Category: Community Gardening


rhsc-allotOverview
Thanks to a new wave of Year 12 volunteers, two very kind parents (Mr Fox and Mr Southgate), Mr Crick and his construction group, Mrs Brook and her ‘Care of the Countryside group’, Roy the horse poo man, Mike and Keith and Whitwell Railway station, Malcolm at Reepham Hardware store, the wisdom and help of Mr Nigel Boldero, the kind donations of unwanted garden tools from staff, students and parents, Mr Ernie Adams and the site team and, of course, our regular Saturday volunteers, the winter work is now very nearly at end down at the allotment site. Without these people, the Allotment Project would not be developing as quick and with so much dedication and devotion for a third year since February 2015.

The raised beds
We have made some major improvements to the raised beds. Due to the fact the water table is very shallow and often causing us some flooding issues, we have had to make the raised beds even higher. On our largest raised bed we used a technique borrowed from the ‘permaculture’ gardener Sepp Holzer whereby we buried dead branches and leaves under top soil. This not only aides drainage but it will create long lasting nutrients as this organic matter rots away over time.

r1Just before the start of the February half-term, and thanks to Whitwell Railway Station, we used more kindly donated railway sleepers to heighten two other small raised beds. Again, this means we will be growing crops well above the water table and we will be able to create our own new fertile soil that it not clay based (the allotment site mainly sits on clay).

r2The soak away/rainwater catcher/harvester
In an effort to be super green and sustainable we continue to work towards supplying the allotment site with its own water supply by catching rainwater from surface runoff. Thanks to Mrs Brook’s ‘Care of the Countryside’ group, Mr Crick’s construction group, Mr Southgate’s brick donations and of course the Year 12 volunteers who dug the whole another metre deeper, we now have a much more soundly made and reliable soak away area to harvest rainwater. This water will soon be pumped out using a simple solar powered pump into our two 1000 litre containers.r3

The polytunnel
Everything has been reorganised in the polytunnel and everything is now ready for the new growing season. There are two new raised beds, using old wooden pallets, to hopefully grow tomatoes again for a second time. These new raised beds mean we no longer have to buy and use grow bags as the tomato plants will have all they need from the soil we have created for them.

r7The fruit cage
The Year 12 volunteers have improved the inside and outside of the fruit cage. Many thanks to Mr Southgate for donated unwanted bricks which we used to make a new path so the strawberries don’t get trampled on! The ceiling of the fruit cage was also raised so volunteers no longer have to crouch!

r9Other pathways
As we are getting more volunteers it was only sensible and practical to improve access to the allotment site. Thanks to the College Enrichment group a new path has been built using old broken bricks (thanks again Mr Southgate) as a drainage layer and paving slabs kindly donated by Mr Raggett. This means no more muddy and slippery paths in and out of the allotment.

r10Compost and horse manure
In an effort to be even more sustainable and green, we have started to create our own compost area. This is made using green waste from the allotment and leaves kindly gathered by the site team and the contractors Countrywide. Old straw bales, food waste/tea bags from the staff room/canteen and those who fly-tip the countryside have also all been composted. Thanks to Roy (the horse poo man) from Reepham Rotary Club we have been well supplied with ancient horse manure that is fantastic for growing our produce in. Thanks a million Roy.

r11r12Chicken coop
Hopefully by March we will have a small brood of chickens down at the allotment site. All preparations are being made to build the chicken coop on a limited budget. Most of this will be paid for by the East of England Coop token scheme which is currently operating in Briston and Melton Constable Coop stores. Thanks to Callum Pell who kindly donated a disused and battered old children’s playhouse. Thanks mainly to Mr Fox, this playhouse has been reassembled and will soon to become a new chicken house for the chickens to live in and lay their eggs. Molly Brown (Year 12) has taken the lead on this mini-project and has organised obtaining some hens for us. We intend to sell these eggs to the school canteen for them to use in their cooking.

Spring 2017
Spring will be here soon which means will we will start sowing and propagating seeds in order to plant in our raised beds. Thanks to Solana (a local potato seed company) we have secured a great many seed potatoes that we will be planting in March when they arrive. In other news, we were approach by the company Adnams who run a ‘Food for Thought’ scheme. If we had decided to join up, it would have meant that Adnams would buy our produce and use it in their restaurants over East Anglia. They could have also given us £1000 on top of the money given in payment for our produce. After some careful thought, and an open discussion with our regular volunteers and others, it was decided that this would undermine the whole purpose of the Allotment Project. Food should be grown locally and for the local community nor should it have to travel hundreds/thousands of miles to get to us. This should be the message for the children to understand. Food production should be both sustainable and environmentally friendly. In time we are planning that more and more food can be sold to the school canteen. It would be amazing, maybe one day, if we could provide all food products for the school canteen. This remains a dream.

r15Thank you very much for taking the time to read this update. If you would like to help out one lunchtime for the younger volunteers I would be extremely grateful. I hope that this year, now that we are getting more and more established, there can be a shared responsibility amongst other staff to help run the Allotment Project. One person ‘running the show’ is not sustainable. There will be another seasonal update in the summer.
Thank you again for taking the time to read about the ‘goings on’ down at the Allotment Project.

