Elford Hall Gardens – Newsletter 47 – July 2019

Phew, what a relief!

On Tuesday 16th, the Royal Horticultural Society judging took place.   We’d put in a lot of extra hours to try to make the gardens look tidy for the visit of Paul Ash so we’d hoped to impress him! Lots of visitors say nice things about the garden but it’s nice to have things confirmed by an expert and we think he was quite impressed!   It was the first time Paul had visited as a judge but he had been to the garden a few times before with friends from Fradley so he had the full picture.   In the autumn, we’ll get to hear how we’ve done and we’ll get some feedback on what we can do in the future to keep the garden moving forward.   Well done to all of those people who worked so hard to get the garden up to scratch.

A Blast from the Past

The weather proved perfect for the much awaited Summer Solstice party held almost on the longest day of the year.   Villagers turned out in fabulous festival gear reminiscent of the swinging seventies or even in wellies normally reserved for Glastonbury mud. Gary and Olivia (of Elford Crown fame) laid on the bar and an excellent BBQ and fantastic entertainment was provided by Ginesis, who got people up and dancing till late!

The orchard looked lovely decked out with lanterns and ribbons and the marquee was decorated with wall hangings in sympathy with the general festival atmosphere.   The evening was a brilliant success and congratulations go to the ‘production team’ ably led by Ben, Ursula & Colin. This could be the first of many such evenings, judging by the comments from the people who’d really had a great evening!    As you can see from the picture below, I really had no idea what Festival Gear looks like!   I don’t think festivals really existed when I was of ‘festival age’!   Clearly I need to get a life!!!    Luckily, most people had managed slightly better.

We get by with a little help from our ‘friends’

The walled garden relies heavily on the good will and generosity of many people during the course of the year and especially when it comes to events.   A good number of our ‘friends’ turned out for the annual ‘Thank You’ party on afternoon of June 1st and were able to tuck into a dazzling display of food and drink.   Everyone had a lovely afternoon at the sunny walled garden and it was good to see so many people there enjoying themselves. The walled garden only exists thanks to the generosity of people who donate their time or their cash to keep the garden running, so it was nice to be able to say thank you properly. If you weren’t able to attend but have been a supporter of the project, then please take our thanks as read – you truly deserve it!

A special thank you to everyone who brought along such lovely treats for us to share and to Sue Watton and her team of helpers who always do us proud. Needless to say, Sue was the first person at the garden in the morning and the last to leave the garden after the event.   The Walled Garden Wailers put on a bit of light entertainment so thanks to them too.

The party was an opportunity for 2 launches.    First, we were able to taste Elford Press, the first ever Walled Garden cider – picked, produced and bottled on site at the walled garden under the watchful eye of experienced cider maker Frank Wood.   The cider is now in bottles and was first on sale at the Solstice Event.  Apparently, it tastes like the real thing (only stronger!!).   There are 3 different brews – one from a mix of apples from the orchard, which weighs in at 6.5 degrees proof.   There is also a pear cider and one made purely from cider apples, both of which are not quite as strong, but both are very drinkable.   You can pick up your bottles at the garden on any volunteering day or from Dave Watton at any time for £2.50 a bottle.

If you try our cider (and we hope you will) can you please return the bottles to us so that we can use them again next year.

The second launch was the inaugural Walled Garden 2020 Calendar, which is now on sale at a modest £5.   Produced by volunteers Mitzi and Alison, it is possibly the first (and best!) 2020 calendar on sale ANYWHERE!  You can pick them up at the garden anytime – just ask – or place an order in the donations box.

New kid on the block

New volunteer, Gordon, has really made his mark since joining the project a few months ago.   He began by deciding to tidy the main driveway, licking that into shape before moving down to the river to sort out and tidy up the compost area to great effect.

We will shortly completing his riverside work by constructing some composting clamps and planting up the area he has landscaped.   While waiting for materials to arrive, he turned his attention to the woodland area by the heavy horse stable, constructing a small rockery!   Not satisfied with this, he has now moved on into the woodland, clearing the undergrowth. Clearly not a man to let the grass grow under his feet!!   Talk about a ‘new broom….’ – he’s made a big impact already!

The rain it raineth… was it a Peak too far?

It isn’t always work for the volunteers, you know!   We are occasionally let out to enjoy ourselves – so a small group of volunteers took a trip into Derbyshire organised by Thelma to visit Lea Gardens, famed for its Rhododendrons and Azaleas.   Thelma has a knack with the weather – it’s nearly always awful!   Despite the continual rain, we had a good day out.   Many of the plants were past their best but there was still much to admire and we came back with ideas to try out at the walled garden. Our picnic in heavy rain proved to be an experience not to be forgotten!   Or, at least, not to be repeated!

Seeds of Thyme

And speaking of Thelma, she continues to beaver away in our plant nursery with great skill and success, keeping the plant tables topped up with healthy specimens.   A recent visit from Tamworth U3A members descended on the plant table like locusts and went away weighed down with plants to take home!   The garden at the rear of the Gardener’s House is looking really colourful under Barbara’s care and Michael continues his construction work, transforming the nursery beds.   It really is looking quite professional behind the house!   There are plenty of healthy plants still available at a rock bottom price so come along and snap up a bargain before they are all gone.   Fresh fruit and vegetables are now appearing on the produce tables, thanks to our hard-working allotment team.

What on earth’s going on with our weather?

First it’s scorching hot – too hot to garden.   Then it buckets down with really heavy rain that breaks all records.   Then the grass grows like mad.   Then it’s record breaking heat again.   I really don’t understand it all.   Is this what the global warming future will be like?   Last June, we were putting up marquees in ridiculously hot temperatures in the midst of a drought that turned our grass to golden straw.   This year, we have faced storms, winds and floods.   First, the warm wet weather prompted the grass (and the weeds) to grow with enormous energy and we really struggled to keep things looking reasonably tidy.   Then the ground became so hard that it was difficult to get a fork into it and consequently, Peter Kennedy has been spending time straightening out bent tools and replacing broken handles.   I had the pleasure of going into Tamworth Toolbox to ask for “fork handles” …. But the joke was lost on the lady who served me!

Classic Car fest

Did you get to see the fabulous cars brought along by the Midlands Austin Healey Owners Club for their annual judging and prize-giving.   There was much to admire in these lovingly tended elderly ladies.   Most were being buffed to a dazzle as the judges went round with their clipboards.   The engines were pristine, even though most of the cars had been driven to the venue.   You could have safely eaten off them. Brilliant.

Gallery for June & July


Clockwise – two varieties of English Rose in the rose garden, a beautiful Comma Butterfly,  lovely delphiniums in the Giant’s Garden and a feeding Brimstone Butterfly.

Well, I hope that you’ve enjoyed a good read, but now come along to the garden if you can and enjoy the real thing!   Best wishes … Roger