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