Elford Hall Gardens – Newsletter 34 – November 2016

Since the September newsletter we have been taking advantage of the dry and mild Autumn to continue tidying up the garden and getting it set for Winter.   Much of the time has been devoted to preparing the site for the Bonfire Spectacular and for keeping control of the grass which continues to grow happily.   The apple harvest has been good this year, as has produce from the allotments so we have been keeping the produce table well stocked.

RHS award

Peter and Ann Coggins went to the RHS ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ presentations at Ludlow to represent the Walled Garden Project. We were judged in July and the judges seemed impressed but the result isn’t divulged until presentation day.   Once again we were awarded and ‘outstanding’ level award, much to the delight of Peter & Ann.   The feedback we are given helps direct our efforts for the coming year but, most importantly, it gives a spring to the step of the hard working volunteers.

Outstanding - yet again!
Outstanding – yet again!

p1020119

Bonfire

November 5th saw the path to the walled garden lit with coloured lights and full of people heading to the bonfire event. Generous donations of wood meant that the 2016 bonfire was an impressive size and this was matched by the brilliant firework display set up by Jason and his team.   This year we had set up an online booking system through the website and the result was a complete sell out, several days before the event took place, which was really great for us.   Quite a lot of money is spent to set up these events so it is a relief to know that people are going to turn up as this helps to cover a lot of our initial expenditure.   The day’s weather proved better than was forecast and the evening was dry and cold – at least until the fire was lit!

We received much praise after the event and the success is down to the efforts of volunteers before, on and after the event.   Families were kept amused by the Wailers and Alun Davies with the Fradley Fiddler, queues of kids had faces painted and the food and drinks were appreciated on the rather chilly evening.

Wheeeeeee!
Wheeeeeee!

Wall hanging

The village embroidery group are well advanced with their embroidered pictures which will soon be made into a beautiful tapestry of village life which will hang in the front room of the gardener’s house for all to enjoy.   The group intends to continue meeting once the work is completed so that they can work on other ideas. Why not think about joining them?

Path resurfacing

The ‘wheelchair friendly’ path by the river was damaged by machines used during the reconstruction of the boathouse.   Much of this has now been re-surfaced by Darren and his team.   The remainder will be completed over the next few months if weather permits, so that wheelchair users will once again be able to easily circumnavigate the site!

Future plans

Winter is a time of preparation for spring with allotments to dig, manure to add and seeds to sow indoors.   Work will continue (as usual) right through the winter.  We are lucky that there is usually somewhere to find protection from the winter chill.   Outside, there is much pruning to do!  In the house, the final upstairs rooms will be decorated and the hall floor will be tiled.   As the weather improves, we will need to paint parts of the outside of the house where the old paint is flaking off.   In building/large works, we hope to reroof the potting shed and complete the hard standing down as far as the barn.   Dave hopes to complete the remaining doors and windows in the Bothy building.   No rest for the wicked, then!

Boules season end game meal

Bothy Boules bun fight
Bothy Boules bun fight

The boules season came to an end in late September as the evening begin to ‘draw in’ and become cooler.   For the second year, we celebrated the last meeting with a bring and share meal in the Bothy, which was great.   We probably all ate and drank far too much but such was the enjoyment of those that attended that we have determined to start next season with a bring and share evening too, so watch this space!   We may even have a mid season meal too.   Why not?

Shirts & fleeces

A couple of volunteers asked me to investigate the possibility of having shirts made with an appropriate walled garden logo embroidered on.   A local supplier was happy to oblige and over 30 were ordered by delighted volunteers.   “What about a fleece for winter?” I was asked.   Over 20 of these have now been supplied so our volunteers are easily recognisable to visitors (and we all look really professional!)

RHS Award AND new shirts on show!
RHS Award AND new shirts on show!

Cider press

The wonderful apple crop this year was too good to be true.   We borrowed a pulper and a large press and extracted juice from some of our cider apples.   It was gorgeous and amazingly sweet.   We weren’t geared up to sterilize it but it kept for a couple of weeks in my fridge at home.   Can’t wait now for harvest 2017.   I could become an addict!

