Elford Hall Gardens – Newsletter 42 – Autumn 2018

A warm welcome to the rather late Autumn newsletter.   The extraordinary spells of hot summer weather are but a distant memory now.   The autumn leaves have been glorious this year, but much as I love to see them on the trees, after 4 weeks of almost non-stop raking them up from the ground, I’m sick of seeing them – and every time the wind blows, another fresh layer falls and the work begins again! The orchard has delivered amazing apple and plum crops this year, despite the lack of rain.   If this is what summers of the future will be like as the planet warms up then I don’t think I’ll be the first to complain!   But Autumn leaf fall….well, someone else can rake them up next year!

Twins peak?

The walled garden hosted several village events over the summer as well as welcoming visiting groups from the wider area.   This is perhaps an opportune moment to remind readers that the gardener’s house and the garden itself is available to village groups.   Already, the village sewing group make use of the Gardener’s House in the warmer months, so why not join them?   Weddings and parties using the facilities DO make a contribution to the project but village groups/events are often free of charge.

One of these events saw history being made with the official ceremony to confirm and complete the formal document signing to confirm the village twinning with the village of Awoingt in the Hauts-de-France region in Northern France.   There has been a growing friendship between our 2 villages for several years, with Elfordians staying with families in Awoingt with return visits here in Elford.   Villagers were welcomed in Awoingt in June for the official signing of paperwork in France and the return visit here in August completed the process.   Phil Turley (Parish Counsellor with responsibility for the twinning) and Awoingt mayor Jean-Richard Lechowicz met in the marquee at the Walled Garden to put their signatures to what we hope will be a continuation of many good things for both villages.   Why not get involved?

Revellers following a real English tea                         Phil & Jean-Richard do the business

The twinning weekend saw a series of social events take place just as the weather broke and rain fell, almost washing out the planned treasure hunt but it did not dampen the spirits and a good time was had by all.   Some of the participants are shown to the left.

On yer bike!

In the spirit of Anglo-French entente cordial, fund-raisers for the school set out on cycles to complete our own ‘Tour d’Elford’.    It was a great success despite the weather. To make it an inclusive event and to cater for all abilities the organisers added smaller distances to cater for all abilities and were proud to say that cyclists had an age range of over 40 years and included both ladies and gentlemen.   The Marquee proved to be a great venue for the evening and created a brilliant atmosphere for the 95 people who attended, all keen to celebrate the rider’s achievements.   The day proved to be a great fundraiser and plans are already in hand for the 2019 Tour, so I’m getting my lycra onesy ready!

Outstanding Performance again!

You will be pleased to hear that we maintained our standard as Outstanding – Level 5 at the Royal Horticultural Society Annual Awards Presentation for the ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ competition.   Volunteer Julie Cox and Trustee and allotment coordinator Terry Jones & wife Lynn attended the presentation to collect our certificate.   Terry spoke very briefly with the assessor who came to the Walled Garden and he reiterated how good the project is, the high standard that has been achieved and how much he loves coming to visit us. We can’t ask for more………but, as usual, we will eventually receive a critique which will highlight areas where we might look to improve before judging takes place in 2019.   Full marks to the selfless volunteers whose hard work has provided the village with a facility to be proud of and which benefits large numbers of locals and other visitors and all FREE OF CHARGE.

Juicy news for cider lovers, hot off the press!

Volunteer Frank Wood is an experienced cider maker, supplying many pubs in the Burton area.   Looking to downsize, he has kindly donated all of his cider-making equipment to the Walled Garden.   Under his careful tuition, volunteers have taken our bumper apple crop and the juice is now slowly converting to the as yet unnamed Walled Garden Cider.

You may be able to sample this at the Crown when it is ready to drink! Darren and Steve are seen here pressing the crop.   The fresh juice tastes lovely so I’m hoping the cider will be great!

Last Orders?

