Hallowe’en was simply a wonderful night for the walled garden and for everyone who attended. The weather was kind to us and Jason’s fireworks were spectacular and seemed to go on for ages. The bonfire is still burning brightly this morning!
On behalf of the Walled Garden Project, I’d like to offer a huge thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make the evening a success. Nearly 70 volunteers turned out to help – can you believe that? Without them there would be no bonfire spooktacular and, in truth, there would be no walled garden at all! I think we all know that the walled garden at Elford is a pretty unique place and a wonderful asset to the village – all thanks to voluntary effort by many folk.
Thanks too, to everyone who came along and enjoyed the evening – it wouldn’t have been the same without you! See you again next year hopefully.
Our next big fundraiser will be on July 2nd 2016 with the Family Music and Real Ale Festival
What a busy year it’s been so far. August weather was a bit disappointing but September more than made up for it with warm sunny days to enjoy. With some irony, the weather seemed to break as soon as the children started their school summer holidays and then improved immediately they went back to school! Whatever happened to those faultless summer days I think I remember from my youth?
However, the weather seems to have suited the crops. Stone fruits were in abundance – peaches,nectarines, apricots and plums all seemed to do well – and were delicious! The allotments seem to have been very productive too. As I write, the rose garden is coming into its second flush of flowers for the year and there is still plenty of colour around the gardens to enjoy.
August Bank Holiday saw hundred of people visit the walled garden as part of the excursion around the village for Scarecrow Weekend. Unusually perhaps, the weather remained good for the 2 days until the event closed and then the rain fell in torrents. Sun shining on the righteous perhaps? More than 80 scarecrows were on display around the village and much appreciated by our visitors. The event raised a lot of money to help support the Church and the Village Hall. The new organising committee were great and were delighted when funds raised broke all previous records. Well done to all who took part and helped to make it a memorable weekend. A great scarecrow of ‘Rosie & Jim’ appeared at the Crown. After the event, we were lucky enough to be able to transfer the installation to the walled garden where it proudly sits today!
As the garden becomes better known locally we are finding that we get a steady stream of visitors every day. We still find visitors from nearby villages who tell us that they ‘didn’t know we were here’ . The message is getting out there – but very slowly in some cases! However, the visitors always have nice things to say and this is great for keeping volunteers spirits high.
We have ‘organised’ visits where Sue Watton and here tam put on drinks and refreshments, we’ve had a couple of wedding receptions too but most of our visitors are ‘casual’ visitors dog walking, having a picnic or just seeking a bit of peace and quiet amongst lovely surroundings. It’s becoming a favourite venue for disabled and elderly groups (well, it’s FREE) and recently a group of 11 year olds from Kingsbury School (above photo) came, dug up vegetable, made soup and had lunch – educational in the very best sense. They also had a talk from an RSPB volunteer about garden birds and made bird feeders. What a great day. Last week we had a visit from a very young group of visually impaired children who seemed to get a lot from their short visit. They went home with armfuls of fruit and vegetables and planned to do things with them back at school. It was a real treat to show them round!
It’s your Neighbourhood success again!
Jean Chamberlain & Peter Stubbs travelled to Solihull to the Royal Horticultural Society Awards Day. We have entered this nationwide competition annually for the past 5 years and have gradually risen to ‘Outstanding’ in 2014 and now again in 2015. It’s a treat to have the judges here at the garden, They offer ideas advice, encouragement and praise and give us something to aim at for the coming year. They visit a wide range of projects like ours and offer a level of expertise which helps us move forward. The volunteers are always keen to know ‘how we’ve done’ and when Jean & Peter returned with a special award – a glass trophy for Gardening Excellence – well, everyone was delighted! We get a written report showing where we have earned our points but also ideas for future developments.
By way of a change, we are holding the annual bonfire on Hallowe’en – Saturday 31st October. This year we have new insurers and will need to restrict numbers attending so if you plan to be there then get your tickets early to avoid disappointment. The event will be much the same as usual – i.e BRILLIANT. The main event will be the bonfire and firework display (which promises to be better than ever this year). In addition to the usual hot and cold food, hot and cold drinks and entertainment, there will be free face painting and free glow sticks for kids. If the weather turns, there will be plenty of marquee space to keep customers warm and dry. You’ve already had a flier from me about the event, but in case you’ve misplaced it, the ticket hotline number is 07702 839757 and tickets are on sale at local tourist offices and at Fradley and Whittington Post Offices. See you there!
