Elford Hall Gardens – Newsletter 38 – November 2017

Welcome to the autumn newsletter.   The days are shortening, the first frosts of the winter have arrived and it’s tidying up time at the walled garden.   As I write, most of the leaves have fallen – creating plenty of opportunities for enthusiastic raking so that we can compost the leaves for future use.   Most of the harvest is now in, but there is no shortage of jobs to do in preparation for next year.    No time to get bored then!

It’s your Neighbourhood

2017 was another great year for the walled garden – at least, according to the Royal Horticultural Society, who awarded us a Level 5 Outstanding certificate in their 2017 ‘It’s your Neighbourhood’ competition.       It’s good to get confirmation from the experts that we are doing a good job.

The judges always give us a few ideas on how we might improve things for 2018 and the volunteers always appreciate their support and especially their compliments.   Mike & Barbara Sadler took the trip to Coventry to receive the award on our behalf.   Barbara writes:

We felt very proud to be receiving the award for Elford Gardens.   It was so interesting to see how groups of people could come together to build gardens and this also helped them to build new friendships, just like we have found since joining the project and we recommend it to anyone who would be interested in volunteering like us’.

On the ‘engineering’ side of things, quite a lot has been happening since I last wrote.   At the rear of the gardener’s house, part of the leaking outhouse roof has been replaced – work in progress!   Also in progress is the rebuilding of the sash windows in the house.   This is slow work requiring a good deal of expertise from Steve Eyley and Dave Watton.   All of the house windows needed rebuilding but there are only 3 left to do!   With the final bedroom now finished, we will just have the stairs and landing left to do this winter  – a job for when the weather prevents us from tackling outside jobs.

A lot of work has gone into tidying up the area around the barn.   The large pile of logs has disappeared, a new limestone chip surface has been laid between the house and the paddock, a new path has been laid by the hedge and the large area between the house and the barn has been seeded with wildflowers and should look a picture in 2018.   The dogwoods planted by the barn have settled in well and now look a picture.

New visitors to the garden?

The Village Scarecrowfest in August bought many new visitors to the walled garden and a few of them liked it so much that they stayed on!   We always benefit from the Scarecrow Festival as new people discover the garden for the very first time and lots of them return for a second visit – and often bring friends along.   We also provide a space for some of the scarecrows once the festival is over.   This year, if you look hard enough, you can find a giraffe, a gorilla, a snake, a rather large serpent and the Gruffalo all lurking in the gardens.   The Incredible Hulk has returned (in a new disguise) to guard our back gate and ‘Morris’ is keeping an eye on our front gate (below right).   You’ll also find some of the several scarecrows produced by Sue Watton, our very own scarecrow construction machine!

Garden Round Up

What a fabulous year 2017 has been for fruit!   We’ve had a terrific cropping year for all of our tree fruits in the orchard.   First came a heavy crop of plums and greengages, then trees groaned under the weight of apples and pears.   The produce table has been full of fruit all autumn!   There are a few winter vegetables still to harvest so come along and share in Nature’s Bounty while you can!

Above left is ‘Marino’s vine’, grown from a cutting given to us by Marino Rosa and fruiting better than ever this year and rambling beautifully over the pergola in the sensory garden.   Above right is one of the mature pear trees growing in the orchard and giving us the best crop we have seen since 2009 when we began work here.   The pears are difficult to harvest with the tree being so tall but well worth the effort – they are delicious!

Not much of our fruit goes to waste.   Volunteer Frank Wood is a skilled  cider maker.   He is turning our windfalls into cider (which will be available at the Beer Festival in 2018) and also he ran a day of apple pressing at the garden.   The fresh juice was just amazing!   Some of his cider has been on sale at the Crown so you have a chance to try it out – it’s well worth it!   Much of our soft fruit has been turned into some 200 jars of lovely jam by Jean & Ron Chamberlain and by Chris King and others.   This has been on our produce table, raising valuable funds to keep the project going.   Thanks to them all.   Ron & Jean also keep our bird feeders well stocked – what stars they are!

Behind the gardener’s house, Thelma has been busy propagating.   Her green fingers have produced a stream of young plants for the produce table and which prove popular with visitors.   With help from Barbara & Mike, they have turned the rear garden into something approaching a mini garden centre.

A warm welcome…..

Following the questionnaire completed earlier in the summer, we have been fortunate in attracting 3 new trustees to the board.   Ben Crutchley and Ursula & Colin Middlemore have kindly stepped forward to help guide the project through the next 10 years and they will, no doubt, be valuable assets.   Avril Commons, one of our original trustees has stepped aside this year but will maintain a close contact with what’s happening at the garden and be on hand with advice, as will Angela Cornell who has retired after many years of valuable service as treasurer.   Our grateful thanks go to them both – they will be missed.   Angela’s duties have been taken over by Phil Clayton and we wish him a warm welcome to the team.

The new trustees will help to formulate the plan for the next 10 years at the garden.   The village questionnaire has given us lots of good ideas to consider over the next 12 months and we hope to have the next phase planned out in time for 2019 when the current 10 year plan expires.

A Reminder….

The walled garden is a facility available for the whole village to use.   In the house we have the swapping library – bring along a book and swap it for another, or take away a book and leave a small donation.   The front room of the house is also available for people to use as a meeting room.   It’s already being used by a village needlework group (see picture below) and could be used by you – there is no charge.   The marquee is available for a donation too! Let us know if you want to use the house during winter so that we can turn on the heating!

Of Village interest…

A new group is emerging with a bit of history attached, and by that I mean that they are interested in researching things relating to Elford village history.   After holding a preliminary meeting, the group will meet again on November 22nd in the Village Hall at 7.30pm.   To find out more, speak to Greg Watkins or Sue Robotham.   We’re hoping that the group will discover more about the Walled Garden and the Elford Estate to fill in the gaps in our history.

Plans are in hand to recreate the Nativity ‘live’ on Christmas Eve at the walled garden stable.   This will be a great treat for everyone so be there if you can make it.

Best wishes, Roger.