Elford Hall Gardens – Newsletter 61 – February 2022

Elford Hall Gardens – Newsletter 61 – February 2022

With the slightly warmer days, the walled garden at Elford is beginning to come back to life.   To be fair, the winter weather hasn’t been too bad (yet) which is perhaps just as well, what with the rising heating costs these days!   The sight of snowdrops always lifts my spirits, renewing of hopes of good things to come.   Well, you don’t have to travel far to see snowdrops – there are masses of them at the walled garden – so it’s a good time to visit.

The snowdrops here improve their display year on year and they are already providing a sight to gladden the hearts of visitors.   Also beginning to appear are early crocus and some really early daffodils so there’s plenty to see and to raise a smile for those who venture forth.   Other things on show are the lovely catkins, many flowering hellebores and the birds are putting on quite a performance too – so they must think Spring is on the way!

Whilst the weather is still a bit on the cool side, visitors can always take cover in the bothy where they can make a hot drink for a small donation in the honesty box, and maybe find a biscuit or two!

Whistle while you work…..

As you would expect, our loyal volunteer workforce are keeping busy – and there is always plenty to do!   Behind the house, Carol and Dorothy are working hard in the greenhouse preparing plants for spring planting and for summer sales on the produce table.   The plant nursery area is looking neat and tidy and very business-like!

The allotments always look a bit bleak at this time of the year but much preparation work is underway to ensure a good harvest for 2022.   Much of this is down to Christine, Alan and Peter.   Similar activity is underway on many of the rented allotments too.

If a job’s worth doing …..

Winter provides volunteers with the time to catch up on general maintenance tasks that are impossible to keep on top of during the busy growing season.   Furniture needs to be weather-proof and is often a task done by our Duke of Edinburgh’s volunteers.   Harry and Charles Smith (featured in the winter newsletter) and Oliver Malcolm (below left) have been busy rubbing down and repainting things under the watchful scrutiny of Pete Kennedy.   Oliver isn’t actually slumped exhausted over the table here, he’s just sanding it!

Similar sterling work is being done by brickie Phil who has taken on the task of repairing and restoring the vine house brickwork (above right).   It will be a lengthy job but it’s important for us to maintain as much of the history of the walled garden as we can and with skills like Phil’s on site, we can hopefully achieve this target.   The photo above isn’t one of my best but you can probably see that there’s a lot of crumbling mortar to replace and collapsed areas to rebuild.   Good luck Phil – looks like you’ll need it!

In the old mushroom house, you’ll probably find Steve Clarke doing a general tidy up and sort out.  At first, it seemed like a fairly straight-forward job, but, scratch the surface ……He could be there for weeks, having found a rotten wooden floor that now has to be replaced!

Steve’s wife Sue is, meanwhile, lurking in the brick store.   Well, trying to tidy it up rather than lurking really – there’s no time to lurk when you have the spring cleaning bug!   Annual leaf fall buries wood, bricks and slabs and, Sue will tell you, some volunteers have a talent for not putting things back exactly where she’d like them!

Above left, Steve is assessing the job – or, as we like to call it – where the hell do I start this?   Right, Sue is thinking ‘ I’m sure I tidied this up last week but just look at it now!’

Turning cartwheels

In the winter newsletter I mentioned the generous donation from Michael Connolly which has enabled us to buy the materials needed to start work restoring  the historic cart.   This cart had been used in the past to take children around the village from the village school on May Day and is featured in several old photos.   It had become unsafe and was rescued for the village playground where it sat unprotected for many years.   Playground redevelopment saw it transferred to end its life at the walled garden where it continued to fall apart until now!

Above right you see the cart remains alongside the cider trees.   Most of the wood is too rotten to save but the metal parts are mostly all reusable and are being restored locally.   Colin, Dave and Chris  are getting to grips with the framework of the cart and the metal parts while Dave has been putting his skills to the test rebuilding the 4 cartwheels from oak.   He now has 3 finished wheels (above left) which are looking just fabulous and fit to last another 100 years!   I’m not sure that the cart will be finished for May Day – at least not for May Day 2022 anyway!

Fishy goings on?

To complement the dolphins on the main drive, we now have 3 flying fish on the door of our version of the famous TV Repair Shop.   These 3 beautiful oak trout are made from the cut offs from the new cart wheels and this was the shape they came in straight from the cutting bench.   Check out the new wheels and see if you can work out where exactly they came from!   Betcha can’t!!

And speaking of fishy tails (tales), here’s Uncle Lawrence with Ollie Watton.   This was Ollie’s first pike – caught in the boathouse just recently.   What a whopper!   Anyone can fish in the river alongside the walled garden.   There are 3 pegs set up and waiting.   There is no charge but a donation to the project is always appreciated!

Goodbye to January 2022!

I’ll just finish with a few photos I took during January on a cold frosty misty morning – even the bleakest of months has its beautiful moments!

Well that’s about all from me for this issue.   When next I write, we will all be thinking about the approach of summer but don’t miss the delights to be found at the Walled Garden between now and then, visit us soon and reap the rewards to be found in this peaceful haven.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this edition!

Best wishes, Roger