Cath and Ryan pressing cider apples
Cath and Ryan pressing cider apples

Elford Hall Garden Project goes purple for polio

When I received the email from the RHS announcing their intention to link up with the Rotary Club of Great Britain to promote the idea of planting purple crocuses, it seemed like a good idea for the walled garden to get involved.

The Rotary Club of GB has been raising funds for a long time in an effort to eradicate polio worldwide.   They have met with great success and this years’ Purple for Polio Campaign is an effort to raise the profile of the campaign by planting purple crocuses across the nation. The purple is significant in that it is the colour of the dye they use to mark children’s fingers once they have been immunised.   The cause was well worthy of support – the eradication of polio worldwide is a great aim – and the thought of an annual spring-time reminder of the good work being done seemed too good to miss!

Having talked the idea through with our volunteers, their enthusiasm led to the purchase of 10,000 crocus bulbs with a further 5000 being ordered by our Parish Council.   At the walled garden, we have a line of 18 almond trees planted alongside a path.   We have decided to plant our crocuses in a river weaving around these trees and then wait patiently until spring to see the fruits of our labour!

We linked up with the Tamworth Rotary Club and set a planting date for 17th November.   We approached our local primary school to enlist their support and together we set about the planting.   It was a great community effort with people giving their support happily for such a good cause.   There was plenty of help for the planting and 10,000 bulbs were planted by 11am with the adults digging the holes while the children of class 2 from the Howard School popped the bulbs into the holes.   Perfect team work!   The youngsters were brilliant and really interested in examining the many worms we ‘charmed’ to the surface!

I can’t wait for spring to arrive to see just how well our planting has worked.   We will be installing information boards about the campaign which will re-appear each spring when the bulbs flower and our hope is that one day the purple river will remind everyone about the day when polio was totally eradicated from the planet.

Crocus planting party
Crocus planting party

Jim Riley

Jim & Margaret Riley in happier times
Jim & Margaret Riley in happier times

Those of you who volunteered in the early days of the project will be saddened to hear of the death of Jim Riley.   Jim worked tirelessly for the project until ill health became a problem for him and many of you will remember his dry wit with pleasure.   Sadly, deteriorating health meant that he was unable to continue to work on the project and in recent years life became a great struggle for him and for Margaret, his wife.   As his health made life difficult for him to function as a volunteer, he continued to appear at the garden regularly.   He always said that while he was embarrassed to go out to places, at the walled garden he always felt he was among friends who understood his situation and welcomed him.   What a compliment!.

I well remember his excellent comic timing.   Over lunch, there was always much banter and laughter.   Jim generally kept his counsel during these raucous sessions but as silence fell upon the company, he would interject with a pithy one-liner that would start us all off again.   He was great company and good to work alongside, even as his health and eyesight began to fail!   He will be missed.

Coming up

24th December – live nativity starts at the church at 4pm

14th January AGM 2pm

16th January – Trustees meeting 8pm

21st Jan – Volunteers forum and lunch – noon

July 1st – Music & Real Ale Festival

As well as our website (www.elfordhallgarden.org) we have a facebook page.   Why not have a look at it, like it, and recommend it to your Facebook friends.

Well, that’s all from me folks.  

Happy reading and (if I don’t see you before) enjoy a great Christmas

Best wishes,   Roger.

 

 

 

Elford Hall Garden goes Purple4Polio

A date for your diary – 17th November at 10am

When I received the email from the RHS announcing their intention to link up with the Rotary Club of Great Britain to promote the idea of planting purple crocuses, it seemed like a good idea for the walled garden to get involved.  

The Rotary Club of GB has been raising funds for a long time in an effort to eradicate polio worldwide.   They have met with great success and this years’ Purple for Polio Campaign is an effort to raise the profile of the campaign by planting purple crocuses across the nation.   The purple is significant in that it is the colour of the dye they use to mark children’s fingers once they have been immunised.   The cause is well worthy of support – the eradication of polio worldwide is a great aim – and the chance of an annual spring-time reminder of the good work being done seemed too good to miss!