The Shed Supplement – a Special Report from the Riverside
Strange things have been going on by the river bank. The sounds of hammering, sawing, heavy machinery and the occasional grunt of efforts being made have echoed across the river Tame since early spring. Whatever has been happening, you ask. The pictures below tell a story…..
Below left, the boathouse in the 2011 floods – just 2 lengths of dodgy brickwork were all that remained. Note the trees growing in the entrance/exit. They show just how long it’s been since it was useable as a boathouse! The general view amongst volunteers was that restoration wasn’t going to be easy and the idea was shelved as impractical at present. However, no-one told Lawrence Watton about this. He had his own ideas and in January began dismantling the weakened bricks, cleaning them up and stacking them ready for re-use. His activity raised some eyebrows but volunteers began to pitch in and help. Tree surgeons came and began tree pruning on a major scale so that Gavin could get a digger in to remove the stumps – a delicate operation to be sure! Preparation almost done – there was just the question of digging out 40 years of silt to see what we could find.
So the digging began. Before long Dad Dave was pitching in to help Lawrence and a plan was evolving to turn the restored building into a dual purpose facility – boat house and nature hide. After several weeks of back-breaking work, the full extent of the base of the boathouse was visible – and impressive. Keeping the river from flooding in was quite a challenge! Next, Dave drew up plans for the new building to show to the volunteers and to get their approval and within a few short months the building was beginning to take shape. Below you can see the 2 new windows which now look downstream and above, the timbers for the new roof ready for the tiles. Most of the money for this restoration work was donated by one of our volunteers and – as usual – the labour cost the project nothing bar hard graft and determination!
Here you can see the 2 new platforms inside the building – left for viewing, right for boat access. In a nice touch, Dave Watton carved the names of all of the volunteers into the roof timbers and these are now visible inside the (almost) finished building for posterity. As is generally the case at the walled garden, the level of craftsmanship and the quality of the finish is really high.
All we need now is for the grass and wild flower seed to grow. Started in January, finished by October. Quite an achievement! The official opening is planned for spring. Watch this space!
Well that’s about all from me. Dates for your diary – 31st October the Hallowe’en Bonfire Spooktacular and on December 24th, the Christmas Eve Carol Service and ‘live’ Nativity at the Heavy Horse Stable. Another ‘live’ performance this year which will mark the Reverend Denise’s last day in office.
See you there – best wishes to you and yours, Roger
Peter Stubbs and Jean Chamberlain travelled to Solihull today to represent the Elford Hall Garden Project at the Royal Horticultural Society presentation for the ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ national competition. ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ is like Britain in Bloom but for voluntary community groups with a ‘floral’ link. In the past 4 years we have been earning increasingly better awards and last year we were rewarded with the top honour.
The volunteers have worked miracles on the site, turning it from an overgrown and dilapidated wilderness, into a lovely garden free for all to enjoy. It has been a case of ordinary people doing extraordinary things for others, while at the same time enjoying fresh air, exercise and the company of the many new friends they have made whilst on the project.
Today at the presentation, we were again awarded an ‘Outstanding’ category award and in addition, we were also one of the few entries to be awarded a special trophy for gardening excellence. Needless to say, we’re feeling pretty smug at the moment!
The bonfire fund-raiser for the Elford Walled Garden Project will take place on Hallowe’en – Saturday 31st October 2015. This will be the traditional bonfire celebration, enjoyed by many in recent years, all held within the safe confines of the beautiful walled garden at Elford. As usual there will be hot and cold food on offer, plus hot and cold drinks. There will be music and entertainment, free things for kids to enjoy and a good time to be had for all! The fire will be lit around 6.15 with the fabulous fireworks display shortly afterwards. This year admission numbers are limited by insurance considerations so get your tickets early and avoid disappointment. Being Hallowe’en, we will be offering a prize for the best kids scary dress but grown ups can dress up too, so let your hair down and enjoy a spooktacular evening!
After several days of hard work setting up the walled garden for the annual Music & Real Ale Festival, we were ready to go. Only the weather could spoil the party! In the early hours of Saturday morning, violent thunderstorms hit the village but mercifully no damage was done to the site. As the gates opened, the sun was breaking through and the weather held good for the whole event and consequently large numbers turned up to enjoy the day. What luck! In fact, the weather held fine until the Sunday afternoon when more heavy storm rain arrived but by then we had finished tidying up the site following the event so again we were lucky. The entertainment programme was opened by the school children of the St Mary’s, Richard Crosse and Howard Federation Choir who gave us a lively programme of music to keep the crowd happy. Their final ‘Thank you for the Music’ got everyone waving their arms!