After the successful Beerfest in 2018, the organisers have decided take a sabbatical during 2019. No doubt, this will disappoint many villagers but putting on such a big event is particularly hard work for volunteers and comes at a time when general work in the garden is also quite intense and the volunteers, unfortunately, are not getting any younger!   The beer festival takes around 4 weeks of fairly heavy work to put together, run and dismantle and the incredible heat this year made it somewhat problematical for our ageing work force.   We really need some of the younger villagers to step up and take on some of the work and to give the old ’ens a bit of a rest! So, at least for 2019, there will be no big beer festival. Instead, it is likely that we will be putting on a number of smaller events that will fit into the main marquee which we feel can be run without the huge amount of work that the beerfest takes to put on.

We are ever grateful to the small army of people who turn out on Festival Day and work so hard to make the event a success.   If you are interested in being more involved in any future beer festival then please contact us.   We know that it is an event that many in the village look forward to and it would be a shame to see it disappear.   Preparation CAN always be done at weekends!

Split apple

It’s an ill wind……

 The gusty September winds came and went, leaving us with only a small amount of damage to put right!   An ancient and partly rotten damson tree was snapped at the base and one of our best flavoured apples was split into 3 – right down the trunk!   It was laden with masses of fruit which is why it was so vulnerable.   However, the fruit went straight onto the produce table or to the cider press, which cut our losses.   We wait to see if the tree will shoot from the base, but we aren’t too hopeful!

Elsewhere, climbing roses and other climbers were torn from their supports and needed to be re-attached.   A bit of a prickly task!   Otherwise, we escaped quite lightly this time.

Watton’s Walk on the Wild Side

Laurence writes “Patient visitors to the boathouse will be rewarded by an impressive variety of our feathered friends. Soon we will hear the fieldfares and red wings, coming to feed on the hawthorn berries and rotting fruit.  A regular visitor to the orchard is the green woodpecker and Kingfishers do seem to enjoy coming into the bird hide and fishing off the handrails. Early morning or evening is always a good time to see them.   The jays are busy collecting and storing acorns and peanuts from the boathouse feeders, which have been missed by the cheeky squirrels.   Barn owls are very vocal at the moment and they can been seen gliding down the far side of the riverbank hunting for any unsuspecting mouse or vole”.

“Badgers are coming out at around 5.45pm but this can be dependent on weather.   They are certainly busy, judging from the damage being done to the grass areas in the Giant’s Garden and the Orchard.   No otters have been seen for a few months but they are secretive creatures and appear mostly after dusk on the river so are hard to spot.   One creature which I have seen a lot of lately is the signal crayfish.   They are very active at night time as they search for small items of food”.

“If we get any snow this winter then the feeders around the boat house is a great place to sit and watch the birds and mammals all using the feeders. And you never know, you might have a kingfisher come in from the cold and sit next to you in the bird hide or perhaps enjoy a close encounter with a fox”.

S’no Boules for Winter!

The boules season has now drawn to a close with the darker evenings closing in.   We’ve had a bit of a mixed year in 2018.   Early in the summer, the weather was reasonable but then we were unfortunate to catch rain on almost every meeting night.   It was uncanny.   We had weeks of scorching dry weather but even during the hot spell, it managed to rain on Friday evening, sometimes starting just as the first players arrived.   However, convivial evenings were spent chatting in the bothy so we managed to extract maximum pleasure despite Mother Nature’s best efforts to thwart us!   An excellent ‘bring and share’ evening in the Bothy brought the season to a close!

Growing Pains?

Allotment coordinator Terry Jones writes: “The allotments are continuing to make a strong contribution to the vitality of the gardens. The joy of gardening is that every year is different, although, this year has been really difficult and has tested our resolve as allotment holders. However, being at the Walled Garden outways all of these difficulties.  We have had some successes.   Many types of fruit have been good, particularly soft fruit, apples, grapes and apricots.  The second planting of carrots and beetroot has been good too, and the potatoes have done well this year.  Those who have grown tomatoes have avoided blight for about the first time in many years!!   All of the plots are currently occupied and we have a number of people on the waiting list”.

