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gardening gardens National Garden Scheme NGS Shropshire Yellow Book Gardens

Avocet NGS Open Day

At the weekend we opened our garden for the first time. Last February when we purchased the famous Yellow Book we were proud to see the name “Avocet” second on the list of gardens opening in Shropshire. Our August opening date seemed a long way off.

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Suddenly it was upon us and we got more nervous the closer to Sunday 3rd August we got. We kept making sure nothing needed dead-heading, we checked the lawn to see how long the grass was and we wandered around every border to check there was enough interest especially colour.

The day before we opened our helpers arrived, my sister Penny and husband Tony came up from Bredons Norton a tiny Gloucestershire village and my brother Graham and wife Vicky from Farnham. Daughter Jo and her husband Rob dropped in from nearby Telford. We had a great evening working on preparations and then enjoying a meal with plenty of beer and wine consumed. Sadly I had to sick with Ginger Beer as alcohol and my morphine do not go well together!

So when the opening day dawned bright we were up with the lark checking that all signs were in place, the car park was ready, plant sales and tickets sales in place and the tea shop primed and ready for off.

The all important WC and teas signs were in place first followed by the balloons and signs at the bottom of the drive.

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The ticket sales and plant sales tables were put in place and the tea shop set up ready and waiting for customers.

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Vicky quietly put final finishing touches to her courgette and lime cake in the kitchen. Neither the tea shop or kitchen would be this quiet for a long time. Her cake became a real star!

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We were to open from 11:00 until 5:00 to spread the load on our quarter acre garden. We thought we would have a quiet time until the early afternoon once everyone had indulged in their Sunday lunches. How wrong could we be as by quarter to eleven cars were already parked up and people were wandering down the lane. Our first customer, our friend Sherlie soon collected the first cup of tea and a slice of cake. This was to be the first of over 250 teas and cakes served up by by our trusty tea ladies. The drive soon filled up with visitors buying tickets, collecting our garden info sheets and looking at Jude’s plants for sale.

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Tony and Rob had the car parking well sorted. This would prove to be the last time they found time to relax. As things busied up our neighbour living in the Old forge, who had lent us the field, supplied them regularly with drinks and food. Here we see the car park attendants waiting and ready for the first customers.

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Things soon busied up and at the peak the field was almost full and we reached the stage of having only one car space left.

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Every nook and cranny of the garden began to fill up with visitors keen to see every border, many making notes and taking photos. By the end of the day my voice was hoarse with answering so many questions, most visitors wanted to know the name of certain unusual plants but many were interested in the wildlife aspects of our patch and quite a few had queries about composting. It was heartening to see so many youngsters enjoying our garden and the little quiz sheets we had prepared for them.

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As the last of the visitors wandered wearily down the lane to the car park we collapsed with tea and cakes of our own. The signs were soon down and our brilliant first opening was over.

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We were tired and elated but pleased that 275 people came to see our little quarter acre patch. We were able to send a cheque for £1363.63 to the NGS to help support their charities.

We had just one day of rest before Jude and I spent an afternoon being interviewed for a magazine article about our garden. So many photos were taken and so many questions asked. We now look forward with anticipation to seeing our garden in print.

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allotments community gardening fruit and veg garden wildlife gardening grow your own National Garden Scheme NGS Shropshire The National Gardening Scheme" wildlife

The Allotments Open Day

For one day each year, in the middle of July, we open our allotment site, Bowbrook Allotment Community, for charity. We open under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme so are proud to be in the famous Yellow Book. The choice was made to join the NGS because they raise money for caring charities, such as the Macmillan Nurses and Marie Curie. This is our second year of opening – in the first year in gale force winds and rain we raised £415 and this year on a dry day in the middle of the wettest of summers we raised £815 – so we feel a little proud! This means we have now sent the NGS £1230.

We chose July as the month to open as it seemed to be a month when we would be most guaranteed to have a spell of good weather to encourage visitors to come along. Last year we opened in heavy rain and gale force winds.

This year however after weeks of rain, we had two dry days coinciding with the day when we planned to spruce up and prepare the site and the open day itself. Although the whole area was very wet underfoot, plots themselves too wet to get on, some paths unusable and standing water in places, we felt the site looked as good as it could.