Matt Willer
Staff volunteer at RHSC’s Allotment Project

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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

Image result for images narcissus jenny

Narcissus ‘Jenny’

Back to a Thursday morning at Blickling this week, having missed last week. I began at 9am and was soon joined by fellow volunteer Rory. Gardener Rebecca asked us to dig planting holes for a thousand narcissus bulbs in the orangery garden….

Most of the gardeners wer on leave this day, and i was sad to learn that Project Manager Mike had had a resumption of his back problem so was once more on sick leave…speedy recovery Mike!

It turned out that the bulbs- called ‘Jenny’- were to go around the large central tree, naturalised in the grass. They had been chosen to commemorate one of the Thursday gardening volunteers- yes, named Jenny- who had passed away a year or two ago. A nice idea.

The central tree has a circular seat surrounding it and work was underway to repair the base of this which had rotted away somewhat. Near the top of the surrounding grass mound the turf was pretty hard and choked with pieces of old brick, but further down there was more give and the job of cutting out holes with a bulb planter a bit easier. Unfortunately Rory had been given a rather old and ineffective planter which didn’t cut too well, so he was forever clearing it out with odd pieces of stick (and regretfully, my secateurs).

My planter was certainly effective and by the time the ladies had joined us- to plant the bulbs- we had managed to get around half way around the tree.

Well, three hours later and we had managed to dig and plant out around 800 bulbs, with about 100 not being in good condition, so rejected, and the others to be planted in the White Garden near the double borders. They should all make a wonderful display in the spring. As it worked out, just as I had to leave we had just about finished and the heavens opened… I’m not looking forward to stiff shoulders in the morning.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

wp_20161126_11_43_39_proI mentioned that I’d attended the 10th anniversary celebration of Norfolk Master Composters last week at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Norwich.  Apart from the tour of the Cathedral roof and tower we were treated to a tour of the Cathedral Garden by head gardener Zanna.

Zanna, formerly a horticultural lecturer at nearby Easton College, is a volunteer and works with a group of others to develop and maintain this quiet space ‘wrapped in the arms’ of the cathedral. Over the last few years she’s led the design and development of a series of spaces where people can relax, contemplate the world and get stuck into food growing alongside ornamental gardening. Inspired by the former Priest here, who wanted the garden to be free of any religious iconography, Zanna has stayed true to that vision and despite pressure, has managed with her fellow volunteers,  to create a special, ‘neutral’ place.

I especially liked the recently completed retaining  wall on top of which sits a wonderful lead urn that has been turned into a water feature. This was created around the same time as the cathedral (i.e. towards the end of the 19th century) and features Ibex and Mouflon heads in relief as well as fruit and flowers. This is lit from underneath and because of its elevated position is a real eye catcher. Nearby a stone seat has been created as a ‘wedding seat’ for those all important photo opportunities.

Another nice features are a wire net figure set under an ancient Cherry Tree (she’s called ‘Nettie’!) with surrounding planting and stumps that help to soften the bare walls of the cathedral Narthex. And there’s wildlife area where children in particular can learn about different plants, birds and insects.

And tucked away and a tribute to Zanna’s recycling and upcycling skills, is a food production area featuring low raised beds, composting area and fruit garden. And an interesting feature is the large underground reservoir that provides the garden’s water … this created from former underground cells in Norwich Gaol, which stood here before the cathedral was built.

This is a special place for the volunteers who work here and it provides a calm space in which to get in touch with self and nature…a true place of spirit one might say!

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nfNorwich FarmShare is a community supported agriculture scheme providing delicious seasonal, organic vegetables to their members at a weekly Hub in Norwich. Their vision is for a fair and sustainable food system that roots a healthy resilient community in the land and to each other.

A not-for-profit cooperative it works with small-scale, agro-ecological farmers and growers in Norfolk, modelling sustainable urban food supply. In October 2015, Norwich FarmShare received notice to quit their growing site to the east of Norwich, the land had been leased for five years from a local farm.