My best wishes to all our readers

Roger

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elford Hall Gardens – Newsletter 41 – July 2018

I note that my previous newsletter was sent out in March!   Where did the time go?  In March, we had not long had a snowfall and the garden was looking very sad.   Spring came and went, the garden burst into life and the Spring bulbs were amazing this year (I hope you were around to see them).   Just as things were looking splendid, it stopped raining and now I wonder if we will ever see rain again!   The sweltering heat has slowed down the pace of volunteering and watering has been the order of the day.   But, it’s a large area to deal with and despite our best efforts, the drought and heat has taken its toll on the plants. We hope that they will be able to recover once the good weather breaks, as it surely must.

This week, we welcome the visit of the Royal Horticultural Society judges and dread to think what they will find to please them!   Speaking of the judging, I normally prepare a list for them of what has happened at the garden since their visit in July 2017.   It is interesting to look back on our achievements – you tend to lose sight of what’s been achieved when you are there week in, week out.   So here’s a list!

  • Greenhouse – erected and put to good use
  • Tidying up work done in the plant nursery area
  • Replanting of lavender area in sensory garden
  • New small wildlife pond and new pond by the vinery set up and stocked with fish
  • Riverside otter holt and badger sett construction with cameras installed
  • Paving of commemorative sundial on the main lawn
  • Asparagus beds established on volunteer allotment
  • Resurfacing of some paths and improvement to drainage by the barn
  • Machinery washing area established
  • Hopscotch area set up
  • Completion of all oak doors and windows in the bothy building and chimney rebuilt
  • Path to house front door improved
  • More windows rebuilt in the house and tiles laid in the hall

Judgement Day!

The judges cast their scrutiny over the garden on Thursday 26th July but we will have to wait till September to find out how we have fared this year.   I don’t think I’ve ever seen the garden looking so devastated – they must have felt that they’d come to administer the last rites!   However, they were very appreciative and encouraging and offered some good ideas on future development possibilities

Jim Riley Memorial

Just after Christmas, we set about laying a central paved area in readiness for a special memorial for Jim Riley, one of our original volunteers.   Together with the family, we funded a beautiful sundial and an elegant plinth to stand it on and this was installed in April ready for a small unveiling ceremony.   Three generations of Jim’s family were able to brave the rain (yes, rain!) on the day, as Margaret did the honours.   Jim made a great contribution to the project, especially in the early days before his illness became a serious issue and he is fondly remembered by volunteers.

People in Glasshouses…..

The new greenhouse has done amazing service already this year.   Thelma has worked tirelessly growing seeds, taking cuttings and potting on plants for the produce table and donations left for plants taken have certainly been boosted this year as a result.   Both flowers and vegetable seedlings have been very popular with regulars at the garden.   Many of her plants also find their way into the walled garden on allotments and flower beds.   We’ve had steady supplies of soft fruit for sale and the early tree fruits will soon be taking their place on the produce table.  Already, the first of the year’s vegetables are beginning to appear on the produce table and there will now be a steady flow of new, fresh veg available to callers.

The Elford Jam Factory

Ron & Jean Chamberlain have been busy picking our soft fruit and turning them into delicious jam.   This can be found on the produce table at the moment and donations left are a real help when it comes to swelling our funds.   Over the years, they have produced several hundred jars of  jam so come along and try it for yourself!   Well done to them and to our other jam makers, Their efforts are much appreciated.   Keep up the good work!

Mister Growmore

Despite the testing conditions for our allotment holders, most of the allotments are looking good and beginning to offer up the rewards for the hard work put in.   In the recent Alrewas Show, allotment holder Owen Beardsmore looks to have swept the board with a grand selection of rosettes for entries grown here in the walled garden.   Well done Owen and family!   Perhaps our allotment holders should consider having their very own show….

Next time you are strolling around the garden, having visited Tarte au Citroen for your Sunday cuppa, have a close look at the allotments and see the good work that is going on.

Going wild….