The day of the opening dawned bright and dry. The sun was shining and it felt warm. As we arrived early in the morning the car park was full and the site crawled with members working away. Soon the signs were in place, the gazebos up, the tea shop readied and the quiz pictures in place. We felt ready!

We were so pleased to see so many plot holders helping out in so many ways – true community spirit! The tea shop was stocked with dozens of cakes baked by members and the table under the gazebos were made attractive and welcoming after one member, Shirlie, created beautiful table centre posies, magazines were placed on them for visitors to read and our photo albums made available for their enjoyment.

Tracy getting the tea shop sorted.
Special “Allotment Cakes” carrot cakes decorated with petals of Calendula and Borage.
Tea shop all ready for action and in plenty of time.
Di and Jill prepare their “meet and greet” table.
Warning signs in place.
The volunteers from the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) take a break once their display is set up in readiness.
Pete and Sherlie all ready and togged up in fluorescent safety to do car park control.

As soon as the clock showed 1:00 our visited started arriving – it is always a relief when the first one comes through the gate. Each visitor was handed a map and suggested route, competition details. Children were given a quiz sheet requesting they find pictures of some of our wildlife hidden around the site, matched to their favourite habitats.

We invited our visitors to judge two competitions for us during their amblings, The Best Scarecrow and The Favourite Plot. The two following pictures show the winning plot and the winning scarecrow.

The plots are all neat and ready for the perusal of our guests including Jill’s pink plot.
Ken and Lesley’s very beautifully designed scarecrow.

As we pride ourselves in designing our site and interest trail to be accessible to all we were pleased to see so many young families with toddlers or youngsters in push-chairs and people with mobility problems some using sticks or crutches, others wheelchairs or mobility scooters. We were delighted how easily they accessed the site and we received many compliments.

Our visitors enjoyed lots of free advice and even free strawberries and fresh peas straight off the plots. I spent most of my day as a mobile “Gardeners Question Time”, answering queries about pests, diseases and how to grow certain crops and identifying plants. I was handed a cabbage leaf with pests attached and a drawing of a “nasty, looking insect which looked like a dragon and was mostly black with bits of red”. I managed to identify the dragon insect as the larvae of a ladybird and the cabbage dwelling ones as whitefly. I suggested that the ladybirds should be encouraged to stay and informed the gardeners that they were very lucky to have them, but had to tell the cabbage growers that they were not lucky and advised them to get rid of their pests quickly.

Some of our friends from the Shropshire Hardy Plant Society organised a plant sale and many guests left happy with their bags or boxes of unusual plants.

Most visitors who came spent several hours looking around with occasional breaks for a sit while enjoying a tea and cake, with some staying for the whole four hours we were open.

“The Undergardener”, Jude used her teaching experience to good purpose showing young visitors interesting artifacts found by plot holders such as an old Wren’s nest and an aborted Wasp nest.

Several plot holders worked on their plots so that our visitors could ask them questions, others sat on picnic benches around the site to greet visitors and make them welcome.

When we closed and the last of our guests had left members rallied around and returned the site back to its former state. The tea shop returned to its function as a community hut, the gazebos were taken down and returned to their boxes, signs along the local roads were pulled up and put back into store. The RSPB and HPS volunteers packed up their goods and gazebos and said their goodbyes, and said they looked forward to our open day in 2013.

The last visitors to leave were these two characters who had spent the day sat comfortably in their thrones under the trees and greeted their subjects.

It had been a great day! Our visitors book contained some complimentary comments. We enjoyed reading them as they help show that we are achieving our aims. Here are some to examples to share.

“Fantastic, so much to see, great kids trail, thank you.”

Completely lost in the interesting ideas. What a wonderful time I’ve had!”

A truly inspiring place, wonderful for wildlife and kids.”

Beautiful plots and welcoming tea and cake.”

“Inspirational model for all allotments.”

Friendly, knowledgable gardeners.”

Inspiring and clever ideas to encourage wildlife whilst giving plenty of space for produce. So much done in three years.”

A great community space!”