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allotments autumn community gardening gardening RHS Shrewsbury

Three Crazy Days at the Allotments – Day 1.

It is early autumn and we have just finished three crazy days on our allotment site, Bowbrook Allotment Community. Three very exciting days. It all began with measuring sunflowers for our annual Sunflower Competition where we determine which child and which adult has grown the tallest plant and the biggest flower. Just like last year the children showed the adults up when it came to growing giant sunflowers. For Little Henry here it was quite an effort to inspect his flowers. His plants outshone all others, children’s and adult’s alike, with the tallest plant towering to almost 3 metres and the width of his largest flower head measuring 33cm. We definitely have a gardener of the future here!

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While measuring the sunflowers my mobile kept ringing and as we wished to concentrate on the the job in hand I left it ringing each time until we stopped for our afternoon tea break. It was a most unexpected phone call when I did answer it, all about the BBC trying to organise for one of their film crews to film on the allotments starting at 5:30 on Friday morning. This was because that night the RHS were holding their “Oscars”, the Britain in Bloom awards and Shrewsbury were in the running with 71 other towns and cities to be crowned Champion of Champions. They wanted to know if I could arrange for the results to be announced at the allotments, should Shrewsbury win, as we were a key part of Shrewsbury’s entry. This was all at the request of the RHS.

A call at 10:00 in the evening informed us that Shrewsbury had indeed won and our allotment community gardens had been singled out for specific praise. The idea behind the early start was that the BBC wanted to announce the results during their early morning news coverage. The news was to be broadcast every half hour throughout the morning and they they wanted to film it all live from our site. Their “weather girl” was to make the announcement and talk to plot holders.

Our first job was to get the site opened to allow the crew to set up and get some BAC members there as well including a mum and her son. This involved getting up at 4:30! We did it but I still don’t know how! The first announcement of Shrewsbury’s success went out live and was filmed in the dark. Gradually throughout the period of filming the sun came up and the birds came to life. Our allotments looked great and we felt really proud. We had been singled out as a special element in our town’s success.

In the photos below Carol was learning her lines, consulting with the director and the lights were set up in the blackness.

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Two plot holders featured in an early slot still in the gloom. Mandy and son Elliot did us proud, with Mandy extolling the virtues of the town and our allotments and Elliot speaking up for the children and their “Roots and Shoots” club.

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The BBC outside broadcast studio in a van slowly emerged from the darkness as dawn broke.

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Life got easier as the sun came up. Alongside the arrival of the light came a sudden burst of bird song which quickly grew to a crescendo.

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I listened carefully to instructions from Carol with Mark and Gary from the town council property department alongside. Constant discussions went on between Carol, the camerman and the director.

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We went home for a few hours rest before returning to prepare for our Halloween celebrations the following day. (see the next post for details of how it went)

The RHS sent me their press release which went out to the media and on their website on Friday just as filming had begun. As chairman of the allotments I felt so proud as I read it. Included was a photo of one of our families on their plot. The children live here with their parents but in this photo are their grandparents who come from their home in South Africa each summer and spend time on the family plot.

“RHS judges were impressed by the high quality and importance of horticulture in what is the home-town of the “grandfather of popular gardening”, Percy Thrower, and the birth-place of Charles Darwin.

One Shrewsbury project that stood out was Bowbrook Allotment Community Site. As well as accommodating 88 organic growing plots and an impressive series of nature trails, individual gardens have been created to educate young people about native plants, conservation and edible growing.”

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To read what the world’s most important horticultural society had to write about us made me feel so proud of what our community has achieved so quickly. Just over 5 years ago all we had was a field and a vision.

My next post about our busy days on the allotments will be all about our celebration of Halloween, so some of the photos will be in the dark again. Night time darkness this time though instead of early morning!