This photo shows part of the ‘new’ wildflower meadow between the barn and the house which was prepared and sown earlier in the spring.   It has been fabulous this year (though well past its best now) and credit goes to Harry, Kit and Toby who did most of the work in creating the bed as part of their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award community service.

Hannah and Tyra have also been doing valuable service helping Thelma in the potting shed as part of their D of E work.   Well done to them all.   It’s great to have young people involved in the project!

It ain’t ‘arf hot Mum!

July 7th was the day of the Family Music & Real Ale Festival and what a day it was!   It came in the middle of the hottest summer I can remember, with hardly a drop of rain having fallen for several weeks.   The festival site takes us about 2 weeks of hard work to put together and a further 10 days to dismantle . Trying to do all of this with the thermometer hovering around the 30 mark was quite demanding.   A lot of water was consumed…….

As usual, the volunteers turned out to get the site festival ready and on the day we were blessed with a great response from villagers to steward the event.   What a scorcher it was! It was a long day, with volunteers busy from 8am until almost midnight as revellers stayed on to enjoy the balmy evening air.   Amazingly, many of them were back on site at 9am on the Sunday morning to help begin the clear-up work.   A massive thank you to everyone.

England’s unexpected success in the World Cup gave us an unexpected last minute problem.   Would people stay away?   The decision was taken to turn the large marquee into a TV room and despite the lack of time, Jason and his team were able to work the miracle.   I found myself (briefly) in the marquee as the teams came onto the pitch.   Rarely have I heard the National Anthem delivered with such passion by the crowd in the packed marquee!

New this year was a free circus skills workshop which was conducted brilliantly by Flambé Circus Theatre and enjoyed by many who tried out the wide range of activities. The bouncy castle was well used, despite the heat, and parents were able to relax knowing that their children were happily occupied!

As usual, Richard had organised an extensive range of over 20 real ales, plus a selection of ciders and wines.   In the heat, more than 80% was consumed on the day, with Pimms being particularly popular!

There was a great atmosphere in the garden and a good time was had by all – even by those working as stewards!   The volunteers on the BBQ and teas worked hard but the hot weather had a negative impact on appetites to some extent!   Jason & Lee with their team made a great programme of entertainment possible for everyone to enjoy and the crowds stayed on quite late to make the most of the warm evening.

All of the performers gave their time free of charge in support of the charity and all were excellent.   It was a great shame that some had to perform to crowds that were depleted by the football kick-off but those who stayed to listen were well impressed and David Hidderley did a great job as compere.

Newcomer to the Festival, Tom Craven, was a particular success and we look forward to his return at the next festival.

A sad moment was the farewell festival performance from top act Barry Hunt (above right).   Barry has been a regular since the very first Elford Beer Festival but will soon be moving from the area so it is unlikely that we will enjoy his talents again.   As usual, he worked the crowd with ease and entertained us with his virtuoso guitar work.   He will be a hard act to follow!

The Small Schools Multi Academy Choir goes from strength to strength and got the event off to a great start.   Blast Off, always a lively act, set the bar high for quality and these high standards were continued by polished performances from The Quartet (there were 5 of them!) and Vintage Rhythms Collective.   Tamworth Voices were great this year – getting better all the time.   It was good to see the return of the talented Morag and Co (right) and as usual, the event was brought to a conclusion (some would say standstill) by the Walled Garden Wailers who survived their first ever stage invasion!!!    Tamworth Voices were great this year – getting better all the time.   How lucky we are to have this pool of talent at our disposal.   Thanks to them all.

And finally on the festival front, can I offer a heartfelt thanks to all of the unsung heroes that I haven’t been able to mention.   This great village event is only possible because many willing hands make it work.

So, that’s about all from me folks…

It would be nice for the garden if we got a little rain before too long.   In the meantime, enjoy this exceptional summer and don’t let the heat get you down!

Remember that boules nights are on the second and fourth Friday of the month so why not come and picnic with us.   Also, if you haven’t sampled the delights of Tarte au Citroen then come along on Sundays from 10 am till 4pm (roughly) and have a taste.   The van is there on most Sundays, but check the Village Voice pages in the Lichfield Mercury or look for the dates on the board at the walled garden.