The Trustees decided to commission a feasibility study to consider other potential growing sites in Norfolk and the potential for restarting the scheme at a new site. A grant was received from The Big Lottery’s Awards For All programme to appoint an assessment team and external consultants, and fund relevant research and local consultation. The study commenced in June 2016 and is nearing completion.

captureThe Group now want to further consult on the feasibility study and are holding a community gathering on Sunday 11th December, between 3pm and 6pm at the Friends Meeting House, Upper Goat Lane, Norwich.

Further information: Norwich Farm Share

Old School Gardener

Green Flag bandstand flagI’ve been a Green Flag judge for a few years now – I judged six parks and green spaces this year, including Eaton Park in Norwich (see picture below). I recently attended a ‘Debriefing’ session to hear how this year’s judging went .

Eaton Park, Norwich

The scheme- which promotes good standards in public parks and gardens- celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year and I and fellow judges were told how the scheme continues to grow in its reputation and reach; this years aw spaces in several continental countries being inspected for the first time as well as increased numbers of both applications and successful awards across the UK.

The scheme, managed by Keep Britain Tidy, saw 1,686 parks, cemeteries, universities, shopping centres and community gardens meeting the high standard needed to receive the Green Flag Award or Green Flag Community Award, the quality marks for parks and green spaces.

And this year, for the first time ever, an NHS hospital – The Royal Bournemouth NHS Foundation Trust – has achieved the Green Flag Award standard, joining recipients Blue Water Shopping Centre in Kent and Peak Forest Canal in Whaley Bridge.

The Green Flag Award judges- there are more than 700 – volunteer their time to visit applicant sites and assess them against eight strict criteria, including horticultural standards, cleanliness, sustainability and community involvement.

SkeltonGrangepond_headerWe heard how a university grounds in Finland was the first space to be judged there this year and how more are expected to apply in 2017. We also heard about judging experiences in Ireland and a first judging for a length of Canal. This year’s awards went to the following areas:

I and my fellow judges were delighted to receive a specially inscribed copy of  ‘Great British Parks’ by Paul Rabbitts as a ‘thank you’ from the organisers. The next round of applications is now open; find out more here.

Old School Gardener

 

wp_20161126_12_45_09_proI attended a celebration for the Norfolk Master Composters on Saturday. It’s ten years since the project was established, jointly run by Garden Organic and Norfolk County Council.

Several hundred volunteers have been trained up as ambassadors of compost making and waste reduction and they’ve delivered thousands of hours of advice to schools, communities and households, making Norfolk one of the most ‘compost friendly’ places in Britain.

Held at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Norwich, the celebration heard kind words from County Councillor Martin Wilby and Chief Executive of Garden Organic, James Campbell.

wp_20161126_12_46_14_proCertificates of hours served were also handed out, including one to longest serving volunteer George Muttby, who joined at the beginning of the project in 2006 and has committed over 300 hours of his time to the cause. He spoke passionately about his work with his local Primary School and how government needs to change legislation to make it easier for schools and other institutions to compost and recycle their waste.

wp_20161126_13_10_15_proIt was also an opportunity to have a tour of the interesting garden next to the Cathedral (I’ll be doing a separate post about this) and the cathedral itself, including clambering up narrow stairways to walk inside the nave roof, around the high gallery at the crossing point and up to the top of the tower, from where we had a wonderful view across Norwich to the coast and surrounding countryside.

We had a chance to make some christmas decorations too and had a tasty lunch to follow with a piece of the celebration cake to finish.

Here’s to the next 10 years!

Old School Gardener

 

wp_20161124_12_48_27_proHaving spent the morning doing some Geophysics surveying at the nearby Aylsham Roman Project, I joined the Thursday Team at Blickling for a couple of hours this week.

The focus was digging over the Black Border and planting out over 600 ‘Queen of Night’ tulip bulbs which will look splendid alongside black Irises and black Mongo grass, as well as shrubs such as black Elder. The soil here is pretty damp and claggy, so we spent a good time forking it over to loosen it before planting out the bulbs.

wp_20161124_12_48_42_proOn my way to lunch I bumped into Project Manager, Mike, who has thankfully returned to work after his back problems. After lunch I was joined by Norfolk Peter and Gordon in the Walled Garden, where we planted out about seven rows of tulips which will be used for cutting flowers next spring. The soil, here, having been improved consistently over many years, was a joy to work compared to the Black border.

wp_20161124_14_43_36_proSo where were all the gardeners? It turns out they were ‘dressing’ the gardens for the festive openings in the run up to Christmas. The lighting effects and other decorations promise to be even better than previous years and the House has also been decked out as it would have looked for a 1930’s Christmas. If you can manage a visit, I’m sure it will be very worthwhile- I’ll post some pictures later in the week of how it all looks.

