Tag Archive: church

To Walter de Grasse

Dear Walter,

I’m so sorry to have not written last month, but hopefully you’ll understand how busy we’ve been preparing for our daughter’s wedding and more recently the Show Garden I helped with at the Sandringham Flower Show.

Well, the wedding went off pretty well, all things considered, and the hot dry weather we’ve been having held for that important weekend. I think the garden- well the parts visible around the rather large marquee- looked presentable, and I had many compliments on it from amongst the 130 or so people attending. We’re still waiting for the photographs to appear, but I’ll send you some as soon as we have them.

Wow, it’s been hot…

As you know from your own experience, we have had a very long period of dry and sometimes very hot weather of late- I think we ran for around 5 weeks without any rain and last week I clocked a temperature of 39 celsius! This was just before a rather dramatic storm cleared the air- at least for a time.

The wedding was a truly international affair…

Over the last few days a more unsettled weather pattern has arrived and the garden (and us) have had some very welcome ‘usable’ rain. However, it looks like the week is going to become increasingly dry and hot again so I can’t put away the hose pipe just yet.

Having watered pretty consistently in the Kitchen Garden I’m pleased to say that most crops are doing well- Deborah harvested most of the beetroot yesterday and has been pickling these. We’ve had plenty of tomatoes, cucumber, cauliflower, calabrese, courgettes and broad beans and I’m going to chance my arm and finally dig up the potatoes today, though given the dry weather and my early experience of harvesting these, I’m not that hopeful that they’ll amount to much. Here are a few shots of the garden today, focusing on the containers, as they look the most presentable!

Apart from keeping Old School Garden in a reasonable state, the past couple of weeks have seen some focused effort going into the Show Garden at Sandringham and, oh, picking up an award…

That was a ‘Highly Commended’ award at the Norfolk Community Biodiversity Awards for the Church Action Group’s ‘imaginative’ approach to improving biodiversity, including, as you know the planting of an ‘Avenue of Remembrance’ and seeding a piece of waste ground as a wild flower meadow, as well as our approach to managing the churchyard as  meadow environment to encourage a wider selection of wild flowers and other species. Four of us (including a colleague from the Community Payback Team who have been so helpful in our efforts) went along to the awards evening in Norwich recently and picked up our certificate..

But I guess my focus has been on Sandringham most recently. This show, attended by around 20,000 people, is a traditional country flower show with added attractions, and includes a visit by HRH the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. Working with the Prince’s Trust and Grow Organisation we helped 9 young people to experience the creation and construction of a 8 metre square show garden on the theme of ‘A young person’s journey to well being’. It was a sometimes a stressful but over all a very positive experience for me and i think everyone involved. It was great to see how the young people gradually took ownership of the project and design which I’d deliberately planned as a series of different spaces where specific features could be created such as planters, bug hotel, willow obelisks and so on. It was also great to have so many other organisations and companies helping us with plants, features and so on…truly a community effort. And the result was a Silver Gilt Medal and some very positive feedback from the judges and public who visited us. Judge Chris Beardshaw described the garden as fantastic and complimented the team on gpoing for the right approach in getting across a number of messages through different types fo space;’You have to go into the garden to really appreciate it’, he said. He also sang one of the young people’s (Sam) praises for her very eloquent presentation of the garden- ‘the best we heard’ he said. Here’s a gallery of pictures to illustrate the main features of the design and most of those involved!


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What next? Well its back to the church at the weekend as we have our mid summer cut and rake of the church yard and tidying up of some other spaces. I may have mentioned that we have a nice new level trackway up to the churchyard courtesy of local firm JS Asphalt who used old road planings to give us the new surface. We are now contemplating the next stages in our work to improve the facilities at this important community venue, including making the church building accessible for those with a disability as well as improved services, toilets etc. I’m currently looking at possible grant sources  to help us achieve this ‘transformation plan’.

Well, I see that the garden awaits so I must get on with digging the potatoes and transplanting some runner beans and leeks now that we have slightly damper conditions. All the best to Ferdy and enjoy the rest of the summer. Next week we are getting out on our hands and knees at the Aylsham Roman Dig..more of that in due course..


Old School Gardener














Festival today!

Come and see tractors, steam engines, listen to Aylsham Band and watch children making tractors, their own bread and butter, sowing seeds and looking for worms! Grab a cuppa and cake and sit in the churchyard.