Roger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raffle ticket winners

Raffle prizes not collected after The Real Ale Festival, 7th July! Come along with your winning ticket to the gardens on either Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday mornings to collect your prize!

A Big Beerfest Thank You

A really big thank you to everyone who helped in the run up to the beerfest, on the day itself and to all those worthy folk who, despite tiredness from the day before, turned out to help begin the clean-up of the site on Sunday morning.   Sue & Steve Clarke had done such a good job of keeping on top of the litter during the event that the site was relatively litter free!

On the day, the meeting and greeting team gave everyone a good welcome and also extracted some feedback from people as they left the event.   The raffle team worked like clockwork and, thanks to the generosity of donors, we were able to put on a good display of prizes.   The team on tokens worked hard all day – twice needing to print out more sheets of tokens to satisfy thirsty customers.   As always, Richards bar team were stars and were kept busy all day (and much of the night) and the Pimms crew were a great innovation to the event.   Thanks to everyone who sponsored the beers and ciders – much appreciated.

The music team kept things ticking over nicely, coping with any problems with the minimum of fuss.   For them it was a long stint as they were setting up and testing all day on Friday as well AND spent Sunday morning putting all of the equipment back to bed!   The Walled Garden Wailers are particularly pleased to have been able to perform.   A special thanks must go to Jason who also managed to find time (and energy) to set up the TVs for the England victory over Sweden.

The Bothy tea team was excellent, selling hot drinks despite the hot weather.   We were really delighted at the generosity of villagers and volunteers who cooked cakes especially for the event.   Gary (from the Crown) did a sterling job overseeing the BBQ team – the heroes of our show – who stood over chippers, hot BBQs and ovens, keeping people well fed and remaining cheerful in really trying temperatures.

The children were kept well entertained by Anna’s team of parents and Irene’s team of face painters. Thanks to them and to Lee who dealt with any first aid needs at the event.

Finally, a big thanks to the team of volunteers who spent 2 weeks putting the event together, putting out all of the road signage and now face another week of hard work taking it all apart in this continually hot summer we’re blessed with!

Thank you one and all (and to anyone I’ve forgotten to mention).   We couldn’t have done it without you and we’re really grateful.

Roger

Unclaimed Raffle Prizes:

PINK 106, 121,386,616

GREEN 356

YELLOW 401

ORANGE 881

RED 351, 571,741,951

If you have one of these lucky tickets then please contact us via the Garden email or website.

 

 

Coming soon – Family Music & Real Ale Festival 2018

Gates open on the 2018 Festival at Elford at 12.30 on July 7th with music and hot food being available from 1pm onwards.   This year tickets will be available on the gate at £6 for adults and £3 for children over 5 years old.   The walled garden is a lovely rural setting for this old-style village event and it’s a great day out for families with plenty of dry areas should the weather prove inclement!

This year we plan to exceed the 20 real ales and 12 ciders that were available last year.   A special treat will be a cider made from our own apples – you could be the first to sample it! Wines,  Pimms and soft drinks are also available, as are hot drinks.   BBQ food will be available from 1pm, with the usual BBQ fare, chips, a special vegetarian option and a hog roast in the evening.   Cakes & hot drinks teas will be available too!    Again, this year, locally made speciality ice creams will be on sale.

There will be special free fun and games for kids including a bouncy castle and a Circus Skills workshop, so parents will be able to relax and enjoy their day.   The music will cover a number of genres and will continue late into the evening.

