Elford Hall Gardens – Newsletter 30 – February 2016

Please make a note of this date:   Last year we held a very successful social afternoon as a kind of ‘thank you’ to all Friends of the Walled Garden and to all volunteers.   We plan to do this again this year but to combine this with the official opening of the restored boathouse/wildlife hide.   Please note the date in your diary or on your calendar: 23rd April at the boathouse.   Start time will be confirmed later.

After the official opening at around noon we will then repair to the marquee for an afternoon of relaxation and conviviality!   As last year, the Walled Garden Project will be providing liquid refreshment and a small amount of food (by small, I mean Sue Watton’s idea of small, not mine!!!).   You might want to bring along a picnic to share – though not too much please!   There will be some ‘musical’ entertainment by the Wailers and hopefully others.   Attendees will be invited to perform their party pieces….

 It should be a great afternoon.

Watch out, there’s a weather warning about!

The early 2016 weather seems intent on being unseasonal and endlessly surprising.   The grass hasn’t stopped growing (or the weeds) and we were forced to mow in mid January!   The weather is certainly confusing the plant life!   Currently, we have loads of snowdrops out – but we also have crocus, daffodils and primroses scattered about in full flower.   Birds are a-courting and nest building, and our almond trees are in flower.   Let’s hope we don’t get a late cold snap to shock them out of their comfort zone!!!

January brought us more wind and rain than was welcome, then it snowed and then it really rained as the string of dying hurricanes tracked towards us across the Atlantic from America.   I’m sure that ‘nice’ Mr Trump will put a stop to all of that when he’s President!

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The snow, when it came, transformed the garden in a trice.   I was lucky enough to be first there with my camera before footprints spoiled nature’s artistry.   In a few hours the snow was gone and the magic along with it.   No sooner had the snow disappeared when the next storm brought a deluge which almost made the boathouse disappear too.

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The flood plain towards Stubby Leas was a huge lake, the water board worked frantically on the village flood pumps and we kept our fingers crossed that the River Tame would not rise any further.   The newly restored boathouse was a picture – all we needed was a submarine!   The water rose to the top of the viewing windows.   There is no truth in the rumour that Laurence Watton continued his bricklaying wearing sub-aqua gear.                    He used a snorkel!

An amazing amount of silt and debris cluttered the boat house when the waters subsided.   Sue Watton, power hosed it out (well, most of it seemed to end up on her) but another flood quickly followed and brought it all back!   Joe Dugas did the dirty work this time.

Despite the vagaries of the weather, our volunteer gardeners have managed to keep working, despite somewhat soggy soil conditions.   Muck has been spread, land prepared for spring planting and we have been able to put artichokes, celeriac, parsnips and other goodies onto the produce table for discerning shoppers.  Pete Stubbs and Pete Coggins have been doing sterling work getting ready for the season and have their plans for 2016 well sorted.

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On the floral side of things, the ladies have been busy pruning the roses and training the climbers.   Lurking behind the house, Thelma continues to pot up plants for the produce table in her little potting paradise and Barbara & Mike have transformed the rear garden into a tidy wallflower wonderland.   Sorry, I’m getting a bit carried away with the flowery language.   I’ll just stop here and give myself a good slapping.

There.   That’s better.   There is already plenty to see in the garden even though it is only February.   If you can visit while the frost is still on the plants then it’s a real joy.

Housing Benefits for all?

Indoor jobs have been at a premium during the past 2 months and it’s been great to be able to keep busy and yet avoid the worst of the weather.   Pete and Owen have kept busy in the barn doing winter maintenance work and repairing things.   These sorts of tasks are never-ending but always important and there doesn’t seem to be much that Peter can’t turn his hand to!

The really flashy stuff has been going on inside the house where a complete transformation has been achieved thanks to the decorating team of Batur, Brian, Roger & Sue and others.   One of the downstairs rooms was the first on the list – more of this later – then, flushed with success and bubbling with enthusiasm, the team moved upstairs, where Angela’s office was stripped, re-decorated, carpeted and returned to her, to give her somewhere more comfortable and cosy to work in at long last!

The small back bedroom, now looking presentable, has become our first aid room (particularly valuable during events) and was the next to be finished before the team moved back downstairs.   We might offer B & B (only joking!).

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Steve Eyley was working hard downstairs removing and rebuilding the sash window and Dave Watton was still working on installing the second fireplace in the remaining downstairs room.   The  room was in chaos but the painters managed to squeeze in  work around the muddle of bits and pieces and as soon as Steve had finished the window, we were able to get to work on 3 of the walls…..

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Above right, Brian peers around the doorway, looking for a space to slip into!   Conditions weren’t ideal but we were determined to keep the decorating juggernaut moving onwards.   Above left, Steve finishing off the window work.   Note the condition of the walls before the team get to work.   Once finished you may see a difference.

Why only 3 walls?   The central wall has a troublesome damp issue and will need dry lining now the fire has been fitted and the plastering done (this work generously donated by TCI Interiors).   The internal walls of the house seem to have no damp course at all so moisture is rising from below!   Ho hum.

Swap Shop

The finished and furnished front room looks great.   Most fittings and furnishing are donated and Sue Thompson (seen here in cleaning mode) has developed the room as a Library with donated books.   The idea is that books, magazines and CDs can be taken away and kept for a small donation or swapped for free with something left by the swapper.   Essentially it’s a free service available for anyone to use on volunteering days (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday).   We even have curtains to hang (material donated by Bill and Margaret McDougall and made into curtains by Thelma’s daughter Sharon!)   We hope the room will be a hit with villagers and visitors alike.

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This room is available now for villagers to use for other things too!   There may soon be a sewing group meeting regularly there, so watch this space.   Maybe you have an idea to put forward?  Users will be welcome to make themselves a cuppa in the Bothy for a small donation.   There is already a good selection of fiction and non-fiction, magazines and a few music CDs with more donated goodies arriving daily.   Why not pop in and see what is available?

Fun at the forward planning forum

Annually we have an informal forum for volunteers, to give them the opportunity to put forward their ideas and suggest priorities for the coming year and as usual it was well attended.   We now have a long list of ideas to work on during 2016 which will keep us busy.   We are optimistically setting out a programme which includes re-roofing the potting shed and block paving the rear path; decorating the hall, stairs and landing; improving the drainage by the barn; painting the outside of the house and fitting a Belfast sink in the potting shed amongst other things.   On top of this there will be the usual on-going maintenance and gardening plus work towards the 2 major events – the Beer Festival on July 2nd and the bonfire on October 29th (dates for your diary!).   Plenty of ambition there then!   If you think you can help out then please come forward – even if it’s only for half a day – every little helps and many hands make light work, as they say.   The full list of tasks and ideas is displayed in the Bothy so come and have a look – you may find something there to float your boat and I can guarantee that you’ll be amazed how good it feels to be doing something fantastic for the village in such a friendly team.

Well that’s about all from me for now.   Hopefully, I’ll see you around at the garden or at the boathouse opening day….

Best wishes,

Roger