Haveringland Harvest Festival today 2.30-5pm at St. Peter’s Church, Haveringland, just off Haveringland Road between Cawston and Felthorpe, Norfolk, about 10 miles north of Norwich.

Old School Gardener


Amazing wooden tractor- but will it travel?

Amazing wooden tractor- but will it travel?

Champing at the bit

St.Michael’s, Booton.  Photo John Tym

This is “champing” – camping in a redundant church (not what horses do). “Relax in quiet comfort and snuggle down in a truly ancient place,” suggests the website.

The cost per night is £55 per adult and £20 per child, with group rates available (eight people or more), and there is no price increase in the school holidays.

The price includes a “glorious cooked breakfast”, which is served at the Dial House in nearby Reepham.

The property will generally not be available before 3 pm on the first day of the booking and guests must leave before 11 am on their last day. “Champers” get exclusive use of the church, although they will need to bring their own pillows and bedding.

You might ask, will there be any heating? And the answer would be, no. And, ahem, what about the facilities? That would be the EcoLoo (compost toilet) outside; this is sustainable tourism – no baths/showers or running water!

The Grade II*-listed building in Booton, unused as a church since 1987, is among 347 in England under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, which is trying to find imaginative ways to bring people back inside them.

“The Trust has done some pretty cool stuff before, but making ‘champing’ into an actual thing has to take even the biscuitiest of biscuits,” the website continues. “It’s exclusive – you get the church all to yourself. Towers to climb, organs to play and so many options for church hide-and-seek – it’s all yours.”

So far, Booton is the only church in Norfolk available for “champing”. The scheme was piloted last year and there are now 10 churches across the southeast of England, explained Jessica Aiers of the Churches Conservation Trust:

“We already have several bookings for Booton for this year, and there are plans to expand the network to other areas.”

“Champing” in St Michael the Archangel, Booton, is available from 1 May to 30 September. Photo: Joseph Casey Photography

For further information, telephone 020 7841 0436 or visit www.champing.co.uk

by Karen Brockman  originally in Reepham Life

Capture 2Capture 1Source: http://www.pressreader.com/bookmark/b8qNx4jmHxCAhI015mRv-vCye14JtGorv_vxoSDPCUM1/

Thaxted: Sunlit Gem

Lonely Planet?

Lonely Planet?

A few pictures from a recent visit to this beautiful Essex town.

Old School Gardener



I came across this poem the other day. It’s written by a chap called Jack Kett, a lovely Norfolk man who was a former Head teacher at the local school and lay preacher at our local church, St. Peter’s, Haveringland. He and his wife were well known local charatcers who have both now passed on. Many of Jack’s poems describe the local Norfolk landscape.

You may recall that some of the money raised from our recent ‘Open Garden’ event is going towards the upkeep of St. Peter’s, which can be seen from our garden. This important local landmark is, sadly, no longer regularly used for church services, but it has a rich history, including having a second world war airfield plonked next to it, which has resulted in the church being a rather lonely feature in an otherwise flat landscape – the ‘Church in the Fields’.


St.   St. Peter’s Church, Haveringland

‘Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields’,

He said, ‘your lesson to learn’.

And here, in Haver’land’s fields today,

We also, in our turn,

Witness the pageant of seasons,

The ever – changing scene,

Which, where men work along with God

Turns gold, or brown, or green.


Let us remember our forbears,

Who in the years gone by

Surveyed a scene so different,

Yet under the same great sky.

The days of the Abbey, the Market,

The Manor, the Hall – all pass

Each down the road of history,

Now rubble under the grass.


Wars and rumours of wars have come

And gone, like the stately trees,

And now, where the noisy engines roared

We hear the hum of the bees.

We live in a world of changes,

Yet surely the lesson is clear –

Amidst it all, as on a rock,

St. Peter’s  stands here,


Symbol of Truths that never change,

Of a faith that never yields,

And we find the Eternal Peace of God

In His Church among the fields.


Jack Kett , 1960

Old School Gardener

The Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus)

The Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus)

You will recall that our day out had begun promisingly at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire. After lunch we drove off (car roof remaining closed in view of the low cloud and short journey) to the town of Saffron Walden in north Essex. More specifically it is the chief town of the District of Uttlesford– I always think this sounds like somewhere you might find in ‘The Shire’ of Hobbit fame!