Having talked the idea through with our volunteers, their enthusiasm led to the purchase of 10,000 crocus bulbs with a further 5000 being ordered by our Parish Council.   At the walled garden, we have a line of 18 almond trees planted alongside a path.   We have decided to plant our crocuses in a river weaving around these trees and then wait patiently until spring to see the fruits of our labour!

COME ALONG AND HELP OUT IN A GOOD CAUSE.   Our chosen planting day will be November 17th (weather permitting) and we hope to start planting at 10am.   It will be great if lots of volunteers, Friends of the Walled Garden and other villagers turn up to help out with the planting.   If you can come along, then a garden fork will be useful!   Many hands make light work so with luck, planting should be done relatively quickly.

Not only will we be supporting a worthy cause but we will be blessed by a display of cheerful colour every spring.

 

Bonfire brilliance

A big thank you to everyone

What a great night we had at the Bonfire Spectacular last night!   A big thank you to everyone concerned in the build up to the event and to all of you who worked so hard during the evening to help make it yet another successful walled garden event.   Volunteers had worked for 3 weeks to set up the event but it was well worth all of the hard work!.

p1020118p1020136

Too many individuals were involved to list them all but everything seemed to go well.   Angela’s team on the gate and directing disabled parking ensured a steady flow into the walled garden.   David & Lawrie’s raffle team did a great job, making the raffle a success.   Wade’s BBQ team worked tirelessly all evening dealing with the queues of hungry visitors and Sue Watton’s Bothy team kept the hot drinks flowing all evening.   Irene’s face-painting team were rushed off their feet decorating a long line of smiling faces and doing a great job.   In the bar tent, it was a busy evening for Richard’s hard-working team while Lee & Ryan kept the crowds entertained with their music.   A special thank you to Alun Davies and Bob, the Fradley fiddler, for their great live music and for the sterling efforts of the Walled Garden Wailers.   And then came the fireworks…..

As the bonfire began to die down, the sounds of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds welcomed the first of many fireworks in a spectacular display lasting almost 20 minutes.   A big thank you to Jason for organising the display and to Max and Gavin who helped put on the display.   The best ever, I’m sure!

Sunday morning saw many of the volunteers turning out again to begin the clean-up of the site.   Thanks to them too!

And finally, the introduction of a system to allow purchase of tickets via the website allowed us to sell many more tickets before the event got underway so I must thank Angela Cornell who administered this for us.   It was a huge undertaking for her which she ‘managed’ with her customary diligence.

Well done everyone and thank you all VERY much.

Roger

BONFIRE SPECTACULAR SELL OUT

WE HOPE THAT THERE WILL NOT BE TOO MANY DISAPPOINTED PEOPLE OUT THERE WANTING TICKETS FOR THE BONFIRE SPECTACULAR ON 5TH November BUT ALL TICKETS HAVE NOW BEEN SOLD.   NO MORE TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE.

Bonfire Tickets selling like hot cakes

Bonfire Spectacular at Elford Hall Gardens on November 5th 2016

Don’t be disappointed!

If you are planning to be at the bonfire on November 5th and HAVE NOT yet bought your tickets, then please don’t delay.   Numbers on sale are restricted by our insurance.

Pre event sales have been very good and as of 9.30 this morning (Tuesday 25th October) there were less than 200 tickets left to sell!!!! In past years, we have sold tickets on the gate but this looks unlikely to happen this year so get your tickets soon.   Don’t be disappointed!

Tickets are still available at Tamworth & Lichfield Tourist Offices, Fradley Post Office and by PayPal on our website ( www.elfordhallgarden.org ).  There are also a few tickets still available through Walled Garden Volunteers.

For your information, any PayPal purchases made over the coming weekend will not be posted out until Monday 31st October.   The last day for using online booking will be Wednesday 2nd November.   After that, we cannot guarantee that the tickets will arrive before the event takes place.

