It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

…at Warley Place, anyway. Most people love Warley for its drifts of daffodils. After all, Daffs mean Prizes – Miss Willmott won RHS medals a-go-go for hers. She even boobytrapped the best ones and carried a revolver in her handbag against bulb thieves. There must still be a few prize specimens in there, it’s a…

Painshill, Pride of Surrey

Painshill Park Landscape Garden in Cobham, Surrey, is an 18th Century fantasy of gothic follies, Arcadian vistas, woodland dells and mysterious grottoes, yet by the mid-20th Century it had crumbled to invisibility. Estate Manager Mark Ebdon, who began work 33 years ago as a trainee, still remembers his first day. “It was just woodland,” he…

Zen and the Art of Skip Salvage – A Practical Guide

Following on from my previous post about skip-diving, I thought I’d bang on a bit more about my worst habit. There is much to be gained from nosing round First World Human Detritus  – and it’s not all tangible loot. Skip-tenets hold true for Life. To master the art of Skip-Diving is to master yourself.* *Not really, but…

Meet the Plot Pt II

Welcome to the sizzling second part of the estate tour around Plot 3… Last time I covered the actual plot itself; this time it’s the turn of the steep bank adjacent to it, upon which my shed and sundry utilities live. Basically there’s a long, grassy sward that runs down the side of the site. It’s…

Jolly Good Biscuits!

The other day I picked up an old gardening magazine, My Garden, from 1947. It’s a curious little beast, about A4 size in today’s measurements and, given that Britain was still heavily rationed, an austere read in comparison to the glossies we read now. Mainly text, there are a few illustrations, some black and white photographs…

Event Apples

When I first took the plot I’m on now, I was keen to get a row of cordon fruit trees in as soon as possible. I took up an offer by Pomona Fruits for a mini orchard, and, to give it its due, the six trees have grown strongly and all, apart from the Victoria…

Les Hortillonages

Sebastian Faulks’s trench warfare epic “Birdsong” begins gently enough. Sketching a world soon to be lost in the carnage of war, Faulks chooses an extraordinary subculture within a sleepy Picardie town-centre as a cipher for French petite-ville normality. Amiens’ Hortillonnages – or floating gardens, are, even at the time Birdsong is set, wonders to be…

Backs to the Land, Girls!

  1939. The world is on the brink. Mr Hitler hasn’t actually invaded anything yet, but it’s not looking good in Poland.   The men in grey suits are worried. How will old Blighty survive if the lads have to fight? They look at each other warily. There is one option. It’s not ideal; the chaps…