Well, the music festival is fast approaching and we look forward to you joining us for a day relaxation in the fantastic surroundings of the walled garden.   A couple of points to remember:

  • Do remember to bring your sun cream and sun hat – just in case were really lucky with the weather
  • Do remember that the music will go on until after 10pm so make sure that you bring something to keep you warm as the sun sets!
  • Are you bringing picnic chairs?   Then why not bring them on Saturday morning, when you will be able to drive up to the garden and drop them off

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

Email: info@elfordhallgarden.org

Donations box at the garden fills up

Squatters invade walled garden

The large donations box at the walled garden is emptied regularly and visitors are usually very generous and this month we were amazed to find it filled to the brim!   Not with cash, however! The box has been adopted by squatters – a pair of hard-working blue tits have decided to use it as a nest box, forcing us to invest in a second donations box to use until their family fledge!

Looks normal doesn’t it?                        But open the back door…..

Elford Hall Gardens – Newsletter 40 – March 2018

March Newsletter

I think I can safely declare that spring will be a little late this year.   Normally, by March, we’ve spread manure on the allotments and begun preparing the beds for planting but, to be honest, the soil is too wet to stand on.   Dave Watton has started to build an ark and the rest of the volunteers have been building snowmen! You can bet that the rapid spring grass growth will hit us before we’re on top of things.   At least, we won’t have to find the watering cans just yet!!!   Volunteers have managed to get a few things done during this awful spell of weather but many volunteers have simply stayed away till the conditions improve, and who can blame them?   What happened to ‘sun shining on the righteous’?

March Madness

I suppose snow isn’t unheard of in March but the savage wind chill was really hard to cope with.   I think we were luckier than many, here in Elford, but it was bad enough!   The strong wind carried most of the snow away from the gardens and the drifts were mercifully small but a lot of damage was done to the crocuses that had flowered early.   They’ll be back next year though.    We’re hopeful that the low temperatures will delay the flowering of the fruit trees until the danger of severe frost is past and this should give us a good autumn cropping.

Working off the winter blues

Naturally, we’ve tried to find inside work to keep us busy since Christmas.   Steve Eyley has been continuing his work on rebuilding the sash windows in the house and sorting out the new greenhouse and Dave Watton has now made and fitted oak window frames in the bothy building so that all 3 rooms are now weatherproof.   There’s a lot of work to do inside these rooms – holes to fill, walls to paint and floors to level off – so it will be some time before they are ready to use.   Laurence Watton has already begun making the decaying brickwork safe inside the building nearest to the bothy kitchen and this will mean rebuilding the chimney from the ground up.   No mean task!

We plan to buy a second container so that we can store everything that is currently in these rooms so that we can get to grips with doing the necessary inside work.

Reg Cornell has been sorting out and marking up the new marquee and the greenhouse (see later). Darren has had a hand in almost everything that is going on at the garden – he’s a tower of strength!

Peter Kennedy has been busy in the barn making new compost bins for the allotments and the 2 Michaels have been block paving an area for locating new cold frames.   Peter Stubbs and the 2 Chrisses have managed to get some gardening done and the rest of the gardening team have completed the marathon task of pruning the roses around the garden.

Thelma has been busy with her cuttings and getting ready for spring seed planting – although you wouldn’t want to put baby seedlings out in this weather! Thelma has been blessed with lots of help from Hannah Brayer as part of her Duke of Edinburgh’s Scheme community work. The garden looks reasonably tidy, given the problems we’ve faced and the snowdrops, and now the crocuses have put on a brave show to cheer everyone up.   Already some daffodils are beginning to colour up and by Easter the garden will look a picture.

Are we glazing over or simply being a pane in the orchard?

Generous newcomers to the village, Scott & Rachel Joyce have donated a lovely greenhouse which was surplus to their requirements.   Over a period of a few weeks, a team of volunteers managed to dismantle the structure (with only

minor breakages) and transport it, bit by bit, to it’s new home behind the gardener’s house.   It’s a fine thing and Thelma is thrilled to have such a luxurious area to set her seeds and do her plant work.   In the summer, we plan to use it to dry herbs initially.  Watch out for these on the produce table!

