allotments architecture buildings Wales

Pembrokeshire coast and gardens – part 4 – Cardigan Castle

As promised I am now sharing with you my photos taken at Cardigan Castle. As you will soon see it is a very varied place featuring all sorts from a celebration chair to a sword and from an allotment to a pillbox!

Enjoy this selection of my photos!

I hope you enjoyed my photographic tour which is somewhat of a mystery tour!



Celebrating in the garden – 60th

On a fine day in late August we traveled down to Farnham, a beautiful Surrey market town, to share in celebrating my brother Graham’s 60th birthday. It was a sunny garden party and the garden was suitably dressed in its party decorations. The guests arrived throughout the afternoon and into the evening.

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The garden was in full party gear which created a great celebratory atmosphere.


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The art studio at the end of the garden was transformed into an ice cream parlour for the day and proved a popular attraction as the day got warmer. Children and adults alike indulged in the home made delights.

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The party ended as night took over and guests left exhausted and full of contentment. In the morning the garden looked to be suffering from the “night after” feeling, but soon returned to its beautiful self. It seemed totally unaware that its owner and gardener was one year older than yesterday.

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allotments community gardening garden buildings Shropshire

Celebrating Autumn at the Allotment

As many of you will already know we celebrate every season at our allotments, Bowbrook Allotment Community, so recently it was the turn of Autumn which we linked with Halloween. We want to make children aware of the seasons, how each is different, how they are part of a cycle and we want to emphasize seasonality. This is easy on an allotment site where we harvest fresh fruit and veg all year round . It is also the time of year when we cut our wildflower meadows. This is a job done by families or small groups and once they are cut it takes a while to get used to their short hair cuts. We are sowing the semi-parasitic wildflower, Yellow Rattle, in some of our meadows. This useful little plant is an attractive yellow flowered native plant which parasitises on the roots of the tougher species of grasses which means there is less competition for our wild flowers.

At our Autumn Celebration we invited members to take part in a competition to decorate their sheds following the theme of Halloween. Our judge enjoyed the experience even though it was a long job.

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One couple and their daughter decorated their plot and spread the ghosts across into the nearby tree. It looked great!

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Our tea committee were in attendance providing hot drinks and cakes. They even decorated their tea shop. One of the committee, Tracy, made toffee apples using apples from our community orchards. These proved most popular. Once it got dark we lit the barbeque and we all cooked our food on it We also lit our fire pits so we had the inviting aromas of wood smoke and BBQ cooking.

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This year we decided to invite everyone, children and adults to dress up in appropriate gear. Jude and I joined in as a witch and Dracula which upset some of the youngest children who didn’t like us looking like that. The first picture below shows us in our costumes.

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We held a competition for carved pumpkin lanterns and both children and adults took part. Liz, a committee member, organised fun games for the youngsters, which as always were very popular and played with the sound of laughter.

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When Darkness fell we lit the lamps, lit the candles in the pumpkin lanterns and took off for a walk around the site with the lit pumpkin lanterns to show the way. The children loved walking in the dark with their lanterns and visiting all the spooky sheds lit up. Some adults stayed to enjoy coffees around the fire pits.

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And a great time was had by all! Lots of members during the evening asked when our next celebration was. It will be our Winter/Christmas Celebrations. That will be a future post.



allotments community gardening Shrewsbury Shropshire winter gardens

Celebrating Winter – Part Two

Welcome back to part two of my Winter Celebration post. Our celebrations are a good illustration of true community spirit and show how people with a common purpose, in this case allotment gardening, can come together in friendship.

We return to our allotment community garden Winter Celebration as the light fades. The children share their Christmas excitement by playing games organised by Liz one of our committee members and ably helped out by fellow committee member Anne.

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First up was a game of “Pin the red nose on Rudolf” which proved a difficult challenge!

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Races followed which were accompanied with loud laughter and shrieks of delight!

