Elford Hall Gardens – Newsletter 37 – July 2017

Welcome to the post beer festival edition of the Walled Garden Newsletter.  

The early spell of warm and sunny weather has really made the garden bloom and the more recent deluges have seen the growth continue a pace (though not without the odd bit of rain damage).   The good weather held over the two weeks we spent preparing the site for the Real Ale Festival and on the day itself, the sun shone warmly and blessed the event with perfect picnic and relaxing conditions for the many visitors that enjoyed the day.   So let’s start with a few words about the excellent Family & Real Ale Festival which took place on July 1st this year.

As usual, lots of people put in a lot of hard work to put these kinds of events on.   Villagers step forward in numbers to help stewarding on the day (and clearing up on the Sunday) and lots of people turn up to create a wonderful atmosphere in the beautiful setting of the walled garden.   Without YOU, these events could never happen, so grateful thanks to everyone.   Together, we have managed to raise almost enough money to keep the garden running for the next 12 months so it was a great success on all fronts!

Once again, the event was kicked off by the Small Schools Multi Academy Choir, ably led by Sally Parkes.   They were larger in numbers this year and got the event off to a great start with lively music and excellent solos. Music continued to flow from 1pm ‘til gone 10pm with choir performances by ‘Local Vocal’ from Tutbury and Tamworth Voices, some excellent and varied ‘jazzy’ music from Blast Off, Vintage Rhythms Collective and the brilliant Quartet Saxophone Ensemble. Classy Spotlight provided a barbershop treat and headliners Brindley-Hunt gave their usual high quality and much appreciated performance.   The event was drawn to a close by the Walled Garden Wailers with their unmistakable brand of ‘pop through the ages’ which seemed to go down really well this year (we might even be improving!).   The music was kept flowing thanks to the excellent work of Ryan & Jason.   All of these performers give such a lot to make the event the success that it is and all give their services and skills free of charge.   Thanks to you all.



Round and round the garden …..

Summer is always a busy time at the garden and it’s hard to keep up with the growing grass and the amazingly robust weeds.   As you focus on one job that needs doing, other jobs spring up behind your back to catch you out.   What fun!   Despite this, the garden has looked lovely.   The rose garden and the herbaceous border have really come into their own and the raised bed by the Vine House has been a picture.   After a slow start, the Giant’s Garden is now really filling out and towering over the heads of visitors.   The orchard trees are heavy with fruit and the first plums are already being harvested. The allotments look great and the soft fruit harvesting is keeping volunteers busy and the vegetable crop is now being harvested so there will be plenty of fresh fruit and veg on the produce table from now on.

New signs, tall echiums and scented roses

There are always lots going on in the garden department with many hands making work lighter.   We’re always happy to see new volunteers and since April, Roy and Faye have joined us and are proving to be worth their weight in gold!   Elsewhere, Harvey Sutton joined us while preparing for his Duke of Edinburgh’s Award bronze and here he is (above) finishing off a bed of dogwood shrubs that he and Roger created next to the barn. Hopefully, he’ll be back when he does his silver!   Currently we have Hannah Brayer pursuing her bronze and Harry, Kit and Toby back with us as they prepare for their silver.   It’s great to have younger people involved in the project, even if it’s only for a short while.   Their help is much appreciated.

On the construction side of things…..

Dave has now put the finishing touches to the upstairs bathroom, Steve has reconstructed sash windows and the remaining front bedroom has now be made into a meeting room (available for all to use).   Downstairs, Darren has re-tiled the hall, with help from Dave & Roger so the house is now almost finished.   This winter we’ll tackle the stairs and plan to create a history time-line about the Elford Estate & Garden.   I’ll be sending you a separate email about this to encourage YOU to get involved so watch out for it coming soon!

We have a new floor in the marquee!   For years we have suffered after rain which has tended to seep into the tent, soaking the carpet.   We have now been able to purchase a modular raised floor – the fitting team is shown above right – and it looks splendid with its new blue carpet.   A kind donation by the Stewart Company of Banbury provided us with planters which Thelma has now planted up to finish the job off.   Proper job, chaps, well done!

The water pump in the water tower (above) was restored a few years ago but needed some special plumbing to connect it so that it would draw water from our well and pump it into the water tank up in the tower.   With some experimentation and a new drive belt, it now works perfectly, thanks to Laurence!

Vintage Performance

A coup for the garden in June was the arrival of a fleet of vintage Austin Healey motors for the club annual meet and judging.   The sun shone on the gleaming chrome and glistening paintwork.  The cars were pristine (inside and out!) and their proud owners keen to bend the ears of interested visitors.

Advisors to the National Trust, that’s us!

You may recall from an earlier newsletter, that we were visited by a fact finding group from RHS Berrington Hall who wanted some ideas to support their Heritage Lottery Fund bid for developing their walled garden.   They offered to host us at Berrington Hall at their expense so a few of us went along to see what they were up to and to look over their walled garden.   We had a great day out.   The weather wasn’t too bad (but not windy enough for the kite enthusiasts who had a big meeting there on the same day), we had a fascinating tour of a very different walled garden and to cap it all, they treated us to a lovely cream tea.   It’s not all work at the walled garden!   Here we are (below) in one of the sections of their walled garden which is used by a local farmer at the moment.   Their walled areas are immaculate but only sparsely used compared to ours and they are maintained by paid staff supplemented by help from volunteers.

Village Questionnaire feedback

Thanks to all those of you who took the trouble to complete and return the recent  questionnaire.   You will recall that we are trying to formulate a plan for the next 10 years development at the garden and your responses will be very useful in this task.   Most replies indicate that we are working along lines that villagers support already (which is re-assuring) and ‘steady as she goes’ was a common message.   The survey did throw up lots of good ideas for the future for Trustees to ponder.   We have had one preliminary meeting prior to the questionnaire being circulated. The next step will be a meeting for those of you who expressed an interest in being involved in preliminary discussions and from this we hope a working party will emerge to produce a 10 year plan for the Trustees to consider (and hopefully approve) before sharing this with the whole village.   The current body of Trustees has now remained virtually unchanged since the project began and new trustees are needed to steer the project forward so if you think you could help, then please contact us to find out what’s involved.

 Dates to note:

AGM Sunday 3rd September at 3pm at the Gardener’s House

Saturday 16TH September at 1pm ‘Thank you social’ for everyone who has helped out the walled garden this year (more details to follow)

Best wishes, Roger