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.

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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

Family Music & Real Ale Festival July 2nd 2016

2016 Real Ale Banner

Plans are well underway for the forthcoming Music & Real Ale Festival at the walled garden in Elford.   The event will open at 13.00 with music commencing at 13.30 and continuing till around 10pm.  As usual, there will be plenty of variety on offer with over 25 real ales, lagers and ciders to taste and cream teas, BBQ food, chips and an evening hog roast to satisfy your appetites.   There will be games for children (and grown up children) and various other attractions.

Entry is by ticket at £6 for adults and £3 for children aged 5 to 16.   These are available directly from this website by using the PayPal button below or can be obtained from Tamworth or Lichfield tourist offices, local post offices or by telephoning 01827 383097 or 07702 839757.

If you haven’t been to the beerfest before then why not come along this year.   It’s a great day out in a lovely rural setting and the perfect place to relax with friends or to meet new friends.

See you there!


Tickets



Rebirth of a boathouse

Saturday 23rd April saw the official opening of the restored boathouse at Elford Hall Gardens.

When the project began in 2009, there was not much remaining of the once elegant boathouse on the River Tame. Restoration of this particular boathouse was not high on the project list of priorities and efforts were inevitably directed towards buildings that were immediately more valuable in the overall context of the project. The boathouse restoration was also fraught with difficulties as mature trees were growing within the boathouse and across its entrance! Not to mention the tonnes of mud and silt that had filled the boathouse over the years and buried the fallen roof timbers and tiles.

Boathouse ruins in 2009
Boathouse ruins in 2009

The decision was taken to put the restoration of the boathouse on the back burner. Volunteers were fully occupied on other tasks, not least the general maintenance to keep the garden looking presentable for our increasing numbers of visitors. The boathouse would have to wait….

Out go the tree stumps Dec 2014
Out go the tree stumps Dec 2014

 

Fortunately, no-one told Laurence Watton that the boathouse was not to be a priority, so, with commendable initiative he began digging out the silt by hand. In his mind was the prospect of creating a wildlife hide within the boathouse, while still letting it maintain its original function. Dad Dave Watton was soon drawn into helping out, as were other volunteers from time to time and soon this restoration was well underway, financed by a generous donation from one of the project volunteers. Work began in November 2014 and was completed early this year with much of the work being a Watton family effort. Much credit to them!

The craftsmanship on the restoration is of a high standard. All volunteers involved have had their names carved into the roof beams for posterity. It is a functioning boathouse, but the addition of two windows and a wildlife pond have created a dual function for watching wildlife.

The restored boathouse in 2016
The restored boathouse in 2016

The ceremony on Saturday opened with some words of welcome from Roger Thompson, as a crowd of some 75 locals, friends and volunteers gathered. The ribbon was ceremonially cut by long –serving volunteer Julie Cox and project patron Matthew Ellis made some very nice comments about the project as a whole, having been a close supporter since 2006, before the project got underway in. The assembled group then retired to the marquee to celebrate in some style with a bring and share lunch and some well received entertainment from the Walled Garden Wailers and long-time supporter Alun Davies. Needless to say, a good time was had by all!

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!

Boathouse flood P1000055

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

 

Newsletter 29 – January 2016

Please make a note of these dates:

  • On January 23rd at 11am, we will be holding the annual volunteers forum.   This gives the project team an opportunity to update everyone on progress during 2015 and for everyone to offer ideas for development during 2016. Be there if you can.   Lunch follows!
  • On Saturday 30th January, Brindley-Hunt acoustic rock/pop duo will be entertaining in the Village Hall from 7.15pm.   An evening not to be missed!   Roger has tickets if you need them. Barry Hunt was the headline act at the beer festival in 2015.
  • The Project AGM will be held in the Gardener’s House on Saturday February 20th at 2pm.   Everyone is welcome so come along and have your say.
  • On the afternoon of 23rd April – in the marquee – there will be a casual social event to thank everyone who has contributed to the success of the walled garden in 2015.   Details will follow but put the date in your diary.

