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A Walk in the Park – February at Attingham Park – Part 1

It is mid-February and time for our second visit to Attingham Park, our nearest National Trust property. We awoke on the day of our planned visit to a dark overcast sky and light rain hanging in the air, but we set off nonetheless, determined that the weather would not spoil our plans. We started with a quick coffee break but the rain had not improved when we set off on the actual walk to the walled garden and onwards along “The Mile Walk”.

We were on the look out for signs of fresh growth and early signs of wildlife activity. We were not expecting to find much change in the walled garden. Leaf buds were opening on several trees and shrubs, the first signs of fresh growth, as well as a few very early flowers on shrubs.

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As we left the coffee shop in the courtyard we made our way towards the walled garden following the soft bark path beneath extremely tall trees, where odd leaves brown from autumn were still caught in their lower branches. Up above in the uppermost branches Jackdaws were busy tidying up their nests from last year and noisily chattering away as they did so.

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Snowdrops carpeted the floor beneath tall trees looking at their brightest in the shade of hollies which are a feature of the woodland garden here. After enjoying the snowdrops and the variety of hollies we soon found ourselves in the protection of the Walled Garden.

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The volunteer gardeners had been working hard skillfully pruning the fruit and we really enjoyed appreciating their skills. A neat layer of compost provided a warm protective mulch and gave an extra level of neatness.

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In the very centre of the four segments of the walled garden a dipping well is conveniently placed. Alongside waits an old wheeled water bucket cart beautifully crafted in iron and galvanised metal. Today it is more decorative then functional.

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New life was showing in the herbaceous borders running along both sides of the main centre path.

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As we moved into the glasshouse yard bright blue splashes of colour showed strongly in the borders and in pots, diminutive Iris reticulata.

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We never fail to be impressed by the workmanship evident wherever old glasshouses have been restored to their former glory.

 

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We exited the walled garden via the doorway leading to the orchard, which also gave us access to the lean-to buildings outside the walls themselves. We explored each building and recess to discover old clay pots, the old boiler and an apple store.

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So leaving the warmer atmosphere found within the walled garden, we returned to the path that would take us to The Mile Walk. That will be the subject of my Attingham Park February walk part two.

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Day on the Lottie

We spent today on the lottie catching up on a few jobs and taking advantage of some sun and warmth, a December treat. We popped up for half an hour to plant 3 rose bushes owed to us from our big delivery of David Austin roses last year. So we added three Wenlock roses to our site’s community Summer Garden. The half hour became an afternoon as we planted whips of native trees and shrubs in the native hedge and “Edible Hedge”, rowan, elder, dogwood, wild cherry, cherry plum etc.

Then we turned our attention to our own lottie where the blackberry and tayberry were crying out for attention. The blackberry had put on masses of growth last year so I set to pruning out the brambles that had fruited this year and thinned out some of the new growth. Luckily it is a thornless variety. Once tied back in it all looked much more tidy and we looked at it willing it to be productive for us next year. The tayberry, although not thornless, is still a young bramble so took less work.

The Blackberry prior to pruning.
And after pruning.

Meanwhile as I tackled the brambles, Jude the undergardener hoed between the rows of overwintering crops. This is the most efficient way of keeping an allotment plot looking tidy as well as killing any tiny seedlings even those yet to emerge from the soil.

The fresh growth of garlic, onions and shallots spear the soil and its compost topping with bright green freshness, a real treat in the winter cold. The broad beans planted in early autumn and the mooli sown in late summer add a welcome lushness of growth.

Broad bean plants patiently waiting out winter.
Moolii, the radish with white icicle roots for winter enjoyment.

Ground left bare through the winter would be thrashed by winter rains and its goodness leached out so we cover such patches with green manure such as winter tares. This year when we sowed it in early autumn the weather was so dry that germination was delayed and growth of the seedlings has been so slow that they are still small. We are hoping they will catch up if the weather allows. The Phacelia in the photo below however germinated well and has grown on healthily. It was self-sown from a patch of wildflowers sown as a bug bank.

So as we are now officially in winter and temperatures are dropping to nearer seasonal norms, the plot is looking good. Next year’s seeds are ordered as are the seed potatoes so we are well ahead of ourselves. The photo below looks through the newly pruned tayberry at the rows of leeks, mooli and broad beans.