Archive for December, 2016

The ocean waves broke one by one And I was alone with the sand and the foam Of the sea that was singing just for me. Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen in Dia do Mar (1947) from Obra Poética (Assírio & Alvim, 2015)

via Alone by the sea — Salt of Portugal


Building Conservation Team The Building Conservation team at the National Park have a vested interest in keeping the area’s traditional buildings in good repair so as to maintain and secure this particular element of the North York Moors’ special qualities. We have a new Advice Note on using lime mortars, the rudiments of which are […]

via The Chemistry of Buildings — The official blog for the North York Moors National Park

To Walter de Grasse

Dear Walter,

wp_20161229_10_13_24_proI trust that Lise and you had a good Christmas. We certainly have, with our children and their partners with us to share good food, drink, walks and talks. Here’s a picture of them all outside Blickling Hall on Christmas Day.

wp_20161225_13_45_52_pro1In  Old School Garden, I’ve been continuing the tidy up, with most of the remaining leaves collected and stored, as well as some long overdue weeding and plant dividing and moving. We have also been harvesting parsnips, chard and leeks for the festive meals and , as hoped, the ‘Red Delicious’ apples I stored have ripened in time for Christmas.

The weather has offered up some mild, dry days but of late ‘real’ winter has descended with frosty, foggy days. Coupled with the weather and the festivities I seem to have developed a problem with one of my hips which has also prevented me from doing as much outside as I’d hoped. A trip to the doctor indicates inflamed muscles and ligaments, so for now I’m taking anti inflammatories to try to reduce the problem, pending an X Ray to make sure nothing more long term is the cause of the problem. To date, the medication seems to have had little impact, so my days have been uncomfortable and at nighttime my sleep has been disrupted.

Still, garden- related activity has continued….I’ve drawn up my planting plan for the Kitchen Garden in the coming year (see below). During the tidy up I’ve noticed very few stems on the summer fruiting raspberries, so it may be that a move of these is called for as harvests have been disappointing in recent years, despite some new planting in gaps left by older plants. so the plan may need a more radical approach in the next couple of months; weather and hip permitting!

kitchen-gadn-2017Apart from this I’ve had some meetings at ‘The Grow Organisation‘ in Norwich; you remember I mentioned this social enterprise and it’s plans to create a ‘Green Care’ centre? Below is an aerial picture of their site and a shot of the concept plan I’ve produced. We’ve had two very promising meetings with Garden Organic and the Mental Health Foundation Trust I’m involved with as a governor. I’m pleased to say both organisations are fired up by the plans and have agreed to work with us to make the vision a reality and get a range of gardening therapy courses and activities underway. Staff are now seeking outside sponsorship and other funding routes to get phase one of the plan completed; this involves creating a number of raised beds and vertical gardening structures on what is currently a tarmaced basketball/football court. And alongside we hope to build a sunken greenhouse and cold frames, and create an outside working space (including a compost demonstration area) next to the existing potting shed. This is an exciting opportunity which I plan to continue to help in the coming year.

Oh, and do you have any spare garden equipment or tools you could pass on, please? The Allotment Project at the local High School has put out a request for these, so if you or someone you know has things they can spare, please let me know. I plan myself to let them have a wheelbarrow and few tools that are surplus to requirements here.

In a couple of weeks I’m giving a talk to the Lindfield Horticultural Society down in Sussex, courtesy of my old friend Jen and her brother, Chris, who is their Chairman. The topic is ‘Heritage Gardening’. Apart from drawing on my own experience and training in this field (especially my time at Blickling Hall), I plan to feature some unusual examples of heritage gardening from around the country and beyond; and some fun activities too! I’ll let you know how it goes in my January letter to you.

Once this is out of the way, I plan to devote more time to researching the Tree Trail at Blickling, and hopefully finalise the content of this to enable us to move into production of the tree information signs and associated leaflets and other paraphernalia. This will include some ‘leaf stamps’ for children to use as they visit a few of the commoner, native trees. Fingers crossed; I hope to have the bulk of this completed by the time I write to you again in a month’s time.

Until then Deborah and I wish you and Lise an enjoyable New Year celebration, and more importantly, a thriving 2017!

 wp_20161229_10_08_31_proOld School Gardener




I’m delighted to feature this week and next another guest post – a fascinating piece of social, political and housing history from Jane Kilsby in Banbury. Jane worked in housing management for councils and housing associations across the country for over twenty years before settling in Banbury three years ago. Thanks also to her husband Steve, another former […]

via Early Council Housing in Banbury, Part I: King’s Road and the Cow Fair Roarer — Municipal Dreams

Sir Sandford Flemming Park in Halifax, Canada now has two towers stretching skywards, carving out distinctive vertical planes. The new arrival is not as tall or venerable as the early 20th century Dingle Tower commemorating the establishment of responsible government in Nova Scotia. Although it may be the shorter of the two, it represents a […]

via When Simple Just Rocks — PlayGroundology

I was interviewed this week by N Quentin Woolf for the Londonist. It’s a wide-ranging conversation around council housing, its history and the controversies which surround it. You can find the podcast here:

via Londonist Podcast — Municipal Dreams

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…The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there… Twenty days until little munchkins all over the world will be jumping from their beds to see if what they have been dreaming about is under the tree. Well, the tree is trimmed, and the decorations and […]

via Tis the season — NewEnglandGardenAndThread


Jude, aka the Undergardener aka Mrs Greenbench, and I love special plants that give extra interest at their own specific times of the year. The Cyclamen we plant in pots each autumn fall into this category and they give exceptional interest with their flowers and their foliage despite of their diminutive size. We also grow […]

via Cyclamen for Autumn — greenbenchramblings


wp_20161215_12_55_08_proSo it was the day of the garden volunteers party at Blickling this week. We spent the morning, though, raking and barrowing leaves from the Orangery Garden borders so that gardener Ed could ‘hoover’ them up into his giant leaf collector.

It was tiring work, moving between and under the shrubs and my aching hip didn’t do the distance without a short break…

Two and a half hours later, and after some interesting chats with fellow volunteers, we made our way to the new bothy in the Walled Garden, and what a spread awaited us!

Volunteer Pam setting out the food...

Volunteer Pam setting out the food…

After tucking in (the circulation space was a little cramped) we settled down to some conversation- it was good to meet up with some of the volunteers gardeners who come in other days as well as some of the garden guides too. Head Gardener Paul said a few words of thanks to all involved in the gardens this year and kindly gave us a card and bottle of wine.

And then  it was sing song time! Volunteers Chris (guitar) and Tressa (lead vocals) led us all in some carols to round off a very pleasing lunchtime.

'Sonny and Cher'?- Chris and Tressa lead the singing...

‘Sonny and Cher’?- Chris and Tressa lead the singing…

Needless to say no one was about to make their ways back into the gardens after that…still the Walled garden was looking suitably tidy in its winter garb. Here’s to another year of progress!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

Finding Nature

Nature Connectedness Research Blog by Prof. Miles Richardson

Norfolk Green Care Network

Connecting People with Nature

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Australian Pub Project, Established 2013

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a harrowing journey of home improvement & garden renovation

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