Damp start to 2016

Welcome to the first newsletter on 2016 and a happy New Year to all of our readers!   Since November, we seem to have had wet day after wet day so garden work has been a bit hit and miss.   However, we’re not complaining.   Compared to the rest of the country we have come off lightly so far and have avoided the harrowing scenes we have all seen on our TV screens.  At least the days are lengthening!   We already have snowdrops out in the garden and daffodils already with large flower buds showing signs of colouring up.   Crazy for January ….. but no doubt that there will be some real winter somewhere around the corner!

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Bonfire Spooktacular

You will already have read (I hope) about the success we had this year with the bonfire fund-raiser.   The weather was kind, the food and fireworks were great, the volunteers were brilliant and the Wailers wailed away!   As a result, we were able to raise useful funds and have already been able to purchase a large marquee to replace one of the tired older models.   Investing in the future!   Thanks to all concerned and all who came along.   It was a great night, wasn’t it?

Jason and his team put on a fabulous firework display.   Some of the money raised will be used to professionally train two more volunteers to put on such displays safely.   Money well spent!

Malcolm Fisher, a regular visitor to the garden, has posted several videos on YouTube which feature different elements of the garden going back over several years and these are well worth a look.   You can relive the entire firework display should you wish to!   Just search for Elford Hall Garden on YouTube and be amazed!

Christmas bring and share lunch

On the last volunteering day before Christmas, the volunteers gathered for the now annual bring and share celebration lunch.   The Bothy was toasty warm and full of revellers and I have never seen so much food on the table – it was groaning – and so were we once we had eaten our fill!   Just look at the happy faces – and this was before we opened the wine bottles!   We treat our volunteers really well – we even gave them time off over Christmas – well, almost a week!

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 God Speed Reverend Denise

This Christmas has seen the retirement of Reverend Denise who has served the village and surrounding area for many years.   Both she and husband Phil will be much missed and they will be a tough team to follow.   They leave with our blessing, our gratitude and our wishes for a happy retirement.

Almost her last act in office was to preside over the live Nativity event, which she introduced a few years ago.   The heavy horse stable at the garden was the site for the birth and the arrival of the shepherds, angels and kings and the spectacle was witnessed by a flock of around 200 people, bringing to life the greatest story ever told and giving local youngsters a Christmas Eve to remember by bringing home the true message and real spirit of Christmas.

Rising Damp

To celebrate the arrival of 2016, Thelma organised a walk in the Peak District centred on Tissington.   It would have been lovely but for the weather!   We started in pouring rain which got worse as we tramped across muddy fields and over slippery stiles.   Around 14 doughty souls stepped out into the elements.   It was so bad that, in a perverse ‘British’ way, it became great fun – sharing adversity with friends and laughing a lot!  Bedraggled and rather moist, we made our way to the Bentley Brook Inn at Fenny Bentley where 6 non-walkers joined us for an excellent carvery lunch.   It was a day to remember for many reasons.   Thanks Thelma!

Land Rover Discovery

Thanks to Colin Middlemore, we received a cheque for £1500 from Jaguar Land Rover who have a funding distribution scheme to help local charities.   Colin was alerted to the scheme and, at the eleventh hour, put forward a case for the walled garden.   Much to his surprise (and to our delight) his application was successful.   This will be put to good use soon so if you have any ideas or suggestions regarding what we do with the grant then we’d be delighted to hear them.

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Ship Ahoy?                         

