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