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Meet the Trustees

Bettina Kirkham, Chair

Bettina is a qualified landscape architect and town planner with a very keen interest in historic landscapes.  She retired from running her own landscape planning practice in 2020, having worked in a number of local authorities, including Berkshire County Council, and landscape consultancies as lead landscape architect. 

She has been a member of the Berkshire Gardens Trust (BGT) since 2010 but also attended the initial meeting at Basildon Park and later the inauguration at Englefield Park in 2009.  Since becoming a Trustee, Bettina has led on planning matters drawing on her experience as a landscape planning advisor to several local authorities including West Berkshire. 

Apart from BGT, her main interests are walking, music, art and gardening.  She is a member of FOLAR which actively looks after the Landscape Institute’s archive at MERL, and of BBOWT and the Chiltern Society. Before this she was a Secretary of State Chilterns AONB Board appointment for 10 years, chairing the Planning Committee for 4 years until 2014.  Bettina took over from Charles Elly on 1 January 2020 as Chair.

Kim Hacker, Membership
Hugh Simon, Treasurer & Secretary

Hugh is a Chartered Management Accountant, having qualified in 1972, when he was appointed a Divisional Management Services Director with Tube Investments.  From 1979 he was finance director of a number of companies, initially in domestic appliance manufacturing, then in telecommunications.  He was Finance Director & Company Secretary of PageOne Communications from 1996 until his retirement in 2011. 

Hugh is an enthusiastic amateur gardener, having been instilled in him from an early age by his father, John Simon, who was a landscape gardener and a Chelsea gold medal winner for a formal show garden.  Hugh has lived in Speen near Newbury since 1986.


He joined BGT as Treasurer following his retirement. Hugh leads on all BGT finance & legal matters.

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Fiona Hope

Fiona graduated with a degree in History and then worked at British Telecom for 20 years, doing a variety of roles including procurement and European telecoms policy. 

Early in the new Millenium, early voluntary redundancy at BT allowed Fiona to do a part-time Birkbeck MA in Garden History.  This led to a role as Co-ordinator of a new Arts & Gardens Programme at the Royal Berkshire Hospital. Fiona then worked for four enjoyable years as Education Officer for the Garden Museum next to Lambeth Palace in London.  While there, Fiona attended a range of museum, educational and garden-related events that introduced her to the world of the (then) Garden History Society and the Association of Gardens Trusts (now merged as the Gardens Trust).

At the time, there was not a Gardens Trust in Berkshire, so along with Christina Hill Williams, Ben Viljoen and Liz Ware, Fiona co-founded the Berkshire Gardens Trust in 2009.  She has been a Trustee ever since.  Fiona is Secretary to BGT and leads on our liaison with the Gardens Trust.

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Alison Mihail MBE

Alison completed her teacher training in Bath, Somerset and spent 17 years teaching at the Piggott School, Wargrave; during that time, had a secondment to the University of Newcastle, gaining a BPhil in Educational Counselling.  Subsequently, Alison became a deputy headteacher at the Grange School, Aylesbury, responsible for all the pastoral care of 1200 pupils.

In 1996, Alison was introduced to the work of The Prince’s Trust and its need for local volunteers. She has been involved with the charity ever since!  Alison has volunteered on various Trust committees, councils and action groups.  She has been involved in a variety of projects including managing two renovation projects in Romania; setting up 26 Achieve clubs in secondary schools across Berkshire and mentoring over 60 corporate teams who have taken part in the annual entrepreneurial fundraising challenge, Million Makers.  Alison has raised more than £2.7 million to date – through her role as Chair of the Thames Valley Area Development Committee.  In 2015, Alison Mihail was awarded with an MBE for her outstanding service to young people in the Thames Valley area.

Alison joined BGT and became a Trustee in 2019.  She is a keen gardener and provides advice on organisational matters.

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Sian Thomas

Sian was born in North Wales and her involvement in historic gardens has been inspired by her grandfather, who was a local RHS committee member from the 1960’s, and from her twin sister who is a keen and excellent amateur gardener in France. Following a career in healthcare management, Sian continues to lead on strategy and performance challenges with clients across a variety of sectors. 

In 2021, Sian began volunteering for the Crown Estate at Windsor. Her projects include guiding, research and writing about the historical aspects. She is a committee member for the Friends of Savill Garden, being guide representative and writing the quarterly newsletters on behalf of the Crown Estate. 

Sian is chair of the region’s RHS Rhododendron Camellia and Magnolia Group, which is a group established in 1916 with a world-wide membership who are support and conserve historic collections in gardens. 

As a member of the Tree Register of Britain and Ireland she keeps abreast of the Berkshire inventory of remarkable, ancient, and champion trees. 
Living in Berkshire, Sian joined the Berkshire Gardens Trust in 2022 and has expressed a desire to be a Trustee to give her time and passion to the research and conservation of historically important landscapes. 

Michelle Leek

I’m delighted to have joined the Berkshire Gardens Trust as a Trustee.  I have long been a keen amateur gardener and hold an RHS Certificate in Horticulture.  My practical experience has included part-time gardening roles at Ufton Court and more recently Englefield Estate.  I was previously an allotment holder and I spend much of my free time in my garden at home.  I live in the North Wessex Downs AONB in West Berkshire and I have particular interests in garden history and also social and therapeutic horticulture for the benefit of people’s health and wellbeing.


For my ‘day job’ I work for Natural England, the government’s conservation adviser.  I began my career as a Soil Surveyor for the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) having graduated from Reading University with a degree in Geography.  Ten years later, I obtained a Post-graduate Diploma in Countryside Management from London University, which enabled me to move into conservation work across Hampshire and Berkshire.  Around 20 years ago, I moved into roles managing a variety of teams at both local and national level and more recently became Operations Manager for the Thames Solent Area Team in Natural England which involves workforce planning, recruitment and resourcing and engagement with partners and stakeholders and roles on the Board of both the Oxfordshire and Berkshire Local Nature Partnerships.

Honorary President
Christina Hill Williams DL

Dr Christina Hill Williams DL MA FRGS FRSA has spent most of her career with national charities, two of which she has run as chief executive officer, and three of which work in the enviromental field. She has also served as a non-executive director of an NHS Trust, and as an elected Governor and Lead Governor of an NHS Foundation Trust. She continues to work as a Mental Health Act Manager in Berkshire, and nationally as a member of the First Tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber) for HM Courts and Tribunals Service.


Christina served for 12 years on the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Justices of the Peace (Berkshire), chairing its Appointments Panel and its West Berkshire Advisory Sub Committee. She was made a Deputy Lieutenant of the Royal County of Berkshire in 2005 and served as High Sheriff 2009-2010. She was the first of the Berkshire female High Sheriffs already to be a Deputy Lieutenant and is currently the longest serving Berkshire Deputy Lieutenant. In 2010 she received the Freedom of the City of London and was made a Life Member of the Guild of Freemen of the City of London in 2013.


Her national charity roles have included serving as a Board member of the YWCA and chairing the YWCA National Appeal Committee. In Berkshire she serves as President of the National Trust Reading Centre; President (and former Chair) of the League of Friends of the Royal Berkshire Hospital; President of the Society for the Protection of Ascot and its Environs; Vice Patron of the Abbeyfield Society in Reading and Vice President (and former Chair) of Berkshire CPRE.


Christina was a co-founder of Berkshire Gardens Trust in 2008, served as its first Chair, was appointed a Vice President in 2013, and became President in 2019 on the retirement of Lady Wroughton.

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