In the unlikely event that there are a few tickets still available on November 5th, you will be able to purchase these on the morning of November 5th from 9.30 till 12.30 at the walled garden.

In the unlikely event of weather conditions forcing us to postpone the event at the last minute, this will be announced on this website and on the Elford Hall Garden Facebook page

Roger

Bonfire Spectacular 2016 – November 5th – 5pm start

The annual bonfire spectacular at the walled garden will be taking place on Saturday November 5th this year so make a note on your calendar or diary.   The event will be much the same as for last year’s successful event.   Gates will open at 5pm when food and liquid refreshments will be available and entertainment will be on hand.   The bonfire will be lit around 6.30 (depending on numbers coming into the walled garden) with fireworks following shortly afterwards as the fire begins to die down.   Entertainment will continue until most people have left the site!   There will be the usual Mega Raffle too!

There will be hot and cold drinks on offer.   Burgers and sausages from Peter Coates Butchers, chips, pulled pork/beef rolls and donuts will be available.

We hope to have face painters on hand to decorate children (of all ages!)

As last year, numbers admitted are restricted by insurance limitations so book early to avoid disappointment.   This is a great location for a safe family event.   The spectacular fireworks are set off outside the garden area while the audience is safe inside the walled area and, being enclosed, it is a safe area where children cannot easily wander off.

Ticket prices have been held for yet another year – adults £6, children under 5 are free, other children £3 – and can be purchased below and from local tourist offices and post offices.

ALL TICKETS NOW SOLD.

Elford Hall Gardens – Newsletter 33 – September 2016

 
 Busy times at the gardens

What a busy summer we’ve been having at the walled garden!   Preparations for the Real Ale event meant that we were not able to do all of the work we’d have liked to do on the gardening side of things.   After the clear up, it was all hands to the pump to prepare things for the 2 weddings we have hosted since the festival.   The consequence of that was that some areas of the garden were looking a bit neglected (we thought) then the heat and dry weather of August hit us and we spent valuable volunteering time watering distressed plants!   Needless to say, the ‘weeds’ coped brilliantly with the weather, produced masses of seed and now we have a mountain of weeding to do.   Sometimes, it seems that you just can’t win.

Dig this!

The allotments are looking great this year thanks to a lot of hard work being put in by allotment holders and volunteers on the 2 project allotments.   Soft fruit has done well, as have all manner of vegetables and it has been difficult to keep up with harvesting the crops!   We now have a regular group who visit the produce table to take away the fresh goodies.   The plums were good this year and apple harvest will soon be upon us.

The allotments looking better than ever this year.
The allotments looking better than ever this year.
Here's Reg trying to keep on top of the runner bean harvest ........No chance!!!
Here’s Reg trying to keep on top of the runner bean harvest ……..No chance!!!

If you haven’t yet tasted stuff from the produce table then give it a try – it is fresh, free from chemicals and generally we grow varieties that aren’t normally available in the shops and which are known for their taste.   Shoppers generally leave a donation in the box and their generosity helps to keep the garden running.

Around the Garden

When the Royal Horticultural Society judges came this year they said that they were ‘blown away’ by the progress we’d made in 12 months. This is always nice to hear as we don’t really notice fully our progress because we are here every week.   We will get the results of our judging before the end of the month.   Fingers crossed!

Work inside the house has been put on one side while there is better weather and much to do outside.   The library seems to be operating well and is appreciated by visitors.   It has been nice to see grandparents and their grandchildren enjoying the garden and especially the library. The needlecraft group continue to work on their Elford tapestry and will be delighted if more villagers decide to join them.   Ring Sue on 01827383592 for more information.

Julie hard at work dead-heading the roses.
Julie hard at work dead-heading the roses.
Echium Snowtower attracted a lot of attention from visitors (and the bees!).
Echium Snowtower attracted a lot of attention from visitors (and the bees!).

Right above, we see Julie Cox dead-heading roses in the rose garden – a bit like painting the Forth Bridge!

