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Showing posts from June, 2011

ABC of Chippenham: X-Ray

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If anyone needs an X-Ray in Chippenham, then they go to our local hospital, St. Andrews aka Chippenham Community Hospital. Luckily NAH and I have only had to avail ourselves of this facility a couple of times between the two of us. If you click to enlarge the picture, you'll see the blue sign on the left is directing you to the X-Ray department.

Whilst I'm pleased I haven't had to go there that often, I'm also glad we have a small hospital in the town, where on the couple of occasions I've had to go to the minor injuries unit, my GP has been in attendance. When I've had to go to Bristol or Bath instead, I've hated the depersonalisation going to such a large facility brings, even though I know full well to have done so in Chippenham would be uneconomic.
However, in much earlier times no-one would have been glad to go to the pictured building as it was Chippenham's workhouse. Built in 1858-9, it would have been considered the place of last resort (and dre…

RHS Harlow Carr: Garden Visit

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I've a few garden visits to show you over the coming weeks, not necessarily in the order I visited them as the planting in some of them can keep for a while. First up is RHS Harlow Carr from just over two weeks ago, chosen for today's post as these wonderful displays of candelabra primulas are sure to be fading fast.

I hadn't really read much about Harlow Carr before my visit, so there were quite a few surprises in store. Firstly I found the Yorkshire Rhubarb and Custard Garden, the People's Choice in the small garden category from last year's Chelsea Flower Show.

This wasn't far from The Alpine Zone, the largest alpine house I've ever seen. Lots of opportunities to get close and personal with this most dainty of groups.
I was pleased to see that Wisley doesn't hog all the RHS trials - an oft voiced criticism by many people. I chanced upon the tail end of the Meconopsis one. Visitors were asked not to touch the plants as the seeds were being saved as p…

Crown Growbag Frame: Product Review

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Those of you who read my Testing Times post at the end of April may recall I'm trialling Crown's Growbag Frame in my garden, courtesy of Fuel My Blog. I'm using it as a support for some of my tomatoes and comparing it with my usual method of using large terracotta long tom pots plus canes.

The picture shows the situation a month ago. I've chosen it over today's because the tomato plants have grown so well, they're obscuring most of the frame. Click to enlarge the picture if you'd like a better look at the construction.
The frame was incredibly easy to put together: the lower horizontal rod is threaded through the growbag I'm using, which in turn forms the weight needed to support the rest of the structure. I prefer the straps used as plant supports - which are attached to the horizontals - over my usual bamboo canes as my plants seem to be happily using them without me having to tie them in.
You'll see the growbag is used on its side. This makes perfe…

The Spirit of Chelsea

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My trip to London last Friday is the first time I've returned to the city so soon after the demise of Chelsea Flower Show. However, I found some tiny echoes which shows the 'spirit of Chelsea' isn't quite dead... yet.
Some of the shops in and around Sloane Square are still sporting their 'alternative Chelsea Flower Show' displays, such as the above cottagey cum meadow I found outside a shoe shop...
... whilst its next door neighbour was sporting something 'quite refined'.

At Sloane Square Tube Station (the one closest to Chelsea), the greenery in the entrance area was sporting the name of this year's show sponsors. I don't know if they or the RHS provided this display. Meanwhile...

...the tiling at platform level and rather sad box ball forms a more permanent reminder of the station's horticultural connections.
I also poked my camera through the railings on Chelsea Embankment down Main Avenue. The grass at the front of the picture is close to w…

ABC of Chippenham: Westinghouse

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Last week we saw how Brunel has left his mark on Chippenham in 1841 in the shape of a viaduct. The coming of the railway here led to a profitable railway supply industry springing up in the mid 1800s, which continues today. Various companies have come and gone (Rowland Brotherhood -->, Evans O'Donnell -->, Saxby and Farmer), but the main name connected with railways and Chippenham today is Westinghouse.

