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St Michael’s Hospice, Hereford, Kate’s Story

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Living amongst the lush, inviting Herefordshire countryside it is perhaps unsurprising to develop a love for the outdoors.

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For Kate Edwards though, a stroll through the bucolic landscape holds much more value than just breathing in fresh air for an hour or two.

‘I walk five miles a day,’ she says. ‘I believe it keeps me alive. Aside from the physical side, it helps my brain to focus.’

Kate, 61, had always been fit and active but she faced a huge barrier to this five years ago following a grim discovery.

‘One morning in 2014, I got up at 6 am and discovered blood in my pee. I rang the doctors and was told it was probably a urinary infection but I didn’t believe this for a second and said I wanted a scan.’

That scan showed the presence of cancer in her ureter. Not knowing when treatment could start, Kate arranged to go under the knife privately and, just 10 days later, was operated on in London.

The experience enhanced her steely determination to speak out when something doesn’t seem right.

‘If you know something is not right, it’s up to you to do what you think is right for you,’ says Kate.

‘I know many haven’t got the option to go down the route I did and pay for it, but I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t challenged things.

‘Yes, I’ve lost a kidney, but I’ve been cancer-free for four-and-a-half years now, and hopefully that’ll be the case for many years to come.

‘My goal was to get back to walking my five miles, and I did that in just six weeks.’

Kate’s clean bill of health means she can enjoy her stunning home at Grendon Court, near Upton Bishop, even more, alongside husband Mark and the couple’s two dogs.

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The house was owned by Mark’s parents who bought it in the 1980s before Mark and Kate took it on.

‘We effectively ripped everything out and started again,’ said Kate. ‘It was a two-year project.’

The Georgian property has parts dating back to the 15th Century and boasts a 30-acre estate with two acres of gardens. Terracing and landscaping were undertaken close to the entrance, with borders added.

All this work was overseen by garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith.

‘Two completely separate people recommended him to me,’ added Kate.

‘So, we met and we were in tune straight away. Everything I wanted to do, he said ‘Yes, that can happen’. All the things I didn’t like, he didn’t like either.’

She describes the garden as ‘quite masculine’ with robust colours.

It’s packed with prairie grasses, around 2,000 in one area as the couple wanted to replicate the paddy field-style feel they experienced while living in Asia for many years.

‘When there are lots of people here, the garden is wonderful and a great place to relax.

‘I know I have the enormous privilege of having a garden designed by a legend and my job is to keep it this way. I’m just the custodian of it; the next person would probably want it completely different.

‘But the garden is a reflection of us. It’s an extension of who you are.’

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Kate is opening Grendon Court on Wednesday 18th September as part of A Day of Gardens, Delicious Lunch and Poetry which will be staged across three Herefordshire venues.

Visitors will begin the day by exploring The Laskett Gardens in Much Birch, owned by Sir Roy Strong.

They will then make their way to Grendon Court for an exquisite lunch, plus poetry recitals from Sir Roy and Alex James, before heading for Brockhampton Cottage to enjoy unspoilt views from the hilltop garden owned by Peter Clay.

‘Sir Roy Strong’s garden is wonderful. Its design is the antithesis of this garden though,’ said Kate.

‘Peter has a fantastic garden too. His is not so much about borders, it’s about the greater landscape as well. It really has the wow factor.

‘He’s a dear friend too.’

The event is being organised by St Michael’s Hospice and is their final Open Gardens date of the season.

The Bartestree-based charity is a fitting one for Kate to support.

While in the doctors’ waiting room around the time of her cancer diagnosis, she happened to pick up a copy of the Hospice’s twice-yearly publication, Messenger.

‘I read it and thought, ‘I’d like to raise money for them’.

‘It’s such a modern, beautiful environment. I think, should I ever be faced with the decision, that I would choose to go into a place like that.’

Tickets to A Day of Gardens, Delicious Lunch and Poetry can be bought by visiting st-michaels-hospice.org.uk

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