Newsletter 28 – October 2015

What a busy year it’s been so far.   August weather was a bit disappointing but September more than made up for it with warm sunny days to enjoy.   With some irony, the weather seemed to break as soon as the children started their school summer holidays and then improved immediately they went back to school!   Whatever happened to those faultless summer days I think I remember from my youth?

However, the weather seems to have suited the crops.   Stone fruits were in abundance – peaches,nectarines, apricots and plums all seemed to do well – and were delicious!   The allotments seem to have been very productive too.   As I write, the rose garden is coming into its second flush of flowers for the year and there is still plenty of colour around the gardens to enjoy.

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August Bank Holiday saw hundred of people visit the walled garden as part of the excursion around the village for Scarecrow Weekend.   Unusually perhaps, the weather remained good for the 2 days until the event closed and then the rain fell in torrents.   Sun shining on the righteous perhaps? More than 80 scarecrows were on display around the village and much appreciated by our visitors.   The event raised a lot of money to help support the Church and the Village Hall.   The new organising committee were great and were delighted when funds raised broke all previous records.   Well done to all who took part and helped to make it a memorable weekend.   A great scarecrow of ‘Rosie & Jim’ appeared at the Crown.   After the event, we were lucky enough to be able to transfer the installation to the walled garden where it proudly sits today!

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As the garden becomes better known locally we are finding that we get a steady stream of visitors every day.   We still find visitors from nearby villages who tell us that they ‘didn’t know we were here’ .   The message is getting out there – but very slowly in some cases!   However, the visitors always have nice things to say and this is great for keeping volunteers spirits high.

We have ‘organised’ visits where Sue Watton and here tam put on drinks and refreshments, we’ve had a couple of wedding receptions too but most of our visitors are ‘casual’ visitors dog walking, having a picnic or just seeking a bit of peace and quiet amongst lovely surroundings.   It’s becoming a favourite venue for disabled and elderly groups (well, it’s FREE) and recently a group of 11 year olds from Kingsbury School (above photo) came, dug up vegetable, made soup and had lunch – educational in the very best sense.   They also had a talk from an RSPB volunteer about garden birds and made bird feeders.   What a great day.   Last week we had a visit from a very young group of visually impaired children who seemed to get a lot from their short visit.   They went home with armfuls of fruit and vegetables and planned to do things with them back at school.   It was a real treat to show them round!

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It’s your Neighbourhood success again!

Jean Chamberlain & Peter Stubbs travelled to Solihull to the Royal Horticultural Society Awards Day.   We have entered this nationwide competition annually for the past 5 years and have gradually risen to ‘Outstanding’ in 2014 and now again in 2015. It’s a treat to have the judges here at the garden,   They offer ideas advice, encouragement and praise and give us something to aim at for the coming year.   They visit a wide range of projects like ours and offer a level of expertise which helps us move forward.   The volunteers are always keen to know ‘how we’ve done’ and when Jean & Peter returned with a special award – a glass trophy for Gardening Excellence – well, everyone was delighted!   We get a written report showing where we have earned our points but also ideas for future developments.

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Bonfire Spooktacular

By way of a change, we are holding the annual bonfire on Hallowe’en – Saturday 31st October.   This year we have new insurers and will need to restrict numbers attending so if you plan to be there then get your tickets early to avoid disappointment.   The event will be much the same as usual – i.e BRILLIANT.   The main event will be the bonfire and firework display (which promises to be better than ever this year).   In addition to the usual hot and cold food, hot and cold drinks and entertainment, there will be free face painting and free glow sticks for kids.   If the weather turns, there will be plenty of marquee space to keep customers warm and dry.   You’ve already had a flier from me about the event, but in case you’ve misplaced it, the ticket hotline number is 07702 839757 and tickets are on sale at local tourist offices and at Fradley and Whittington Post Offices.   See you there!

The Shed Supplement – a Special Report from the Riverside

Strange things have been going on by the river bank.   The sounds of hammering, sawing, heavy machinery and the occasional grunt of efforts being made have echoed across the river Tame since early spring.   Whatever has been happening, you ask.   The pictures below tell a story…..

Below left, the boathouse in the 2011 floods – just 2 lengths of dodgy brickwork were all that remained.   Note the trees growing in the entrance/exit.   They show just how long it’s been since it was useable as a boathouse!   The general view amongst volunteers was that restoration wasn’t going to be easy and the idea was shelved as impractical at present.   However, no-one told Lawrence Watton about this.   He had his own ideas and in January began dismantling the weakened bricks, cleaning them up and stacking them ready for re-use.   His activity raised some eyebrows but volunteers began to pitch in and help.   Tree surgeons came and began tree pruning on a major scale so that Gavin could get a digger in to remove the stumps – a delicate operation to be sure!   Preparation almost done – there was just the question of digging out 40 years of silt to see what we could find.

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So the digging began.   Before long Dad Dave was pitching in to help Lawrence and a plan was evolving to turn the restored building into a dual purpose facility – boat house and nature hide.   After several weeks of back-breaking work, the full extent of the base of the boathouse was visible – and impressive.   Keeping the river from flooding in was quite a challenge!   Next, Dave drew up plans for the new building to show to the volunteers and to get their approval and within a few short months the building was beginning to take shape.   Below you can see the 2 new windows which now look downstream and above, the timbers for the new roof ready for the tiles.   Most of the money for this restoration work was donated by one of our volunteers and – as usual – the labour cost the project nothing bar hard graft and determination!

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Here you can see the 2 new platforms inside the building – left for viewing, right for boat access.   In a nice touch, Dave Watton carved the names of all of the volunteers into the roof timbers and these are now visible inside the (almost) finished building for posterity.   As is generally the case at the walled garden, the level of craftsmanship and the quality of the finish is really high.

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The right hand photo was from the day we let the river back into the new boathouse.   It had taken only 8 months to get to this stage.   Gary Delderfield brought a team from Evershed’s back for another afternoon of volunteering.   They set about landscaping the area around the boathouse, seeding it with a grass and wild flower mix and adding a wildlife pond to attract creatures close to the viewing windows.   Below, you see the new pond filled and ready for tidying up and below, the finished item.

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All we need now is for the grass and wild flower seed to grow.   Started in January, finished by October.   Quite an achievement!   The official opening is planned for spring.   Watch this space!

Well that’s about all from me.   Dates for your diary – 31st October the Hallowe’en Bonfire Spooktacular and on December 24th, the Christmas Eve Carol Service and ‘live’ Nativity at the Heavy Horse Stable.   Another ‘live’ performance this year which will mark the Reverend Denise’s last day in office.

See you there – best wishes to you and yours, Roger