Down at the boathouse, something stirs!   Already Laurence has great photos taken from the hide window so we are feeling confident that it will make a good hideout for wildlife watchers.   Recent rises in river level have seen the water rise above the walkway but this was expected.   There is still a little tidying up and finishing off to be done but that is in hand and we are looking to organise a spring ‘official opening’ to which you will be invited so watch out for my emails with further details about what is planned.   ABOVE LEFT – Wildlife pond from inside the boathouse

Welcome to the House of Fun

During the inclement weather, some of us have taken the opportunity to look for indoor work so the Gardener’s House has been buzzing (and banging) with activity.   Dave had already fitted the new (old style) fireplace in the front room and plastering work had been done so a team set to work filling holes, rubbing down and re-decorating the room.   It’s been a bit like an episode from DIY SOS with random bodies holding paint brushes climbing over each other!   If you stand still you are likely to get emulsioned!!  The finished room now looks a 100 times better (though not perfect!) and the floor will soon be in and the room ready for use.   Watch this space…..

We plan to use the room as a winter hideaway for visitors when the weather isn’t in their favour.   We hope to set it out like a café (drinks available on request on volunteering days) so we are currently looking for small tables and café style chairs to furnish the room.   We also intend to set up a swap library for books and magazines so visitors can bring in an item and swap it for something off the bookshelves.   This will be a free service to the community which we hope will work well.

If you have suitable books or furnishings that might be useful then we’d be happy to hear from you.

Downstairs Upstairs

The remaining front room will get the same treatment.   Steve Eyley is repairing/rebuilding the sash window prior to repair work on the plaster being done. The fire still needs to be fitted but we are moving forward steadily.   The decorating team, meanwhile, have moved upstairs to the project office which will be completed this week so that Angela can move back in to something a little more comfortable and warm.   Reg is tackling the plaster cracks in one of the bedrooms and the decorators will be moving into the downstairs toilet area to give that a lick of paint while the brushes are wet!   It’s all happening!   Come and have a look.

All quiet on the Western Front?

This always seems to be a quiet time of the year at the garden and I start out wondering if I will have enough news to warrant a newsletter.   Now, reading back to check my english, I can reflect that actually a lot is going on at the moment and that feels good.   Despite wet conditions, the gardeners are busy digging, manuring and preparing for spring and generally keeping on top of things.   The grass is still growing – we were mowing last week – can you believe it?    Pete is busy in his barn – repairing, making bird boxes, painting things and we have been blessed with the arrival of a couple of new volunteers since autumn and they are already proving their worth.   One of our new stalwarts is Batur who lives in Edingale but originates from Istanbul so we are all learning a bit of Turkish,  so in view of this can I wish you

Hepinize mutlu bir yeni yıl from Roger & the Project Team

Spectacular bonfire success

Hallowe’en was simply a wonderful night for the walled garden and for everyone who attended. The weather was kind to us and Jason’s fireworks were spectacular and seemed to go on for ages. The bonfire is still burning brightly this morning!

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On behalf of the Walled Garden Project, I’d like to offer a huge thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make the evening a success. Nearly 70 volunteers turned out to help – can you believe that? Without them there would be no bonfire spooktacular and, in truth, there would be no walled garden at all! I think we all know that the walled garden at Elford is a pretty unique place and a wonderful asset to the village – all thanks to voluntary effort by many folk.

Thanks too, to everyone who came along and enjoyed the evening – it wouldn’t have been the same without you! See you again next year hopefully.

Our next big fundraiser will be on July 2nd 2016 with the Family Music and Real Ale Festival

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

Volunteers rewarded for their commitment to the project

Peter Stubbs and Jean Chamberlain travelled to Solihull today to represent the Elford Hall Garden Project at the Royal Horticultural Society presentation for the ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ national competition. ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ is like Britain in Bloom but for voluntary community groups with a ‘floral’ link. In the past 4 years we have been earning increasingly better awards and last year we were rewarded with the top honour.

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The volunteers have worked miracles on the site, turning it from an overgrown and dilapidated wilderness, into a lovely garden free for all to enjoy.   It has been a case of ordinary people doing extraordinary things for others, while at the same time enjoying fresh air, exercise and the company of the many new friends they have made whilst on the project.

Today at the presentation, we were again awarded an ‘Outstanding’ category award and in addition, we were also one of the few entries to be awarded a special trophy for gardening excellence. Needless to say, we’re feeling pretty smug at the moment!