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