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.
Charles Elly DL, Past Chair
Charles trained as a lawyer, graduating from Hertford College and the College of Law in London. On qualification he became a partner at a law firm in High Wycombe and specialised in criminal law at first and then broadened into different areas of the law.
In 1975 Charles was elected Secretary and Treasurer of the Berks Bucks and Oxon Local Law Society. This was a part-time executive position. This continued until 1981 when he joined the Council of the Law Society, holding a number of offices culminating in being President in 1994.
Charles was Lay Chairman of the Maidenhead Deanery Synod and a member of the Oxford Diocesan Synod and Bishop’s Council. He was also a member of the Berkshire County Council for about 20 months. He spent about 10 years as a Deputy Registrar in the County Court, and from 1991 as a Recorder of the Crown Court, both part time posts.
In 1998 Charles left his law firm after 35 years and became a full time Circuit Judge for 15 years. He retired in 2012 and was honoured by the appointment of Deputy Lieutenant of the Royal County in 2011. In the same year he joined Berkshire Gardens Trust as a Trustee and then became Chairman, retiring at the end of 2019 having provided a steady hand in expanding our activities and maintaining membership.
Janet Fuller, Vice Chair & Membership Secretary
Janet originally trained as an Actuary in Canada. She then worked for over 30 years in a variety of senior management roles in the financial services industry, culminating in being the Chief Executive Officer for a medium-sized life insurance company.
After taking early retirement in 2013, Janet did a MSc at the University of Bath studying the conservation and management of historical landscapes. While a complete change of direction, it combined Janet’s long term interests of gardening and history.
She learned about the Association of Gardens Trusts during the course and joined BGT in 2014. She later became Membership Secretary and then Vice Chair. Janet leads on BGT’s research objective and organising the programme of visits.
Hugh Simon, Treasurer
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 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 matters, insurance and arrangements for our AGMs.
Fiona Hope, Executive Secretary
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.
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.
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 environmental field. She also served as a Non-executive Director of Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust, and when it became a Foundation Trust, she was elected Governor for West Berkshire, and then Lead Governor of the whole Trust. She works as a Mental Health Act Manager for the NHS throughout Berkshire, and for two private providers. She also sits nationally on 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 both its Appointments Panel, and its West Berkshire Advisory Sub-committee, which is unusual for a non- Magistrate. She was made a Deputy Lieutenant of the Royal County of Berkshire in 2005, served as High Sheriff 2009-2010, received the Freedom of the City of London in 2010, 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 a Vice President of CPRE, and as Chairman of the League of Friends of the Royal Berkshire Hospital (Reading).
Christina was a co-founder of Berkshire Gardens Trust in 2008, served as its first Chairman, was appointed a Vice President in 2013, and became President in 2019 on the retirement of Lady Wroughton.