SEPT/OCT 2016 MUSINGSBack to the grapevine


Gardening Volunteer at Tatton Park Walled Kitchen Garden, Knutsford, Cheshire


The first Tuesday in September saw the GB Tour of Britain Cycle Race visit Tatton Park twice. As the roads in the area would be closed when the volunteer team wished to ingress and egress the Park, they reluctantly decided not to turn up for work that day.

The Garden Shop experienced a sinking feeling when the floor sank into an old inspection pit used in the past by car mechanics to service Lord Egerton’s vehicles. Fortunately the Joinery Team soon fixed the problem and the Garden Shop was open again quickly for visitors to sample its delights and the Kitchen Garden produce.

The pigs at the Home Farm squeal in delight when they detect a barrow-load of windfall apples coming their way.   Pruning of the 69 freestanding fruit trees in the Orchard Lawn has begun, attempting to reshape the trees and curb vigorous growth, so the trees concentrate on producing fruit, not wood.

One of the fan-trained plum trees against the Fernery wall had all its plums snaffled by a raiding party of squirrels. The blackbirds also raided the fan-trained cherry trees, too but some plums and cherries on other trees were picked for sale in the Garden Shop.

In the Kitchen Garden harvesting is in full swing, with lots of produce making its way to the garden shop, Stables restaurant and Gardener’s Cottage café. Weeds are still an issue, and more top dressing may be considered next year, to smother the weeds.

A Volunteers Conference was hosted by the Management to inform those attending of future development plans. I was not impressed by a silly (& unnecessary) ‘icebreaker’ session, which just wasted time and distracted from the main theme, ie Tatton’s Vision for the future, which is positive and exciting. Development of visitor attractions and future exhibitions are in the pipeline. The Home Farm has attracted Heritage Lottery Funding which will enable the long history of the Farm to be more readily interpreted to visitors. There was a useful brainstorming session on what Tatton Park means to us as a Special Place. It was good to meet up with volunteers from other days and other interests, ie those at the Farm and with the Park Rangers. Each Team will pass on the info to the volunteers unable to attend. At the end of the Conference at lunch time there were lovely sandwiches and cake to enjoy: gardeners are motivated by cake!

The Tuesday Team were given a change with work in the Rose Garden to weed round the roses and sweep the York stone paving. No-one fell in the Victorian plunge pool doing so. Others went to the American Garden to again weed and tidy and cut back spent perennials. Two of us spent the day harvesting pears from the espaliers, boxing and labelling them and then taking them to the Support Building, which acts as a fruit store. In the afternoon a huge skein of pink-footed Geese flew over, heading south (to Slimbridge, perhaps?). There was a large main skein, followed by two smaller skeins of possibly younger birds, about 100 birds in all, all calling to each other, and trying to keep in airflow formation. Magic!

Half term invasion has come all too quickly, but is welcome nevertheless. Pumpkins and squashes have been gathered and displayed ready for the Halloween enjoyment of visitors. Two of us checked the espaliered apples and pears around the Orchard, tying in new growth and branches where the previous year’s ties had worn away. The four quarters of wild flowers, sown where the soft fruit beds were previously, have now exhausted themselves although still showing a bit of colour. The Team started clearing the stems away and carting them down to the compost heap and burning area beyond the west Kitchen Garden wall. The beds of cosmos by the Pergola are still looking lovely. The leaves in the Park and Gardens are giving a wonderful show of autumn colours.

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