Will spies be lurking amid the blooms at Norfolk village’s famous open gardens day

The man in the trench coat has an EDP tucked under his arm and a pre-arranged password: 'Will the weather be fine for the open gardens this weekend..?''Yes,' you reply. 'And I hear it is much warmer than Berlin.'

This is Ringstead, near Hunstanton - not Cold War Vienna. But a light-hearted spying mission will be under way this weekend, as villagers open their gardens to visitors.

For the open gardens - now in its 33rd year - is one of the longest-established in Norfolk. And organisers of similar events around the county are keen to find out the secrets of its success.

'People come along and take ideas back to their own villages for their own open gardens,' said Jane England, one of the organisers of tomorrow's event.

'We've eaves-dropped conversations, people saying how do Ringstead keep going, how do they do so well.

'It's nothing sneaky, it's people coming along looking at how we do it.'

Spies will have plenty to feast their eyes on, with 10 gardens open - they include a plot tended by the Village Club, whose members' average age is over 75.

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In past years, the event has drawn more than 1,000 visitors to the village, tucked in behind the chalk downs, in a single afternoon.

'It's been going so long, it's always at the same time of year,' said Mrs England.

'Ringstead has a nice package, it's got a lovely shop, it's got the pub, the lunches have a phenomenal reputation.'

One garden - in the grounds of The Bury - contains the remains of a ruined church tower. There will also be lunches and live music in the grounds of the 17th Century Rectory.

There will be afternoon teas at East End Farm, where the Fakenham Town Band will be performing, while the church will be staging a flower festival all weekend.

But MI5 will not be called in to keep watch, to ensure proceedings pass off without diplomatic incident.

A little espionage is even encouraged, as the tea cups chink and visitors pick their way through the bric-a-brac and cake stalls.

'It's nothing under-hand at all - just people taking away ideas,' said Mrs England.

'It's this notion of how can we take some of this success back to our own open gardens.

'And it's having that chance to have a sneaky peak behind other people's garden walls.'

Admission is �3 adults for all gardens, children free, gardens open 1pm – 5pm tomorrow. Proceeds go towards the village church's fabric fund.

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