Author Bill Bryson launches this year’s National Gardens Scheme in Norfolk at Bradenham Hall

International author Bill Bryson spoke of his pride as he launched this year's National Gardens Scheme (NGS) in Norfolk today which he said was 'quintessentially English'.

The American non-fiction writer lives in Norfolk and is also the president of the charity Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

Dozens of green-fingered people who look after cottage gardens to large estates attended the official launch of the NGS Norfolk Guide at Bradenham Hall, near Dereham.

Across the county 71 gardens will be open to the public from this Sunday at Lexham Hall in East Lexham, near Swaffham, to October 13 at Blickling Hall, near Aylsham.

Money raised from the event will go towards Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Help the Hospices and the Cross Roads Care.

Last year �68,000 was raised through the Norfolk gardens and the NGS, which is in its 85th year, raised �2.6m across England and Wales.

Mr Bryson said: 'Thank you for letting me be part of this. It is a great honour.

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'The NGS is such a quintessentially English thing and the whole enterprise is fantastic. Those of you who open your gardens are very brave to let people poke around them.'

As a thank you present he was given an apple tree from the East of England Apples and Orchards Project, based in Rougham, near Swaffham.

Mr Byrson added: 'The NGS Norfolk Guide is something I would be happy to support indefinitely. The CPRE is all about encouraging positive things in the countryside and the NGS is as positive as you can get.'

Artist Hazel Ashley, 73, was excited about her cottage garden in Market Lane, Wells, being featured in the NGS Norfolk Guide for the first time this year.

Features of her outdoor space include mirrors and an 'enormous' quince tree.

Mrs Ashley's garden will be on display on Saturday, July 7 and Sunday, July 8 from 11am to 5pm, along with four other gardens from the coastal town.

Five different gardens from Mileham, near Dereham, will also be on display for the first time this year They range from organic vegetable gardens to outdoor spaces filled with roses.

Kathy Gray, 63, who owns one of the Mileham gardens said she was 'thrilled' to be part of the NGS Norfolk Guide.

'We were absolutely overwhelmed to be asked and it is a fantastic event and is very worthwhile,' she added.

Another first time garden that will also be on show this year will be in Smallburgh, near North Walsham, owned by Kevin Scales.

Mr Scales, 39, described his garden as 'exotic meets English countryside'.

Holkham walled gardens and Sandringham gardens are also part of the NGS Norfolk Guide.

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