It will be a poignant day for the Norton family on Sunday when they open up Whalton Manor to the public to help raise money for good causes.
And earlier this week, they received an award that recognises their dedication to the National Garden Scheme (NGS).
Penny Norton, along with her husband Tim, devoted years to restoring the walled gardens at Whalton Manor and she was well-known in the community as she had been chairman of Whalton Parish Council and chairman of the Tranwell Windfarm Action Group that also included people living in the Meldon, Mitford and Stannington parishes.
It successfully fought against a major wind-turbine application in the area a few years ago.
Tragically, Penny died last November. She fell after the horse she was riding slipped in mud and stumbled and she did not regain consciousness – the cause of death was the injuries she suffered to her brain stem and spinal cord.
Maureen Kesteven met her in 2010 on becoming Northumberland and Tyne and Wear county organiser for the NGS.
She said: “I was impressed by the beauty of the garden and its setting, but I was also struck by Penny’s enthusiasm for her garden and gardening and her considerable knowledge of plants.
“Penny was a skilled gardener who made the historic garden at Whalton Manor internationally recognised, attracting visitors from far and wide.
“The last time I saw Penny was in September last year. She was full of ideas about the future of the gardens at Whalton Manor and we discussed what help she might need to realise them.
“Sadly, within two months she was gone. She is sorely missed.
“To open your garden for the NGS every year for 10 years shows real commitment and dedication to the charities it supports and it was a real pleasure for me to present Tim Norton with an engraved hand trowel as a long service award.”
Funds raised through the NGS are given to nursing and caring charities, such as Macmillan, Marie Curie, Hospice UK and the Carers Trust.
Parts of Whalton Manor date from the 17th century, although the magnificent house and grounds in place today are the result of substantial alterations by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertude Jekyll in 1908.
Three acres of beautiful walled gardens spread about the house and they contain a number of Lutyens’ architectural gems.
They will be open to the public on Sunday between 2pm and 5pm. Admission is £5 for adults and free for children and home-made teas will be available.
For more information, visit www.ngs.org.uk/find-a-garden/garden/20673