Tag Archive: Groundforce Day


To Walter de Grasse

Dear Walter,

So, autumn is upon us! It’s been an interesting gardening month for me here in Norfolk, though I have to say spending rather more time on gardens and gardening projects away from Old School Garden.

That of course has made me feel a bit guilty, and with the damage done to the grass (I’ve given up calling them ‘lawns’) by the new brood of young moles, also rather dejected and overwhelmed with all that needs doing.

I have at least continued to harvest fruit and veg from the garden; the apples and pears are especially pleasing, and the cucumbers are beginning to overwhelm us! Still it’s that time of year when things tend to wind down as far as growing is concerned, and attention turns to selective tidying up and repair jobs. So, I’ve emptied the shed in preparation for constructing it’s replacement, replaced a wooden fence post, cut a shed full of firewood, cut the grass and cleared away the first leaf fall, and watched the autumn colours appear- especially from Asters and Sedums.

I also had a frustrating morning trying to get my new shredder working. You may recall that a kindly neighbour gave me this petrol driven machine, which after servicing I was eager to try out. Well, to cut a long story short, whilst I managed to get it going a few times, it kept cutting out on me and on one or two occasions stalled from too much damp, leafy material being fed to it. I gave up in the end and still have the aching elbow joint to prove how many times I yanked the starting cord, to no avail!

Away from home there’s been some interesting developments. I visited a social enterprise project called ‘The Grow Organisation’ on the outskirts of Norwich. They provide home garden maintenance services (providing employment opportunities to people who might otherwise find employment difficult) and are hoping to develop the surroundings of their impressive community hub building to provide gardens where people who have a variety of health issues can spend time using ‘gardening as therapy’ ; including a ‘Sensory Garden’ for those suffering from dementia. The project sounds great and having spoken with their Director, I’ve agreed to help them with some design ideas for these outside spaces.

The second project is one I’ve already mentioned in my blog- the Allotment Project at our local High School in Reepham. Here teacher Matt Willer has created a wonderful outdoor classroom using materials and other resources either borrowed, donated or upcycled. He’s also used a great deal of ingenuity to overcome some issues such as the lack of a pumped water supply by devising a system for harvesting rainwater and created a well for storing this.

The other big story is the success of the Harvest Festival event at our local church, St. Peter’s, where having cleared up the churchyard the week before, around 150 people fo all ages came to see the end of a vintage tractor run, listen to the Aylsham Band, sing some old favourite harvest hymns and take par tin various activities such as making bread and butter, sowing seeds, learning about compost, making their own ‘scrap’ tractors and tucking into some scrumptious tea and cakes. ‘Haveringland Groundforce Day #2’ is now planned for next week, where I hope that we can finish off getting the churchyard set up to become a properly managed conservation area which is accessible and provides a place to reflect and enjoy nature as well as visiting the graves of the recently departed.

So, a month of limited activity, and reflecting on my hopes from last month, I can’t claim to be a ‘gold medal’ performance. Still, satisfying to a degree. I’ll have another go at that shredder, I promise…

Old School Gardener

imagesOn Saturday a group of about a dozen volunteers set about transforming the space around my local church, St. Peter’s Church, Haveringland; from a wildlife friendly, but rather dishevelled churchyard into the first stage of creating a more ‘managed’ space.

The newly established ‘Friends of Haveringland Parish Church’ arranged the event following a visit from Norfolk Wildlife Trust who gave us some very helpful advice, and my own efforts at producing a Management Plan for the churchyard. The overall aims of this are to achieve a space which is a balance of:

  1. Accessibility to recent graves

  2. A place for reflection and calm

  3. Wildlife friendly

  4. Prevents deterioration of the church building and grounds

  5. Low maintenance

  6. Easy accessibility to the Church (and some surrounds to church?) for wheelchair users

The overall layout features:

  • Blocks of ‘meadow’ (major perennial weeds dug out, strimmed annually and raked off) surrounded by regularly close mown paths.

  • Areas of regularly close mown grass around recent graves and close to the Church; possibly including seating and ‘photo opportunity’ spaces.

  • Perimeter trees (firs) pruned from ground to above churchyard wall height, and an entrance avenue maintained to it’s established crown height.

  • Other major deciduous trees pruned to raise crowns; elders and hawthorns removed.

  • Regular removal of invasive ivy, grass and weeds on perimeter walls and next to church walls (drainage trench).

A few days before the event, this is what the place looked like.

Our first ‘Groundforce Day’ focused on strimming and mowing the rough grass and then raking the cuttings off to avoid fertilising the soil (so as to encourage wildflowers to thrive and spread), removing thistles, Ragwort and sapling trees from poor locations and trimming back trees along the front wall of the churchyard to open up the churchyard to the outside and to improve views out to the surrounding fields. One of our team also made a start on weeding the pebble drainage trench surrounding the church walls- a painstaking job. Here’s a layout plan that will guide our work.

st. peters planWe made good progress until ‘rain stopped play’ around 3pm, by which time the strimming was done, most of the cuttings had been raked away, some of the ‘weed thugs’ removed and the front row of trees trimmed to provide great views in and out of the churchyard. We also planted our sign showing we are members of the Churchyard Conservation Scheme run by Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Norwich Diocese…

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HUGE thanks to Deborah (refreshments), Gisela, Andre (and for the cakes too), Andrew, Brian, David, Fred, Les, Neil, Norman, and Richard (and Nancy for the delicious lemon drizzle cake).

…and also thanks to Peter Richardson and Dick Rowse for the loan of two special strimmers!

Here’s to Haveringland Groundforce Day #2 (date to be confirmed, but probably mid October- watch this website)! We will finish off the weeding round the church walls and tackle the ivy on the churchyard walls.

For now, the Church looks ready for the special Harvest Festival event this Sunday, 11th September when a vintage tractor run, the Aylsham Band, children’s activities, standing steam engines, refreshments (and toilet facilities), and an informal Harvest Service (hopefully outside) will be on offer- please come and visit us from 2.30-pm to 5pm (St. Peter’s is set in fields just off of the Haveringland Road, between Cawston and Felthorpe).

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