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Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

wp_20161116_11_36_20_proIt’s been a couple of weeks since my last visit to Blickling, and this week I went twice, though the first visit was to hear a talk by Assistant Head gardener, Steve Hagon about his 45 years of gardening here…quite a feat.

The talk was an amusing wander through some of Steve’s experiences . He began work as a 15 year old straight out of School and at that time- 1972 – the gardens had no powered machinery and no volunteers- quite a contrast to today’s set up!

wp_20161116_11_32_50_pro1My second visit was on Wednesday as other commitments meant I couldn’t get there for my usual Thursday stint. As before on Wednesdays there was a good turnout. I was sorry to hear the Walled Garden Project Manager, Mike, was still off work having injured his back. If you’re reading this Mike, all the best for a quick return to the gardens!

For the first hour I and two fellow volunteers and gardener Jane lifted the Cannas from the double borders and potted these up for transfer to their winter quarters in the orangery. Apparently these didn’t flower very well this year- quite  contrast to my own in Old School Garden, which put on their best show to date. Due to the poor (or no) flowering there was a little doubt about the colours of the flowers, so Jane tentatively put general labels in the pots indicating whether from their positioning  they were thought to be ‘warm’ or ‘hot’- it will be interesting to see what transpires next year, assuming we have better flowering!

After this we joined the bulk of the other volunteers in the Walled Garden where the glorious display of dahlias was sadly no more and the time had come to cut the top growth down and mulch the bed thickly for winter protection. As I’ve mentioned before, Mike has decided to leave the tubers in the ground and use a thick mulch to protect them over winter. I’ll be interested to see how they get on, but given their sheltered position and the thick mulch they should be OK.

We quickly finished off the cutting down- some of the stems were very thick and hollow and many were full of water. Then, while the ladies went over the borders of Thyme and other plants in need of a prune,  a few of us turned our attention to barrowing some more of that lovely home-made compost to the border, accompanied by gardener Ed and his amazing tractor skills! Ed managed to not only fill a 3 ton trailer for us which reduced the distance we had to barrow, but subsequently deposited a few tractor shovel loads  along the edge of the border.

He was also very efficient in doing a ‘formation fill’ of three or four wheelbarrows at once- see the picture below!.

wp_20161116_12_10_03_proFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

wp_20161023_15_51_29_proIt was Wednesday again this week at Blickling. ‘Lucky you turned up’ said a fellow volunteer, you’re the 14th person here today!

This must have been the largest volunteer group I’d participated in since joining Blickling. And as the day progressed it made the Walled Garden (where we were all working) reminiscent of a Victorian Kitchen Garden; where once droves of gardeners were busily doing things most days of the year.

The team at work...

The team at work…

It started off as a rather misty murky, autumnal morning, but we were soon set to work and warmed up. Project manager Mike is off with a bad back at present so we were ably directed by gardeners Jane and Rebecca. If you’re reading this Mike, I wish you a speedy recovery; I can sympathise as I had acute sciatica for a year many moons ago.

A few volunteers were set to washing pumpkins ready for an event the following day. I gather this will include drawing faces on the pumpkins, as ‘Health and Safety’ concerns now prevent the Trust helping youngsters and others carve out faces in traditional style (I was tempted to mutter under my breath ‘even worse than banning conkers at school’!!).

The majority of us were in ‘formation hoeing’ mode to begin with as we cleared the remaining weeds and spent foliage from the pumpkin patches and then barrowed in a considerable amount of locally produced compost as a winter mulch. As we progressed from one area to another the results looked very neat and tidy, as I think the dark, damp compost provides a satisfying finish to a bare bed. I lost count of the number of barrow loads I shifted, but my arms, by lunchtime, were at least two inches longer…

After lunch we continued with the same process, pausing to chat to the many visitors on this half term weekday, which was as pleasant as ever. Many commented favourably on the gardens, and especially the Dahlia border, which continues to look marvellous in the low autumn sunshine..it just shows how mild it’s been recently. The final bit of hoeing drew most of the male volunteers together for one final push… ‘five men went to hoe’.The quality of the banter went up a notch as we hoed alongside each other (it looked a little like a ‘hoeing derby’ at one point as we raced each other across the plot).

wp_20161026_14_35_07_proBy the end of the afternoon the sun was shining brightly and the garden looked wonderful bathed in this light, which created a glowing sea of backlit foliage, especially the lime green lettuces. In fact the whole place shone.

wp_20161026_15_27_36_proFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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