 

 

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awards Britain in Bloom buildings garden photography gardening outdoor sculpture the sea the seaside

Awards and Wet Weather in Cleethorpes

We have just returned from a weekend up on the Lincolnshire coast. We had been invited to attend the RHS Britain in Bloom award ceremony at Cleethorpes’ Beechcomber Entertainment Centre, a rather strange place harking back to the days of Butlins Holiday Camps. We were there to represent our Allotment Community as I am chairman and Jude is secretary to the management committee. We had to attend the ceremony on Saturday eve so decided to make a weekend of it.

The award ceremony was very successful for us, the rest of the weekend less so. But we are gardeners and hardy folk so we were not going to let the wild weather beat us. At the ceremony we proudly received an RHS National Award of Distinction. This was a result of our awards Bowbrook Allotment Community received at the RHS Its Your Neighbourhood Award Ceremony in Birmingham in September, a “Level 5 Outstanding Award” and two RHS Discretionary Awards, the “Community Gardening Award” and one awarded to me for “Outstanding Merit Award for Leadership in Community Gardening”. We came away with some beautiful cut glass trophies as well as our certificates.

The east coast of England was battered by winds and heavy rain over the weekend but being a hardy pair we carried on regardless and enjoyed a bracing walk along the promenade. The gardens here had been recently renovated and were neatly kept. We are not fans of bedding plants formally planted nor of conifers but admired the gardeners handiwork none the less. Sculpture pieces featured along the promenade gardens.

All the photos were taken through pouring rain and often through a filter of rain drops on the lens filter glass.

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Cleethorpes had become run down but is experiencing a bit of a revival and civic pride seems to be returning. However some of the traditional buildings of seaside resorts were looking worse for wear especially emerging from the gloom of the day.

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But we weren’t the only brave souls defying the elements. Dog walkers, fishermen, the seaside donkeys and windsurfers were equally defiant.

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Drying out after our promenade along the sea front took some time but the seaside in rough weather has its own specific charm about it. It was heartening to see a seaside town trying to reinvent itself using gardens as a starting point, a good way to create some pride in a place.

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allotments Britain in Bloom community gardening flower show fruit and veg garden design garden photography gardening gardens open to the public grow your own half-hardy perennials renovation Shrewsbury Shropshire town gardens townscapes

A town riverside walk

Although we live close to our county town of Shrewsbury we go for months between visits to the banks of the River Severn, in whose loops the town sits snuggly. In the summer the council garnish the river banks with bright coloured plants in all sorts of containers and hanging baskets.

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I am not that keen on these brightly coloured bedding annuals but they seem to fit in with their setting so well here. Mother nature herself adds a little subtle planting herself with wild flowers growing close to the water and wonderful waterfalls of reflections.

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Our footbridge an old Victorian suspension bridge has recently been completely refurbished and it is looking smart in its new green suit. The builders greatest challenge was to make sure that after the make-over the old bridge retained her sway. As you walk across her she sways from side to side!

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This weekend is time for the famous Shrewsbury Flower Show so when we reached the open parkland spaces alongside the river we found signs of the village of tents and rows of arena seats appearing at a great rate of knots. It seemed to be growing up around us as we walked towards the little sunken garden called The Dingle.We now anticipate our day out at the show on Saturday most eagerly. We hope to go in the afternoon and stay until closing time with the magnificent firework display over the river.

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And so to the Dingle herself, which is not my cup of tea at all, but it is enjoyed by thousands every year. It is all a bit garish for my taste, but I do admit that it takes a great deal of skill to create and maintain it. It certainly gives pride to the town. Come on a tour with us and see what you think.

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We wandered back into the town centre to have a look at how the town council had decorated the Square as part of their “Britain in Bloom” campaign. All the allotment sites in and around the town had planted up mini-allotments small enough to fit on a pallet and these were collected up and put in the square. Local artists crafted two scarecrows from metal to give an extra dimension.

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Each post marking loading bays along the High Street had been given a topknot of Ipomaea in two foliage colours. Very subtle and very effective.

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