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But things didn’t always go according to plan!

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Little Edward was amused and amazed by it all.

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The BBQ was soon  glowing and the fire pit  beginning to show flames.

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All the lanterns and candles were lit alongside the main grass pathway. They looked great!   At times the air was full of smoke from the BBQ and fire pit. The willow decoration making went on under artificial lighting.

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Muffins and crumpets were toasted on the glowing embers of the BBQ and spread with butter and home made jams, brought in by the committee.

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Little Ella carried her own lights around with her. She glowed wherever she went. We finished the day of celebration by taking a wander around the site by candle light carrying our lanterns and torches and enjoying seeing the decorated sheds in the dark. Ella and her red lights led the way.

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To finish my pair of posts about our Winter Celebration I will leave you with two photos, the first shows our tree with our lanterns down the central pathway and the second the dying embers of the fire pit as we lock up to go home.



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The day after we returned to complete the tidying up. At every one of our seasonal celebrations we finish late and we are always too tired to get all the tidying up completed so back we go the following morning. Jude and I arrived to find that other committee members had already got plenty done. We had to use wheelbarrows to collect up the lanterns and jam jars which held the candles, as we had so many.

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allotments community gardening Shropshire Winter Gardening

Celebrating Winter – Part One

This is the first of my special posts for Christmas. Part two will arrive in your inbox on Christmas Day.

Our Winter Celebration at our allotment community garden was a true winter wonder! We celebrate each season on the allotments when we get together as a community. We have children’s activities and games, and seasonal family activities as well as some sort of barbeque.

We have a close relationship with a local nursery called Love Plants and they often help us by donating plants when we create new gardens. For our Winter Celebration they donated a fine specimen of a Nordman Fir. We thought it would be fun if everyone who came to the celebrations brought along a tree decoration and added it. It was hard to imagine how it would turn out. We collected it wrapped in netting and fitted into a heavy log.

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Our celebrations began at 2:00 and as visitors arrived they added their tree decorations to our Nordman Fir.

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By the time darkness fell the tree was well covered and looking mighty bright. One member even added a string of lights to the tree, so when it got dark the tree glowed beautifully.

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As well as a Christmas Tree we also had a Tree of Wishes and Memories. We provided parcel lables on which members and visitors could write down their thoughts for Christmas and the New Year, expressing their wishes and writing down their memories. The photo shows Pete tying his on.

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As with all our seasonal celebrations our Tea Committee set up shop with the help of a generator, a tea urn, camping gas cookers and lots more. Being cold,  they planned to serve tea, coffee and hot chocolate drinks at. The committee members brought in home made soups to be shared. With allotments to produce the ingredients the soups just had to be tasty. They were wonderful! The photos below show Wendy starting to set out the tea shop and Michael getting the generators started.

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Our friend and fellow plot holder Sherlie, a retired florist planned to show visitors how to create Christmas decorations from willow and other natural materials. Before members arrived she set up a display of her work and gathered materials.

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Once proceedings got under way lots of people were tempted to have a go.


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At our Autumn Celebrations we challenged members to decorate their sheds for a “Spooky Shed” competition. For our Winter Celebrations the challenge was to create sheds dressed for Christmas. The results were amazingly creative and original. In the couple of hours leading up to our celebrations members got creative with their sheds.

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Here are a few shots of the sheds including the winning ones.

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One family even decided to wrap their shed up as one massive present!

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Christmas Greetings appeared everywhere, on plots, on sheds and alongside paths and lanterns and lights adorned many plots.

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Jude organised an activity for adults and children alike, making bird cakes to keep the birds well-fed over the winter. Lots of people joined in and got very sticky hands. The allotment birds are going to be very well fed this winter!


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We had a BBQ all ready to go and a fire pit ready to be lit when darkness fell. Here are Michael and Ian relaxing as they wait to light up the fire pit. We shall pick up the story of our day of celebrations in part two.