All of the performers gave their services free in aid of the charity. Their contribution played a vital role in the success of the day and was much appreciated by the large audience.
Our hardworking volunteers pulled out all of the stops both before and during the event. The BBQ and hog roast was a great success, as were the cream teas and cakes. The partygoers drank the bar dry (well almost!). We emptied 20 barrels of real ales, 10 kegs of cider and 4 barrels of lager! Some party!!!
What a day. There were some very tired volunteers as we closed up around midnight but everyone was delighted that the public had turned out in good numbers to ensure a successful event. Thanks to all who attended and a special thanks to the volunteers who served us so well. The money raised at the event will cover our costs for the next 12 months and will ensure that the garden remains open and FREE to everyone ……. a win-win situation for all concerned.
It’s been some time since I was last able to put together a newsletter – somehow life get’s in the way at times and it hasn’t been easy to find the time to put ink to paper! The spring bulbs came and went – and were beautiful (as always) and after a slow start the gardens have burst into growth which has kept us all on our toes. Currently, you can almost watch the grass growing and when your back is turned, the weeds invade in force so we have all been kept busy at the gardens. Allotment holders have been working hard too and this year the allotments are generally looking well cared for and promise a good harvest to reward the hard work being put in. Well done all round.
Our first visitors of the year were a group of young students from Kingsbury School. Their section of the school is known as the bee hive and they were treated to a talk on bee keeping by Dave & Penny Murcott. They donated and planted some bee friendly plants on the orangery raised beds and left some painted stones they had decorated to look like bees. We look forward to their return visit to see how well their plants have settled in.
A Big Thank You
Everything achieved at the garden is done thanks to the huge support we get from volunteers and friends who do the every day spade work, are generally ‘on hand’ to help out at events and support us through donations and membership of the Friends of the Walled Garden. It seemed fitting therefore to offer a ‘thank you celebration’ so in April, in beautiful sunshine, we held a small party in the marquee. It was a lovely event for lovely people. Not everyone was able to be there – but have no fear – we intend to make this an annual celebration of the walled garden community and what they have achieved together. Much of the work done is unseen and the heroes ‘unsung’ – like Ron & Jean Chamberlain who’ve been filling the bird feeders since the project began, Mavis & Barbara who help Sue with teas and management team members like Angela Cornell who does a thoroughly professional job of managing the project finances and Jane Batchelor, our long-standing secretary.
Dave Watton, seen here looking rather uncomfortable and about to receive his British Empire Medal, accepted his award on behalf of everyone, both past and present, who have contributed to the success of the project. Of course, very few have contributed more than Dave and wife Sue and both they and their families were able to enjoy this special day with their families present. Well deserved recognition both for them and for the project which has become such a big part of many of our lives.
All Aboard the Skylark!
Speaking of the family Watton brings me neatly on to the boathouse. In our long term planning, the old boathouse was not a priority – it was a ruin and probably restoration would never be enough to make it a useful building again given the fact that there were 2 huge willow trees growing inside it! It would be an enormous and expensive job so it was pushed onto the back burner, a job for the distant future and the next generation of custodians! Laurence Watton steps into the breach! He had a vision to convert the old building into a wildlife observatory and promptly set about the task in his spare time, driven by his passion for wildlife photography. Later, others joined in and the team was formed. First the giant willows had to be removed, and then the crumbling walls had to be made safe.
After the bricks had been cleaned off, the wall could be rebuilt and Dave fashioned a new roof which is now in place. There is still much to be done but much has been achieved to transform the ruin into a useable building again. It will look like the old boathouse and could house a boat again but a false floor and new windows facing downstream will mean that its new function will do more than float your boat! All of the volunteers who worked on the boathouse have their names engraved on the roof timbers for posterity. Volunteer Julie Cox very generously put up the money for the restoration – thanks, Julie; it will give pleasure to many in the future.
Here we see Mick & Nathan cleaning up the old bricks ready for re-use. Hours of work went into this thankless and dusty task both on the boathouse and on the Orangery which was damaged 18 months ago when an oak tree was felled by winter storms. The orangery has now been planted up and is beginning to look cared for even though there is much still to be done.
