Downs National Park Design Review Panel and a past trustee of ICOMOS. He has regularly advised government on design, heritage and environmental matters. In retirement he lives and works in the Weald of Sussex surrounded by the extensive garden that he and his wife have created over 40 years.

Deborah Evans

Deborah Evans is a landscape architect, historian and horticulturalist.  She established her own consultancy in 2015 having worked in the public and private sectors. Between 2006 – 2014, Deborah was English Heritage (now Historic England) Landscape Architect for the East of England and East Midlands.  She had previously worked for Cadw, the National History Museum, Wales and the National Trust, at the latter as the first Head Gardener/Estate Manager at Tyntesfield where she helped secure one of the largest HLF grants ever made.  Deborah is an established trainer in the heritage sector, most recently relaunching the Managing Wildlife in the Historic Environment course at West Dean College.  Deborah has been a member of the National Trust’s Historic Environment Advisory Group since 2016.

Clare Hickman

Clare Hickman is Reader in Environmental and Medical History at Newcastle University, where her teaching and research focus on the intersections between designed landscapes and concepts of health and medical practice. She is the author of several books and articles including The Doctors Garden: Medicine, Science and Horticulture in Britain (Yale University Press, 2021) and Therapeutic Landscapes: A History of English Hospital Gardens Since 1800(Manchester University Press, 2013). She is also exploring the role arts and humanities scholars can play in developing more inclusive approaches to thinking about the use and experience of historic landscapes.

Dr David Marsh, Education & Training Committee Chair

Dr David Marsh is a garden historian, lecturer and writer. He obtained a PhD in Garden History from Birkbeck College in 2005. Since 2011 he has been co-convener of the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, London University. He leads the team who organise online courses and lectures, and also writes the Garden Trust’s weekly blog.

Maureen Nolan, Secretary

Maureen Nolan is a governance professional with over 30 years’ experience in governance and company secretarial work. Maureen is a Fellow of the Chartered Governance Institute and a Fellow of the RSA, and has a BSc in Mathematics & Biophysics and an MSc in Information Science. She has worked for a range of organisations in the public, private and charitable sectors, including Transport for London, the Chartered Governance Institute and Age Concern England. Maureen is also Secretary and Trustee of the London Parks and Gardens and the Brunel Museum, and Company Secretary of the Gas Safe Charity, the National Liberal Club Limited and the Social Liberal Forum.

Paul Rabbitts

Paul Rabbitts is currently Head of Parks and Open Spaces at the City of Southend on Sea Council and has designed, managed, and restored public parks for 33 years. Qualified as a landscape architect, he is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and founder member and current Chair of the Parks Management Association, who represent parks management professionals across the UK. He is also a published author of 30 books, about parks, bandstands, the Royal Parks, local history as well as biographies on Grinling Gibbons, Sir Christopher Wren and architect Decimus Burton. He lectures widely across the UK about parks, the icon of public parks, the Victorian and Edwardian bandstand, including Gardens Trusts, Arts Societies, and anyone else prepared to listen. An advocate for parks for many years, he is currently working on an updated version of People’s Parks – The Design and Development of Victorian Parks in Britain, originally authored by Dr Hazel Conway. He can be followed on Twitter @bandmasta with all kinds of ramblings.

Rachel Savage, Audience Development, Marketing & Communications Committee Chair

Rachel Savage has over 25 years’ experience in the charity sector. She has considerable experience of strategic and financial planning, brand and audience development, facilitating organisational change, and delivering large scale marketing and fundraising campaigns. Prior to becoming Director of Planning for a full service marketing agency working with a number of charities, she held senior management, marketing and fundraising positions at the RHS, Save the Children and Voluntary Service Overseas.  She has an MA in Landscape History and is researching part-time for a PhD, exploring the relationship between nineteenth-century domestic planning and garden design.

Jill Sinclair

Jill Sinclair is a US-educated garden historian, author and lecturer. She serves as a trustee of the Historic Gardens Foundation and has been joint editor of its magazine Historic Gardens Review. She is a tutor on the history of the English landscape garden for the University of Oxford. Now based in South Yorkshire after many years living abroad, Jill is advising a Sheffield charity on restoring a significant garden by Percy Cane and until recently was chair of the Friends of Sheffield Botanical Gardens.

Lisa Watson, Treasurer

Lisa Watson worked for the National Trust at Stowe Landscape Garden for 17 years, starting as a volunteer and then becoming Estate Secretary until she retired in 2009. She has been Company Secretary of London Parks and Gardens and is their Chairman. She was Treasurer of the Association of Gardens Trusts.

Joanna Davidson

Joanna Davidson is ex-officio on the Board of the Gardens Trust. She is Chairman of the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust (WHGT) and lives on Anglesey. Her degree was in archaeology, followed by more than a decade of farming. Joanna retrained in horticulture, establishing a small business which has enabled her to design, plant, advise and lecture on horticulture in North Wales for the last 20 years, whilst also running a small plant nursery.

Vanessa Stephen

Vanessa is ex-officio on the Board of the Gardens Trust and is Chair of Scotland’s Garden and Landscape Heritage (SGLH).

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