Watton’s wonderful wildlife world

Many of you will know about Laurence Watton’s interest in wildlife photography so I thought I’d include some of his work from the grounds of the walled garden project.   Below is one of our family of green woodpeckers.   You might be forgiven to think that this was a nesting box. It isn’t! In fact, it’s the side of one of our beehives.   These woodpeckers carried out a smash and grab this winter, making a large hole in the hive so that the family could feast on the honey and the grubs inside.   The 2 new pieces of wood are repairs we’ve made to the damaged side so the hole he’s currently enlarging is a new one.   This is unheard of behaviour for green woodpeckers ……

The confident looking fellow on the boathouse steps above is a regular visitor – a mink.   Mink are not native to Britain – they are escapees from mink farms – and they are capable of doing quite a bit of harm to the environment.   This particular specimen is very confident around people so Laurence sees him quite often!

Below are some of our visitors ‘enjoying’ the snowy weather! Or not!!!

Tarte au Citroen

We’re trying a new venture at the Walled Garden this year and have invited ‘Tarte au Citroen’ along on some Sundays to serve quality refreshments from their amazing converted Citroen van.    Tarte au Citroen owner Kate plans to test the water on Easter Sunday and Monday so please come along and give her some support and sample her goodies!

Kate will be serving hot drinks and cakes from around 10.30am until around 4pm

She’ll be glad of any feedback you are able to give too.   If spring eventually arrives then there will be blossom, daffodils and other spring bulbs to enjoy as you walk round the garden and you will then have earned a huge slice of one of Kate’s delicious cakes.

I’ll let you know dates when Kate will be around throughout the summer months but here are some of her dates for your diary:

April 22nd & 29th          May 7th & 20th          June 3rd & 17th

Pleas and Other Dates for your Diary

  • As soon as the weather improves (!) we will be putting up the main marquee and any help will be much appreciated, so watch out for details of dates when I circulate them.
  • The annual Family Music and Real Ale Festival this year will be on Saturday 7th July and, as usual, we will be looking for volunteers to help out on the day – the more the merrier (and that’s an invitation to sample the real ales!)
  • Could you help out with general volunteering, maybe as a family?   As winter ends, the task of keeping the garden looking nice becomes a challenge.   Currently we have very few Saturday volunteers and it would be great to see a few more villagers involved in looking after this little treasure that we all enjoy.

As I began writing this newsletter, the Beast from the East had us firmly in its grip.   As it released us from its grip, we had the floods and then the heavy rain fell.   Then there were a few days of reasonable warmth and the snow battered crocuses at the garden began to open up their petals to cheer us up.

Now, as I prepare to circulate this newsletter, the snow is back along with the icy wind and frosts.   I can’t tell you just how much I’m looking forward to spring’s arrival!!!   STAY WARM AND SAFE OUT THERE!

My best wishes to you all,

Roger

Tarte au Citroen

Anyone for coffee and cake?

We’re trying a new venture at the Walled Garden this year and have invited Kate Carter-Walford of ‘Tarte au Citroen’ fame, to come along on some Sundays to serve quality refreshments from her amazing Citroen van.    Kate plans to ‘test the water’ on the Sunday and Monday of Easter Bank Holiday weekend (1st & 2nd April) so please come along and give her some support and sample her wares.   She’ll be glad of any feedback you are able to give too.   If spring eventually arrives then there will be blossom, daffodils and other spring bulbs to enjoy as you walk round the garden and you will then have earned a huge slice of Kate’s delicious cake.

Planned dates (subject to late change) for the early part of the spring/summer are as follows

April 22nd & 29th
May 7th & 20th
June 3rd & 17th

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Elford Hall Gardens – Newsletter 39 – December 2017

A very happy Christmas and a thoroughly prosperous and perfect 2018 to all of our readers

As I write, winter has arrived in Elford with a vengeance and the roads and pavements in Croft Close are,  shall we say, challenging.    I can’t recall snow this side of Christmas for many a year and it has changed the face of the walled garden into a sort of fantasy world, as the photos below show.   Currently, I’m  nice  and warm inside this evening with the Christmas lights twinkling outside and looking very Christmassy!

