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A Walk in the Park – Attingham in January – Part 1 – The Walled Garden

So here we are with the first of this year’s monthly visits to our chosen patch, Attingham Park, a National Trust property and without doubt one of the most popular. It is so popular simply because there is such a choice of walks. For our January visit we chose a cold but bright day and we enjoyed the company of the winter sun.

We began our wander by visiting the walled garden to see what the gardeners have been getting up to within the protection of its walls. We took the soft path where the surface is made from chipped bark which feels friendlier and more natural under our feet than the alternative gravel path which runs almost parallel. It is good to feel a path giving slightly beneath each footstep. The path leads us beneath tall mature deciduous trees bare of their leaves. The leaves from the fall remain carpeting the ground as a reminder of autumn but there are also signs of things to come, the leaves of bulbs have broken the surface and look like green spears thrusting towards the sky. It won’t be long until they are flowering away brightening up the woodlands. Buds on the branches of the trees are fattening up ready to open in the spring and clothe the woodland with greenery.

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As we approached the walled garden the freshly painted bench glowed white strongly contrasting with the brick-red wall which provided support for trained fruit trees.

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Entering the walled garden we could appreciate the vastness of it and marvel at the amount of produce grown in the past for the “big house”.

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We could see straight away that the gardening team of employed gardeners and volunteer gardeners had been busy creating beautiful structures from hazel and willow for climbing crops to clamber up. They had also been spreading a thick layer of rich compost as a mulch where needed, in between which deep layers of chipped bark had been lain to make soft comfortable paths.

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The most important crops remaining in the ground and currently being harvested are the members of the brassica family, such as cabbages, kales and sprouts. They are very decorative crops with their coloured leaves with each cultivar sporting its own texture. One crop is hidden away beneath terracotta forcers, keeping the light off their developing stalks, rhubarb. The forced stalks will be pale-coloured and sweet-tasting.

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Blackboards keep visitors informed of the current gardening tasks being carried out in the garden. The one info board sadly explained that the chickens were under cover because of the current “bird flu” scare.

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An annex to the walled garden is enclosed in a similar fashion but contains the range of glasshouses and cut flower beds. In this area there is a collection of the herbaceous bulb, Camassia. In the summer their many shades of blue and white will brighten up their corner border.

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On entering the bothy we discovered the gardeners and volunteers enjoying their mid-morning break and a chance to get together to discuss the work in hand. They were a happy bunch laughing and enjoying their company. As always the bothy had interesting displays on view for visitors to enjoy and learn from.

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We left the walled garden via the wooden doorway into the orchard. We found that the trees had been treated to a dose of wood ash from the bothy’s fire and woodburner. The outer walls are also used for training fruits possibly grape vines or kiwi fruit. We shall find out when the leaf buds unfurl.

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The volunteers and gardeners followed us out of the walled garden each wheeling a wheelbarrow in which they would soon be loading more mulch for top-dressing the veg beds. Leaving the productive area of the park we decided to move forward and follow the path leading us to the Woodland Walk. In part two of my January Attingham post we will share the woodland walk experience with you.


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Croft Castle Month by Month – October

October was a month made special by a bright, colourful Indian Summer. It made our tenth monthly visit to the gardens at Croft Castle special. Without realising it we had chosen the week when the property were putting on a Halloween trail for the children. The trail sheet encouraged the youngsters to search for clues, so naturally we had to do the same.

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The first change we noticed on this visit was how autumn had taken over the garden, with most trees changing their green cloak to one of yellow.

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The first border we pass on our way to the walled garden is the long mixed border alongside the drive.

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We reached the walled garden which is the best part of the grounds, wondering what changes we would find there. Even though some borders were being cleared there was plenty left to attract my camera lens, whole borders of interest …………

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………… and plenty of single plants still looking full of colour.

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We were amazed by the simple beauty of these Japanese Anemone flowers which had just dropped their petals.

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Plants can find their own niche however inappropriate it may seem to us. This bright red poppy chose a spot close to equally blue fencing.

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When we made our first of this year’s monthly visits to Croft Castle we found an unfinished insect hotel, bearing the label “unfinished project”. We looked forward to its completion each month but nothing changed, but on our October visit we noticed it was finished at last.

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We didn’t expect to see much colour in the Rose Garden but we were pleasantly surprised by delicately scented Rose blooms and the supporting cast of perennials.

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The veggie beds were still providing late season crops with leeks looking particularly tasty. On the old apple trees clumps of Mistletoe had found a home.

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We found this extra bright colour combination which lit up the whole walled garden.

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Another Halloween activity for the children was to find big pumpkins hidden around the gardens. Naturally the children in us tempted us to find them too.

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As the seasons move on towards the year’s end signs of plants closing down have appeared. Seed heads are so beautiful at this time of year. They look even better if touched by the hand of Jack Frost.

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Our next visit will be the penultimate visit of the year. By then the effects of autumnal weather will cover the garden.



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Busy Day on the Lottie

We spent a busy day up on the lottie yesterday, expecting the plot to be wet after 36 hours of steady rain at home. But even though the lottie is only 10 minutes away the plot was dry all but a dampness on the surface. The plot is divided into quarters by grass paths and we thought these may need mowing but the weather has been so dry that there was no grass growth at all.

The main task was to improve the soil in the one quarter – dig out a trench, rotovate over the bottom to break up the boulder clay, spread a layer of half-rotted straw in the bottom, fill the trench back in and finally top it off with a thick mulch of compost. We planted out more leek plants, about 80, into this, half Musselburgh and half Swiss Giant. We had already planted out some Swiss Giant weeks ago and they have made good growth. Our aim is to keep harvesting leeks throughout winter and spring – we eat so many of them!

In between the rows of leek plantlets we sowed Mooli, two types of chickory one for leaves and one hearts, turnip for autumn salads and some winter spring onions, both red bulbed and white. We also took the risk of sowing some carrots chancing the weather in the hope of some very late baby roots and some dwarf french beans for late autumn cropping.

So it’s fingers crossed now in the hope that the late summer and early autumn weather is benevolent!