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allotments community gardening Shrewsbury Shropshire

Three Crazy Days at the Allotments – Part 2

Welcome back to part two of my “Three Crazy Days at the Allotments” series of posts and in this one we are celebrating Halloween. We do this every year as it is a good excuse to have a BBQ, make our sheds look weird and to get together socially before the weather changes.

This year we decided to hold competitions for preserves, the weirdest vegetables, the best carved pumpkin lanterns and also invited members to decorate their sheds so that we could find one suitable to be hailed “The Spookiest Shed”. We set the afternoon and evening going with games for the children.

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Our members had been so busy beforehand and the judges had a hard time selecting winners in all the competitions. The photos below shows the table where members dropped off their entries into the preserves and weird veggies competitions.

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The competitions were judged as the BBQ was warming up. In the first photo one of our members, who likes to be known as Mrs Anna, is judging the Pumpkin Lantern competition. As you can see there were some very imaginative ideas. To her left is one of our youngest allotment members Edward, who danced his way through the afternoon but found a few moments to help our judge out. He did have to stop now and again for a rest and an occasional snooze. Pumpkins appeared all over the site – one member even decorated her compost heap with lots of small pumpkins. And of course Mrs Anna was appropriately dressed as one when she carried out her judging.

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The tea shop awaited its first customers, as in the background members can be seen arriving. The communal huts were decorated to welcome everyone. As well as all the children who dressed up many adults joined in. It took a long time for us to work out who the ghost was!

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I went round for a quick look at the Spooky Sheds while it was still just about light, to find so many different ideas.

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The winning shed was this one which was decorated around every side of the shed itself, across the bench and down the plot to where the skeleton was rising out of the ground. On another plot a hand with one finger missing was rising from a plant pot.

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One plot holder managed to co-ordinate her decoration with the berries of the Firethorn climbing up her shed. In another shed we found a witch had set up home!

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As with all our seasonal celebrations we found time for a BBQ. As the light continued to fade we “sparked up” our seasonal lamps. Glowing skulls!

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Some members took the chance to get dressed for the occasion. Here is Liz, our youngest committee member and Wendy who is one of our founder members.

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Wendy has formed our tea committee with her neighbouring plot holder Dee and we can see them here enjoying their BBQ while taking a break from their tea and coffee making duties.

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As the light faded, the children were getting increasingly excited in anticipation of the usual finale to out Halloween celebrations, our walkabout with our pumpkin lanterns. We trailed around the site looking at all the decorated sheds. One plot holder had even left a big tray of sweets on the bench for the wanderers. We were joined on our walk by real bats flying about our heads.

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So one day we were celebrating the success of Shrewsbury in the Britain in Bloom awards and our essential role in it and the next we were letting our hair down and celebrating Halloween. Crazy lot really! It just shows how much fun gardening can be.

In the third and final post in this series about our allotments we found ourselves back there on day 3 and back in work mode.

garden design garden designers garden photography gardens gardens open to the public outdoor sculpture Piet Oudolf Staffordshire Tom Stuart-Smith

Happy 10th Birthday Trentham

On our May visit to the gardens in Trentham which we are following this year in order to check it out as a “garden of all seasons” we were in for a surprise. Not only had the gardens blossomed since our April visit but we also arrived to discover that Trentham was celebrating its 10th birthday. So the gardens were full of excited visitors and extra attractions. Balloons and banners soon revealed why there seemed so many more people there than usual. We then realised we had chosen a great day to visit and also a great year to look at the gardens through the months in Greenbenchramblings posts.

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The photo above right shows the view across Piet Oudolf’s “River of Grasses” and in the background a stream of visitors passing through to reach the celebrations.

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We soon came across strange happenings whenever we turned a corner to enjoy the next section of the garden. The huge colourful butterfly and his friend the giant plant posed willingly for my camera.

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Around another corner we discovered a horse and cart passing by and a huge choir preparing to perform the “Happy Birthday song”.

