Elford Hall Gardens Newsletter 50 – March 2020

Despite the gathering gloom of the Coronavirus, we still have something worthy of celebration!   This is the 50th edition of Roger’s newsletters AND the 10th year anniversary of the Elford Hall Garden Project so two things to cheer, I think!

So, what’s good in the garden?

If you haven’t been around the garden for a while then I’m afraid that you’ve missed most of the snowdrops, which have been lovely again this year.   However, the crocuses are still good, the daffodils are fabulous and there are other bulbs to impress too.   BUT….don ‘t leave it too long before you visit because they won’t flower forever!   There is plenty of colour about if you look for it, and now the days are longer and a bit warmer too, the garden will be getting better day by day.

Wet, wet, wet…

You might have noticed that 2020 has, so far, been a little on the damp side.   Our neighbouring River Tame has been up and down like a lift and conditions under foot have been a bit difficult at times.   We’ve been luckier than many in the Midlands and our plucky volunteers have turned out regularly to tackle those jobs that need to be done in the winter months.   We have managed to tidy up a few areas.   In the woodland near to the barn, much of the ivy and bramble has been cleared by Gordon & Andy and a new rustic path has been laid so that you can wander a short way through and enjoy bluebells when they flower.   Sue & Steve have been tackling the trees, thinning out where necessary.   Darren & Roger have been working on the restoration of the pony trap which is now nearing completion.   Steve & Dave have been dealing with the new season’s cider – this is progressing well and will soon be fit for tasting.   Thelma and Carol are well advanced with growing bedding plants ready for the spring and Christine, Peter & Alan are making good progress on the allotments despite the wet soil.   Fruit trees and bushes have been pruned and Michael & Barbara have hard at work behind the house getting everything ship shape. Dorothy and several others have been busy pruning the roses (the daffs in the rose garden are lovely at the moment) and Mike has begun to lick the sensory garden into shape.   Lots of other tasks has been addressed by Nathan, Mick, Pete, Sue and Jamie and others I might have missed out (apologies) but it has been a great team effort despite the inclement weather!

No room in the boathouse today!                    Can you find the boathouse in this picture?

Above are shots of one of the many days when flooding was an issue.   This is probably the highest I’ve seen the water level at for many years.   The shrub beds – here beneath the water on the terrace slope – seem to have survived the ordeal but we’ll need to clear out the interesting flood debris that got caught up in their branches!

Below you can see the pony trap in various stages of reconstruction.   Much rubbing down and repainting has been done.   Here, Roger is hard at work.   Darren was there too…he took the picture!

Wind in the Willows?

Laurence Watton is a useful bloke to have around the place and his talents have been well utilised on the project.   When he isn’t digging great holes in the ground to expose long forgotten brickwork, he’s tinkering with bits of machinery or fiddling with things relating to wildlife.   Rarely does he arrive at the garden without something strange (and delicious) that he’d just happened to bake.

However, I’m a bit worried about some of his more recent creativity.   It isn’t unusual to see him arrive with the odd bird box or owl box but he seems to have drifted into real estate for fictional characters of late…….     Thanks to Laurence, we now have a small housing development at the walled garden.   These starter homes do take a bit of finding but it’s worth the search! I do believe that more might be on the way.

Below to the right we have Mole End, a bijoux property for the discerning gentlemole.   Below left would suit an elderly badger and above is Ratty’s home.   All are open for viewing….if you can find them!

Step forward, the path clearing team…

The limestone paths needed attention, heavy duty weed killer having failed to control the unwanted plants that were beginning to take over.   Plan: to set up a team and spend a day clearing them.   Many hands would soon give the paths the facelift they deserved.   The team bit was the easy part.   We got together a willing team that numbered between 6 and at times up to 10 people.   The task, however took nearly 3 weeks and it was backbreaking graft!   First, the heavy rain had softened the paths too much.   Then we produced numerous barrow loads of weeds which needed to be carted to the compost bins.   Unfortunately, these were all under water as a result of the flooding so we had to stockpile them in one area and move them when the river went down.   Well, it all makes work for the working man (and woman) to do!

Below, Sue Wattrus is making a start (and looking surprisingly cheerful)alongside Jamie.

Several years ago I’d spent day after day with the team laying the path edgings and I’d forgotten just how much path there was to clear.   It now came back to me like a bad dream!   The clearing team stuck to the task well and you can see by the ‘after’ photo to the right just how much difference they have made!   Above are some of the team hard at work!   You can spot the youngest of the team.   It’s Nathan – he’s the one who can still bend over!

On the produce stall

There are currently a few perennial plants on the plant stall and jams, chutney and parsnips on the produce table if you are interested.   Thelma is busy potting up annuals and they will begin to appear during the next few weeks as the weather improves.

In the library in the Gardener’s House there are plenty of books to collect to stop you from getting bored if you have to self-isolate!

Rustic woodland walk

Having dealt with the limestone path clearing, Gordon, Andy, Roger, Nathan and Jamie set about creating a new path.   It runs through the woodland area by the barn so that visitors can wander through the bluebells later in the spring.   Please try to find it and use it as that will help consolidate the wood chip.

And finally…..

It’s been a busy winter and now the world seems to have gone mad!   As Britain joins the rest of Europe by closing everything down, please take care of yourselves and stay well.

My best wishes to you all….Roger

Here are just a couple of cheerful photos of smiling faces to finish off with.   Till the next time….

Left: Sue & Steve Clarke have been working tirelessly at tidying up trees around the site.   Being golfers, they have been happy getting their own back on the trees!   Right is the unveiling of Mike’s reconstructed urn which is now resplendent behind the house.   Gordon, Barbara and Peter displaying appropriate enthusiasm!


Since writing this newsletter, the Trustees have decided to keep the garden open but to close the Bothy and the Gardener’s House to members of the public until further notice.