Above left, is one of our giant Echiums.   These have attracted many questions this year and seed should soon be available if you fancy growing your own. Below left is Thelma’s stumpery which is now looking good and below right is part of the giant’s jungle bed – living up to its name as you can see!   Peter Kennedy, with granddaughter Lara and friend Lily, has undertaken a refurbishment of the Giant’s matchbox now in glorious Technicolor and back in the giant’s garden for all to admire.   Laurence (below) has been making willow fencing to finish off the area around the boathouse.

Thelma's stumpery taking shape.
Thelma’s stumpery taking shape.
The Jungle looking healthy in the sensort garden.
The Jungle looking healthy in the sensort garden.

Laurence - resident willow weaver.

Scarecrows invade Elford

It was that time again and the people of Elford turned out nearly 100 scarecrows for the annual (and highly successful) festival.   Sue Watton worked her magic at the walled garden and produced an army of stuffed specimens to delight visitors.   Right, we see the BFG who settled himself at the entrance to the Giant’s Garden once all of the visitors had gone home and life returned to what passes for normal in Elford! The marquee now houses several scarecrows in an arrangement reminiscent of a doctor’s waiting room.   Say aaaaaarh!   The Walled Garden Wailers even turned out to sing at the Village Hall on the Sunday, thus ensuring a rapid turnover in people occupying the tables at the outdoor café!

The BFG guards the sensory garden these days!

The BFG guards the sensory garden now!

Work has begun on tidying up the area between the barn and the house.   This badly drained area has been improved by the laying of a limestone ‘road’ surface and left over material is now being used to improve the wheelchair friendliness of the path through the woods by the river.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road
Follow the Yellow Brick Road

 

 

 

Looking forward

Meetings will soon begin to set up the 2016 Bonfire Spectacular which I hope you’ll be attending on Saturday November 5th.   It will be the usual great evening out for the whole family (if the weather gods smile on us).   In a few weeks we’ll also be having a forward planning meeting to look at future plans and needs and I’d welcome your ideas and suggestion about what direction you’d like to see the walled garden moving in and how you think we can improve on what we have already achieved.   We have some ideas already but you can’t have too many good ideas so get in touch!

You may have noticed that our volunteers are now wearing bottle green shirts with the walled garden logo nicely embroidered.   I tried to get Tom Daly to model one for a photo for the newsletter but he was too busy!   If anyone out there would like to buy one for £5 to help promote the garden then please contact me and I’ll see what I can do.

Best wishes, Roger

 

Elford Hall Gardens – Newsletter 32 – July 2016

FUN IN THE SUN

Once again, the weather gods smiled on Elford and the Family Music & Real Ale Festival passed off without interruption and without incident.   Over 70 volunteers turned out to support the day (many thanks to them) and the audience were entertained all day and into the evening by musicians who had given their services free of charge in support of the project.  What heroes!   The amazingly well stocked bar was a hive of activity all day and the BBQ team produced a feast of food to keep everyone well fed up!   Hot drinks and cakes were served from the Bothy and the whole scene was lit up by lovely sunshine and a warm wind.   We’ve heard lots of complimentary comments since the event but it’s important to remember what a great team we have to help make the magic work.

Some of the bar team during a sober moment
Some of the bar team during a sober moment

The event was held inside the walled garden for the first time and many agreed it was a better venue for the day
The event was held inside the walled garden for the first time and many agreed it was a better venue for the day
The musical event was opened with style and confidence by students from St Mary’s, Richard Crosse and Howard Federation Choir. Thank you for the music!    The Fradley Community Choir made their second Festival appearance and sang as well as ever despite the blustery wind.

Festival regulars – the Walled Garden Wailers – battled through early technical problems to entertain the audience with a range of popular songs and newcomers to the Festival, Vintage Rhythms gave us a flavour of high quality jazz music – the first festival jazz but not the last…they’ll be back in 2017!    Pro Tempore entertained the crowd with their usual panache.   Morag & Co gave a polished performance as usual.   How lucky we are to have such talent at our disposal.    Great performances from all of them.

