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!

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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.