We’d been here a long time ago and then only driving through so didn’t really have a chance to explore it thoroughly. Here’s a link to Wikipedia’s entry on the town if you’re interested in its history. In brief it’s of ancient standing, there having been a settlement here long before the Roman occupation of Britain 2 thousand years ago. Of particular interest is the derivation of the town’s name. In the medieval period the primary trade in Saffron Walden was in wool, but in the 16th and 17th centuries the Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativa) was grown in the area. Each saffron crocus grows to 20–30 cm and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigma. Together with the styles, or stalks that connect the stigmas to their host plant, the dried stigmas were used originally in medicines, as a condiment, a perfume, an aphrodisiac, and as an expensive yellow dye. This industry gave its name to the town and what used to be Chipping Walden became Saffron Walden. The town itself retains many old buildings, interesting spaces and features, as you’ll see in the gallery at the end of this article.

We began our visit in a fascinating garden – Bridge End Garden. This is actually a series of seven interlinked gardens laid out by the Gibson family (eminent bankers and brewers) in the nineteenth century. They are Grade II* listed (so protected), close to the town centre and church and are open to the public each day free of charge. Careful restoration has replicated gardening techniques and designs typical of the Victorian era and has brought the garden back to its full splendour.

Though there are signs around stating that it is ‘not a playground’ and ‘ball games are not allowed’, I can see it can be difficult to prevent its use for play by the town’s children, some of which might get a bit over exuberant at times…. While we were there I was delighted to see a group of teenage boys playing ‘It’ around the different spaces and the hedge maze was also an obvious draw for local kids. These features in an original 17th or 18th century setting must surely have been used in a similar, playful way – if not by children then by adults! The Dutch Garden with its complex parterre of box bushes also looks so like a ‘mini maze’ (in fact hedge mazes developed out of the complex parterres in France, Holland and elsewhere across Europe), so it wasn’t suprising to see another sign, perhaps rather desperately, announcing that it isn’t a maze!

The gardens are maintained by a team of paid staff (of the Town Council, which also maintains a number of other public gardens) and volunteers, and are in a very good condition. A long winding path flanked by well – kept mixed borders leads you past the formal Rose Garden with views to the parish church beyond (apparently the tallest church in Essex) to the walled garden with its fence and wall – trained fruit trees and two glasshouses with miniature orchard and citrus fruit trees, respectively, in pots that look as though they are brought outside in warmer weather.

All around are little curiosities to intrigue –  statues of mock-snarling (or is it smiling) beasts, other classical statuary, some fine, mature trees such as a Cedar of Lebanon, a small summer house with a display of some curiosities from the garden (such as old gardener’s notes) and another gazebo called ‘Poets’ Corner’. The ‘Wilderness’, as it’s name suggests, was an area of more naturalistic planting (now with a developing Yew tunnel) and from the viewing platform at one end you can get a wonderful view of the Dutch Garden, with its swirling pattern of box hedging laid out to a design by Gertrude Jekyll, who visited the garden in the early 20th century.

Having seen a hedge maze, we went in search of one that is much older – and made of turf. At one edge of the town’s Common sits this wonderful example of a classical labyrinth (see my post on mazes and labyrinths for more information), of uncertain age, but several centuries at least as it was recut in the 17th century. This splendid feature is certainly a challenge to concentration and determination, being 1 kilometer long if you walk the full length of the winding brick path between the shallow turf mounding! Labyrinths are ancient features, adopted by Christianity as a way of encouraging meditation along the symbolic ‘journey of life’.

From here we passed by some of the medieval charm of central Saffron Walden, with their ‘pargetted’ walls (a technique that creates geometric patterns and pictures on the external render) and Market Square, and found a nice little Tea shop for our afternoon break. Unfortunately the west country ‘Saffron Cake’ appears not to be a local delicacy here, despite the town’s association with the spice! Instead portions of Strawberry Cheesecake and Millionaire’s Shortbread had to suffice! We finished our visit by looking round an old – estabslished Antique shop and the parish church of St. Mary- a superb example of a grand parish church built on wool – wealth (and latterly saffron – wealth). It has glorious glass, high painted wooden roof and stonework. Just as we were leaving this delightful town,  the rain began to fall – great timing!

Further information:

Plantax 5: Crocus- spicy herald of Spring

Saffron Walden Town Council website

Bridge End Garden- Uttlesford District Council website

Visit Saffron Walden website

Old School Gardener

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