Headline act Brindley-Hunt take to the stage
Headline act Brindley-Hunt take to the stage

Headline act, Brindley-Hunt were superb and had the audience on their feet and dancing!   A big thank you to all of them.

Around the garden

Preparation for the festival and cleaning up after it is a major task but work needs to be kept going around the garden as well – the grass and the weeds just won’t stop growing and we try to keep the garden looking tidy for the many visitors who come around at this time of the year.

The allotment team are keeping up their good work and the produce is now being picked for the produce table.   Sue Watton and her team of helpers look after the many groups who visit during the summer and Dave (mostly) gets to do the guided tour of the garden.   These group visits are the best advertising for the garden.   Visitors spread the word and often come back with friends again and again.

The herbaceous border and the sensory garden are a delight at the moment thanks especially to Sue & Pat and Dorothy’s  raised bed by the boules pitch is a riot of colour.   The rose garden is slowly recovering from the battering it took from the heavy rain storms.

Barbara and Mike are busy behind the house tending the old gardener’s garden and laying new paths.   Thelma’s plant nursery is producing a supply of plants for the produce table and people taking these and the vegetables on offer are generally very generous with their donations to the produce.

The library continues to function well.   It is still filled with books and other goodies available for you to take away and enjoy.

Visit to Attingham Park in Shropshire

Peter Stubbs kindly organised a day out for Friends and volunteers to see the walled gardens at Attingham Park. We were met and given a guided tour by head gardener Katherine Dowd, who was great!   Being National Trust, experienced staff were on hand to uncover details of the history of the garden and the gardeners and a paid staff of professional gardeners meant that the gardens were both beautifully and authentically maintained.   We learned a lot and came back with great ideas to apply here in Elford.   The tour lasted about 2 hours and was extremely thorough, thanks to the knowledgeable Katherine!   As the tour ended, the weather deteriorated to leave us ‘enjoying’ our picnics in a cold, drizzly wind!   Despite that, the day out was excellent and most of us toured the house before we set out for home.   Thanks to Peter for his organising.   All of us agreed that it was a really good experience.   Look out for the next ‘day out’ and come along.

Katherine Dowd discusses the finer points of gardening
Katherine Dowd discusses the finer points of gardening

Needle Art in Action

In the past few weeks, a new village venture has blossomed in the Gardener’s House.   A small group has set itself up initially to produce a fabric wall hanging depicting scenes from the village, showing things like buildings, nature, wildlife, scenery and people by using a variety of needle skills.   The group has met 3 or 4 times to enjoy a social afternoon working together in the house and aim to produce a collage to hang on the wall in the gardener’s house on completion.   They meet again on August 1st at the Gardener’s House at 1.45pm so if you fancy coming to join the group or just to see what they are up to then why not call in on August 1st – there will probably be a cuppa on offer!   Ring Sue Thompson on 01827 383592 for more information.

Needlework group in action
Needlework group in action

Coming soon to a walled garden near you!

We have a busy time at the garden over the next few months with visiting groups and a couple of weddings so volunteers will be hard at work keeping the garden looking tidy.

On Saturday 30th July at around 10.45, the RHS judges will be arriving to assess our progress for the ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ award.   Why not come along and meet them?   The award is for Community Activity linked to gardening so the judges will be keen to talk to members of the community about how the walled garden contributes to local life.   Come and have your say!

Next, on August 27th & 28th, the village will be celebrating ‘Scarecrow Weekend’.   Much hard work has gone into making the weekend a success and there will be plenty to see at the walled garden, I’m sure so come along and support.

On September 17th, we have loaned the walled garden to Tamworth Arts who will be running a garden party for the afternoon where talent from the local area will be showcased so expect music, dancing, theatre of all sorts with a fun filled atmosphere.   See local press for details.   The village will benefit by a share of the gate takings and local groups and individuals will be able to approach the Parish Council with ideas about how to spend this unexpected income!