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It wasn’t long before we glimpsed two giant gardeners and a strange statue.

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The statue wasn’t behaving how statues should. She didn’t just stand elegantly and sublimely for people to admire. She gave an occasional wink, a little smile or smirk at passers by, who were surprised and a few scared out of their skin. Some youngsters just were not sure what to make of her.

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Ten years ago the gardens were reborn and opened once again and two of Europe’s greatest garden designers, Tom Stuart-Smith and Piet Oudolf were brought in to redesign great swathes of the old garden creating modern herbaceous plantings within the old parkland and Italian gardens. This juxtaposition of old and new has worked well as anyone who follows this blog will know from my many posts about the garden at Trentham but they also know how to proudly celebrate their birthday.

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After treating ourselves to a scone and a cup of tea we discovered a falconry display about to begin. We enjoyed a great display by owls, eagles and falcons.

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Children were engaged in many unusual activities. We were particularly taken with this idea. Making faces on the trunk of an old tree out of clay and collected natural objects.


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The last treat of our day was to listen to a few songs performed by a local brass band, who had polished their brass instruments and brushed up their uniforms.

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So there we have it – the 10 year birthday celebrations of the gardens at Trentham. Here’s to ten more!

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Decorated Bicycle Bits in a Garden?

Yes, you have read the title correctly. This post is about decorated bits of bicycles in a garden. These are no ordinary bikes, these are decorated bikes or sometimes just decorated bicycle wheels. We were surprised by the sight of the first of these decorated bikes when we came across it in the grounds of Anglesey Abbey.

We discovered that they were there to celebrate an anniversary of cycling in Cambridge. Each bike or parts of bikes were decorated by knitters!

Just share our enjoyment of discovering them by looking at my photos.

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Our Village Celebrates the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

This weekend all over the UK, towns and villages have been celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Queen Elizabeth 11 has been on the throne for 60 years, having become Queen back in 1952 when Jude the Undergardener and I were just a year old.

In our village, Plealey, we celebrated with a street party which was enjoyed by villagers and their families from a few weeks old to 80 year olds. The population of our tiny village hovers around the 50 mark but it increased to over 130 today.

The village has been adorned with Union Jacks and red, white and blue bunting, hanging from trees, telegraph posts and house fronts. Today one of the lanes in the village, Well Lane became a long, thin dining room. The villagers have been baking and preparing food all week. Yesterday it rained heavily all day and from tomorrow into the rest of the week more wet weather is forecast, but today we awoke to blue skies and sunshine which graced us with its presence all day.

All the hedges and gates  joined in and even one of the village benches had a flag.

The usually quiet Well Lane was lively today and greeted visitors with massed flags and bunting. Halfway down the lane the long, long table met us and invited us in.

And the villagers soon arrived and filled up the seats in time for the food to arrive. There was enough food to feed a big town let alone little Plealey.

Beryl and our next door neighbour Ros wait patiently for their party food.
And they were not to be disappointed!
But they found time for a look around before tucking in.
The seats are filling up.

The day drew some real characters, dressed in crazy hats and clothed in red, white and blue. Jude the Undergardener even wore red shoes while she waved her Union Jack flag.


The Queen herself graced us with her presence but she didn’t behave like a Queen, as I photographed her strangling one of her subjects!

The Queen found time to greet her subjects.

She didn’t always behave like a queen – this subject misbehaved so she simply strangled him!
She misbehaved for the newspaper photographer.

Even the cakes were patriotic …..

Throughout the afternoon a traditional steam organ played merrily in the background.

In the little community room at the back of the chapel a display of memorabilia  brought together by the villagers provided an extra interest as the afternoon drew to a close. A collection of celebration mugs from the past, books and old newspapers brought back memories for many villagers.

As I finish this post at the end of the day beacons glow on all the hills around us, glowing in the night sky.