2017 has been a good year at the Walled Garden.   Volunteer numbers have remained high (even in this cold weather); we were blessed with good weather for the beerfest in July and donations during the year have kept us in a good position financially and ready to face 2018 with a good degree of confidence.   Once again we’ve landed another top award from the Royal Horticultural Society.   On behalf of the Trustees, I’d like to take this opportunity to extend our sincere thanks to everyone who has contributed to the project by volunteering, by helping out at the festival, by donating in a variety of ways, by spreading the good news about the garden and by becoming ‘Friends of the Walled Garden’.     We are lucky to get your support, we appreciate it and without it Elford would not have access to this unique garden.   A big thank you to everyone!

Winter Wonderland

Snow  before Christmas is so unusual in Elford and the transformation was magical!   The extremely cold temperatures meant that the snow stayed with us for days!

No work being done today then!

Got an eye for the birds?

With this cold weather about, the bird activity at the boathouse has been brilliant.   This week I’ve seen woodpeckers, great, blue and long tailed tits and nuthatches in addition to our usual robins, sparrows and blackbirds – all after their lunches – and I’ve only stayed watching for a few minutes due to the cold.   Did you know that you can watch these feeders on the TV in the bothy while you enjoy a hot drink (donations appreciated!) – It’s open every day.

Shocking disclosure

It’s nice to be able to do something for everyone in the village – after all, we get such good support from so many of you.    With the proceeds of the Real Ale Festival, we have purchased and installed a defibrillator in the Bothy.   We intend this to be available to everyone who uses the gardens and in the New Year we will be offering CPR and defibrillator training FREE, so if you are interested then watch out for details.   Who knows, you might be just able to save a life!    Next time you are at the garden, have a look in the Bothy kitchen so that you know where it is.   It’s very easy to use – idiot proof, I’d say, so get involved if you can.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

Sue Watton has been busy making the Gardener’s house look ready for Christmas so why not call in a see what she’s done?   It’s a pity that no-one lives there!   She’s also added her festive touch to the Bothy.   Well done, Sue.   It is appreciated.   Everything looks ready for the volunteers ‘bring and share’ lunch on Thursday 21st before we break up for the festivities.    Some of us have already started celebrating.   We had a great night out at the Whittington Arms organised by Julie Cox.   Thanks Julie!

So what’s been happening?
Mike and Darren going round in circles!

Despite the wintry weather, volunteers have been busy.   Around 5000 more crocus bulbs have been planted (donated by Ashby Rotarians). A new paved area has appeared in the centre of the walled garden which will soon house a sundial dedicated to the memory of Jim Riley, one of our first volunteers.   This isn’t quite finished but should be ready for when the sunshine returns!!!   Michael, Darren, Roger and Nathan have been busy with this.   Elsewhere, Dave is working on the oak windows for the Bothy building, Richard has put together our new catering BBQ, Lawrence has finished his pool and is now busy welding stuff together and our Duke of Edinburgh boys have made short work of leaf collecting.   Barbara and Thelma have been busy preparing festive table decorations (there may be some left on the produce table) and Mike is busy block paving the plant nursery area.   Meanwhile, winter allotment preparation is keeping Pete and the 2 Chrisses busy, now the harvesting is all but over.   As you can see – the work never stops here (except when it snows, perhaps).

Catching up with the past!

Here’s an item I couldn’t squeeze into the last newsletter.    We now have a second fish pond thanks to our three D of E boys and Lawrence Watton.   It’s by the boules pitches and when the sun shines, a solar pump will work a small fountain.   Currently, it’s frozen solid, which must be interesting for the fish!

Here’s Lawrence putting in the pond liner.   Obviously it was warmer then than it is today!

If you’ve managed to read this far down the newsletter – well done, and thank you!   When you hear from me next it will be 2018!   My personal good wishes to you and yours for Christmas and 2018.   Don’t forget the Live Nativity at the Walled Garden on Christmas Eve – a magical experience for all.  
Finally, can I repeat my thanks to everyone who has supported us this year.
Best wishes, Roger

 

 

 

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.