And finally ……. On Saturday November 5th we will be celebrating Guy Fawkes Night with our usual enthusiasm!   In addition to an excellent pyrotechnic display and huge bonfire, there will be food and drink a-plenty.   Tickets will be available soon via the website where you can now purchase via  PayPal.   More details will follow as the date approaches.

So, lots to do as you can see.   Why not get involved?   New volunteers are always welcome, especially on Saturday mornings…..

That’s all from me for now.   Best wishes to you and yours. Roger

Fun in the Sun

FAMILY MUSIC & REAL ALE FESTIVAL

FAMILY MUSIC & REAL ALE FESTIVAL – July 2nd 1pm onwards
Roll on Saturday!   Everyone has been working SO hard at the walled garden in the past week to make sure that the Family Music & Real Ale Festival is a success. The weather forecast, though not brilliant, IS improving so we are hopeful of a good turnout of people keen to enjoy the day. It might be worth bringing a brolly, but there is a lot of space under canvas should the forecast afternoon showers prove heavy!
There is a great range of beers, lager, ciders, wines and soft drinks. We’ll be serving hot drinks and cream teas, pancakes, BBQ treats and there will be a hog roast from 7pm. There will be lots to do for children – all free of charge. There will be music from 1.30pm until we close – all provided FREE by talented local groups. A good time is almost guaranteed so there will be no excuse for not enjoying yourself!
Funds raised at the event will help us to keep the gardens open to visitors FREE of charge, so please come along and support us. There will be tickets on sale at the entrance.
Please pass this message along to all of your friends and encourage them to come along. Details of how to get to the gardens can be found on this website

Newsletter 31 – May 2016

Welcome to the May newsletter for the walled garden project.   Quite a lot has happened since the last newsletter but first, a little bit about what will be happening on July 2nd.   Once again, the walled garden will echo to the sounds of music and the clink of glasses as the annual Family Music & Real Ale Festival gets underway.   Local performers have again given their services free and the bar will be well stocked with real ales, lagers and ciders for you to try.   We expect to have a minimum of 30 different drinks available plus soft drinks and a range of wines.   We will be serving cream teas all day and there will be a BBQ throughout the festival and an evening hog roast.   There will be FREE games to entertain the children so that parents can relax.   All of this will be available within the safe confines of the beautiful walled garden and there will be enough canvas erected to combat any poor weather the elements might throw at us!   This year, tickets are available from our website (address below) for the first time.

Beer Festival Flier - you can now book through the website.
Beer Festival Flier – you can now book through the website.

Boathouse launch and ‘thank you’ lunch

Work had progressed on the restoration of the old boathouse, converting it into a dual purpose boathouse & wildlife observatory.   Most of the volunteers had some hand in the development but the lion’s share was done by Laurence & Dave Watton.   The results have been amazing.   A good number  turned out for the grand opening and long time patron of the project Matthew Ellis took time out from his campaigning for the Police & Crime Commissioner Elections to address the crowd.   Julie Cox cut the ribbon and a ceremonial launching of a dingy took place, much to everyone’s amusement!

Roger makes some opening remarks
Roger makes some opening remarks
Julie Cox cuts the ribbon and launches the first boat
Julie Cox cuts the ribbon and launches the first boat

The formalities over, those present moved into the marquee for a ‘thank you’ lunch for Friends and volunteers who had supported the project in the last 12 months.   In a lively atmosphere, everyone ate well and enjoyed the musicianship of Alun Davies and the enthusiastic singing of the Walled Garden Wailers.   A good time was had by all.   As usual, everyone was very generous with the food they brought along.   It was an opportunity for the project to show its appreciation to the many people who help out and by their efforts ensure that the project flourishes and remains a village asset.

Song smith Alun Davies puts on a show
Song smith Alun Davies puts on a show

Open House?

Much has been achieved in the house over the winter months.   The two front rooms now look splendid and are fully furnished – one as a library and one as a meeting/tea room.   The library is there for all to use.   Books can be borrowed, swapped or kept for a small donation so top up your holiday reading here!   We have been given so many books that we have had to ask donors to hold back until we find more room or until books have been taken away!   The meeting room is already being used by a needlework group and is now available for all to use.   Speak to one of the volunteers if you have an idea or a need for a room.