Walled Garden Goes Global
During the past few months and with a lot of help from expert Simon Lamont, we have been putting together and have now launched our NEW WEBSITE! We feel it is easier to use and more simply organised that our old website. It’s early days and we will be ‘tweaking it’ as we learn how to manage it, but have a look at it and tell us what you think. You can find it on https://elfordhallgarden.org/
Just a few of the lovely plants currently showing off at the garden – there’s currently so much to see so why not come on down? Speaking of blooming, the RHS judges will be at the garden on 24th June to judge us for ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood 2015.’ Elsewhere in the garden, things have been coming to life. Nowhere can this be seen better than in the herbaceous border and the sensory garden. During the winter, these 2 areas always look a bit sad in their winter clothes but spring sees them slowly awakening from their winter rest and coming back into colour. Now they look magnificent in their full splendour and within the next week or so, the rose garden will be in full flower, looking and smelling wonderful so if you haven’t visited in a while, NOW is the time to put that right!
Young badgers seen on site by Laurence Watton and captured on camera from the old boathouse.
To the woods, to the woods …
A group of volunteers took a walk to Woodhouse Farm one Sunday to see the lovely bluebells. Anna Marie and Andrew made us very welcome and walked us around before serving up tea and cake. Lovely! And not a calorie in sight!
Visits are now well underway, with 20 or more groups already booked in for a garden tour and talk and an excellent tea from Sue, Barbara & Mavis.
Pictured here are Lichfield’s PHAB group on a not so sunny day but enjoyed by all.
Make it a Date!
The boules season is well underway with great fun being had in all weathers. Come and join in – no expertise is required – and maybe bring a bottle and picnic and meet new friends. Forthcoming dates are 17 & 31 July, 7 & 21 August, 4 & 18 September and 2 & 16 October. The boules pitches can be used at any time, of course, and we have boules to loan out if you need them.
June 24th sees the visit of the Royal Horticultural Society judges to look over the gardens. If you have a bit of time between now and then and feel that you could lend a hand making the garden look perfect then please drop in on a volunteering day (Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday) as many hands make light work!
Then, on July 4th we have the Music and Real Ale Festival which I hope you’ll be able to attend. We’re grateful that so many of our ‘Friends’ have volunteered to help us on the day and with setting up and clearing up on the Sunday after the event. If you want to join the team then give me a call or an email. The more the merrier! Details of the event are on the website or email me if you need more information. It should be a great day with over 20 ales, 10 ciders, wines and soft drinks to sample plus loads of lovely grub!
That’s all Folks
I was off to lie down in a darkened room, but it’s too nice outside so I’m going into the Sensory Garden to relax on the lovely bench recently restored by Peter Kennedy. It sits in the insect friendly garden area – hence its bee stripes – and there I can watch the busy bees in comfort.
A Final Thank You……
To all those of our Friends who have paid their membership again this year. Your financial support for the project is crucial and much appreciated – together we have created an oasis of tranquillity for all to enjoy. Should, perchance, it have slipped your mind….. well, you know where to find us! We’ll be happy to see you.
The walled garden at Elford is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year but there is no better time to visit than when there are more than 25 real ales and ciders available to be tasted and tested? Well, I suppose it would be better if there was entertainment available too. Even better would be if there excellent food on offer! Plus, if the children were kept amused at no cost – well that would be brilliant!
It seems unlikely that such a combination of ‘goodies’ could all be on offer together on one day BUT, you are in luck!
On Saturday July 4th at the walled garden in Elford all of these things and more will be available for anyone who wants a cracking day out. Gates open at 1.00pm and music starts at 1.30 and continues well into the late evening. There will be an extensive bar – see our website for drinks on offer – a BBQ all afternoon and evening, cream teas, a hog roast in the evening and fun and games for kids is free. You will be able to enjoy the garden and the entertainment and there are marquees should the weather disappoint. The food and drink – going on previous events – will keep everyone happy.
This is an important fund raiser for the volunteer run walled garden project. Funds raised will help to keep the garden developing and will keep it open all year FREE to all visitors. The garden has recently been awarded no less than 4 Royal Horticultural Society awards and the coveted Queen’s Award so it is quite something. By coming along, you will be supporting a great local charity while having the time of your life!
The event opens at 1pm on Saturday July 4th and admission is just £6 (children £3 and under 5s are free) so come along and smell the roses!