Elford Hall Gardens Newsletter 50 – March 2020

Despite the gathering gloom of the Coronavirus, we still have something worthy of celebration!   This is the 50th edition of Roger’s newsletters AND the 10th year anniversary of the Elford Hall Garden Project so two things to cheer, I think!

So, what’s good in the garden?

If you haven’t been around the garden for a while then I’m afraid that you’ve missed most of the snowdrops, which have been lovely again this year.   However, the crocuses are still good, the daffodils are fabulous and there are other bulbs to impress too.   BUT….don ‘t leave it too long before you visit because they won’t flower forever!   There is plenty of colour about if you look for it, and now the days are longer and a bit warmer too, the garden will be getting better day by day.

Wet, wet, wet…

You might have noticed that 2020 has, so far, been a little on the damp side.   Our neighbouring River Tame has been up and down like a lift and conditions under foot have been a bit difficult at times.   We’ve been luckier than many in the Midlands and our plucky volunteers have turned out regularly to tackle those jobs that need to be done in the winter months.   We have managed to tidy up a few areas.   In the woodland near to the barn, much of the ivy and bramble has been cleared by Gordon & Andy and a new rustic path has been laid so that you can wander a short way through and enjoy bluebells when they flower.   Sue & Steve have been tackling the trees, thinning out where necessary.   Darren & Roger have been working on the restoration of the pony trap which is now nearing completion.   Steve & Dave have been dealing with the new season’s cider – this is progressing well and will soon be fit for tasting.   Thelma and Carol are well advanced with growing bedding plants ready for the spring and Christine, Peter & Alan are making good progress on the allotments despite the wet soil.   Fruit trees and bushes have been pruned and Michael & Barbara have hard at work behind the house getting everything ship shape. Dorothy and several others have been busy pruning the roses (the daffs in the rose garden are lovely at the moment) and Mike has begun to lick the sensory garden into shape.   Lots of other tasks has been addressed by Nathan, Mick, Pete, Sue and Jamie and others I might have missed out (apologies) but it has been a great team effort despite the inclement weather!

No room in the boathouse today!                    Can you find the boathouse in this picture?

Above are shots of one of the many days when flooding was an issue.   This is probably the highest I’ve seen the water level at for many years.   The shrub beds – here beneath the water on the terrace slope – seem to have survived the ordeal but we’ll need to clear out the interesting flood debris that got caught up in their branches!

Below you can see the pony trap in various stages of reconstruction.   Much rubbing down and repainting has been done.   Here, Roger is hard at work.   Darren was there too…he took the picture!

Wind in the Willows?

Laurence Watton is a useful bloke to have around the place and his talents have been well utilised on the project.   When he isn’t digging great holes in the ground to expose long forgotten brickwork, he’s tinkering with bits of machinery or fiddling with things relating to wildlife.   Rarely does he arrive at the garden without something strange (and delicious) that he’d just happened to bake.

However, I’m a bit worried about some of his more recent creativity.   It isn’t unusual to see him arrive with the odd bird box or owl box but he seems to have drifted into real estate for fictional characters of late…….     Thanks to Laurence, we now have a small housing development at the walled garden.   These starter homes do take a bit of finding but it’s worth the search! I do believe that more might be on the way.

Below to the right we have Mole End, a bijoux property for the discerning gentlemole.   Below left would suit an elderly badger and above is Ratty’s home.   All are open for viewing….if you can find them!

Step forward, the path clearing team…

The limestone paths needed attention, heavy duty weed killer having failed to control the unwanted plants that were beginning to take over.   Plan: to set up a team and spend a day clearing them.   Many hands would soon give the paths the facelift they deserved.   The team bit was the easy part.   We got together a willing team that numbered between 6 and at times up to 10 people.   The task, however took nearly 3 weeks and it was backbreaking graft!   First, the heavy rain had softened the paths too much.   Then we produced numerous barrow loads of weeds which needed to be carted to the compost bins.   Unfortunately, these were all under water as a result of the flooding so we had to stockpile them in one area and move them when the river went down.   Well, it all makes work for the working man (and woman) to do!

Below, Sue Wattrus is making a start (and looking surprisingly cheerful)alongside Jamie.

Several years ago I’d spent day after day with the team laying the path edgings and I’d forgotten just how much path there was to clear.   It now came back to me like a bad dream!   The clearing team stuck to the task well and you can see by the ‘after’ photo to the right just how much difference they have made!   Above are some of the team hard at work!   You can spot the youngest of the team.   It’s Nathan – he’s the one who can still bend over!

On the produce stall

There are currently a few perennial plants on the plant stall and jams, chutney and parsnips on the produce table if you are interested.   Thelma is busy potting up annuals and they will begin to appear during the next few weeks as the weather improves.

In the library in the Gardener’s House there are plenty of books to collect to stop you from getting bored if you have to self-isolate!

Rustic woodland walk

Having dealt with the limestone path clearing, Gordon, Andy, Roger, Nathan and Jamie set about creating a new path.   It runs through the woodland area by the barn so that visitors can wander through the bluebells later in the spring.   Please try to find it and use it as that will help consolidate the wood chip.

And finally…..

It’s been a busy winter and now the world seems to have gone mad!   As Britain joins the rest of Europe by closing everything down, please take care of yourselves and stay well.

My best wishes to you all….Roger

Here are just a couple of cheerful photos of smiling faces to finish off with.   Till the next time….

Left: Sue & Steve Clarke have been working tirelessly at tidying up trees around the site.   Being golfers, they have been happy getting their own back on the trees!   Right is the unveiling of Mike’s reconstructed urn which is now resplendent behind the house.   Gordon, Barbara and Peter displaying appropriate enthusiasm!


Since writing this newsletter, the Trustees have decided to keep the garden open but to close the Bothy and the Gardener’s House to members of the public until further notice.

The Gig in the Garden

Saturday 29 April 2017 – The Acoustic Gig in the Garden 

We are delighted to announce a special acoustic gig for music fans in the magical setting of Elford Walled Garden on Saturday 29 April 2017 starting at 6.30pm.

This is a unique opportunity to experience great live music in a spectacular English walled garden setting. Headlining the show is American singer songwriter, Stephen Simmons. Stephen hails from Woodbury, Tennessee and is over in the UK as part of a European tour. He comes armed with his acoustic guitar, harmonica and stack of great songs from his 10 album career. Expect an evening of song and storytelling drawn from a decade of experiences of life on the road as a touring troubadour. Stephen draws from a wide American musical heritage encompassing elements of folk, blues, country and the classic singer/songwriter genre.

The show will start with an opening set set from the great local-based acoustic duo ‘Brindley Hunt’ who have released a new album of original songs.

Tickets cost £10 and are available via PayPal

Email: garydelderfield@gmail.com

Tel:     01827 383533 or 07826 918202

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.



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


  • 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

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!

P1150680 P1030376

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!

Xmas lunch24-12-15-97

 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.

P1000057 JLRcheque#1

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

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.

Neighbourhood Awards -88

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!