 P1000980
 P1040638

 

Dave Watton is currently dealing with the plaster board in the hall and once this is plastered, the downstairs will be finished.  There is still work to do upstairs but this will have to wait till the grass stops growing!   The Gardener’s House is beginning to look a bit special.   When the garden was functioning a century or more ago it would have provided fruit, vegetables and flowers for the hall so the head gardener was an important man!

Blessed are the curtain makers

Donations of materials for curtains have been made up and hung in all of the finished rooms thanks to hard work by Sue Watton, Mitzi White and Thelma’s daughter Sharon.   Well done you three.   Sue Thompson has hung pictures in the finished rooms and the arrival of fresh flowers has given the whole house a homely feel.   Most of the furniture has been donated or bought from local charity shops and very little is now needed to complete the job.   A fine transformation indeed!

Everything’s bloomin’ lovely

We’ve had a lovely, if cool, spring and the bulbs have loved it.   Sadly, they are almost all over now and only the bluebells remain in flower but everywhere things are springing into life.   The sensory garden is again beginning to look splendid and the vines are beginning to cling to the new arch structure made by local company Upton Engineering.   Thanks Brand!  The ‘giant’ spade – donated and repaired and repainted by Pete Kennedy and granddaughter Lara, now stands proudly erect at the northern entrance to the sensory garden.

The new vine tunnel in the sensory garden
The new vine tunnel in the sensory garden
 A great display of tulips in the sensory garden
A great display of tulips in the sensory garden

Pat Hill is working hard on the herbaceous border which already looks beautiful and on the allotments Peter Coggins, Peter Stubbs and others are well on top of the work.   In general, I think the allotments as a group look better this year than ever!

Behind the house something is stirring!   Thelma continues to pot up plants and bring them on for the produce table where visitors can take them away for a donation.   Her area has now taken on the look of a small plant nursery and her plants are bringing in useful cash for the project.   Mike & Barbara Sadler joined us as volunteers last year and have since become stalwarts of the project.   They took on the challenge of taming the ground behind the gardener’s house which had been allowed to run a bit wild.

Thelma's plant nursert
Thelma’s plant nursery

Much hard work has transformed the area.   Gone are most of the pernicious weeds and the early flowers are beginning to cheer up the area.   Mike recently undertook to replace the dirt path with block paving using reclaimed bricks.   Almost finished, it is already a great improvement as the photos show.   By the river, Darren has installed the 2 commemorative benches donated by the Morgan family to mark the sad passing of Owen’s mother Paula.   Here are some of the volunteers using the benches for the first time.   These will be perfect places to sit and contemplate river life and to enjoy the acres of wild poppies on the field beyond the river.

Darren putting the finishing touches to Owen's bench
Darren putting the finishing touches to Owen’s bench
Volunteers congregate around the new commemorative benches dedicated to Owen's Mum Paula
Volunteers congregate around the new commemorative benches dedicated to Owen’s Mum Paula

Forthcoming

  • Boules evenings – 27thMay, 10thJune, 24thJune, 8thJuly, 22ndJuly, 5thAugust, 19thAugust, 2nd September, 9thSeptember, 30thSeptember, 21stOctober – end of season bring and share social.
  • July 2nd at from 1pm – Family Music & Real Ale Festival
  • August 27th-28thScarecrow Festival
  • September 17th Tamworth Arts Garden Party.   You may not have heard about this event.   We were approached by Tamworth Arts to be the venue for their annual arts festival which showcases local talent.   There will be music, dancing, theatre and other things going on in a ‘garden party’ atmosphere.   Tamworth Arts will be doing all of the work and providing a bar and food stalls.   The good news for Elford is that 50% of the gate takings will be donated and the walled garden management have decided to turn all of this over to our Parish Council to be used to benefit the village and village groups.   It should be a great afternoon and a real benefit to Elford.

That’s all for now, so best wishes to you all.     Roger