Those of you across the pond are probably more familiar with George Westinghouse than most people over here as he was an entrepreneur and pioneer of the electrical industry in the USA, whose development of the alternating current system eventually prevailed over Edison's direct current system. He also was the inventor of the air brake and had an interest in railway signalling amongst many other things.
This led him to make an alliance with a British signalling company in the late 19th century based in Worcester. This is turn merged with Saxby and Farmer to form the Westi…

Corsham Gardeners' Question Time

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Look, we had our own swanky poster for Corsham Gardeners' Question Time!
Saturday dawned rainy and miserable and by 10am we were wondering if we'd last the whole day. Then the sun came out, Corsham High Street sparkled and people stopped by to ask questions instead of scurrying past to get to their next shopping destination cum shelter.
Loads of people from choir came and said hello and I saw plenty of others from census, creative writing, film club and swimming club days, so it was like a massive reunion as well as me posing as a gardening expert. I'd been a bit nervous about this as some people tend to label you as one simply because you've chosen to blog on the subject, even though it's clear you're working things out as you go along.
I needn't have worried: Tim and I made a great team and having blogged for so long, I found I had a wealth of learning to draw upon. My initial nervousness was soon replaced by enjoyment and I had an absolute blast. There was…

Bish Bash Bosch

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A few weeks a go I received an invitation to go to Chelsea Physic Garden for a pruning and topiary masterclass given by fellow garden blogger (amongst other things) Geoff Hodge plus Roger Toombs of QVC fame. A chance to revisit a garden I frequented a lot during the 1990s plus learn something useful in the process was most tempting indeed, especially as Bosch, the event's host were willing to pay my travel expenses to get there.

So after getting up at 5.15 on Friday morning to catch the 6.25 train to Paddington, I blearily presented myself at England's second oldest botanic garden for a most fascinating session. I also got the chance to join a tour of the garden as we were free to have a wander around afterwards. Both my garden visit and the hints and tips I gathered on the day will form later posts.
Of course any sponsored gathering will have a sales pitch and Friday's turned out be a demonstration of Bosch's range of cordless garden tools. I'd guessed this would …

Corsham Food and Drink Festival

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It's Corsham Festival time and tomorrow the Fringe events get underway with the first ever Corsham Food and Drink festival. There's the regular farmer's market plus plenty of other stalls, many of them offering delicious food or drink with a sprinkling of sustainable community related ones including Wiltshire Wildlife Trust plus others covering recycling and fair trade awareness. It's all been organised by the hard working Food Group which forms part of Transition Community Corsham.

This flyer has been delivered to most homes in Corsham to advertise the event. Turn it over and you'll find...

... not only lots more information, but a certain 'Gardeners' Question Time' style event is advertised in the third bullet point down. Click to enlarge the image if needed and you'll see I'm taking part! When I started this blog, I never dreamed this kind of thing would happen. Tomorrow, the organisers and the good folk of Corsham will realise I'm no expe…

ABC of Chippenham: Viaduct

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With this stonking great Viaduct dominating its centre, there's no escaping that one of Chippenham's various identities is that of a railway town. Built by Brunel (the subject of the letter I in this series) in 1841, it's one of the architectural wonders of his Great Western Railway. The structure also sports a blue plaque similar to the one I showed you in the above link.

It's a listed building and as it forms the gateway to Chippenham, it was decided to illuminate it at night as the town's nod towards celebrating the Millennium. Seeing our local bypass is no longer lit from midnight until the early hours, I suspect the viaduct's lighting has been included in this cutback too.
Whilst it might be an architectural wonder, I believe it's too dominant of much of our town's central space. I've often wondered if some of the ideas at Kilver Court could be used to soften its edges. Of course this would need to be tempered with the requirement not to create…

GBBD: I Need SmelloVision!

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Oh how I wish you were here this Blooms Day! My hard work earlier this year in increasing the plants for scent has paid off and I need SmelloVision to convey to you how my garden is this month :)
I've told you all about the potted Nemesia and Lavender I've planted already. The big surprise which welcomed me home at the weekend was the pictured Philadelphus 'Virginal'. Until now it's been quietly skulking at the back of my side border without me noticing what it's been up to. My reward for this laissez-faire attitude? A shed load of nostril pleasing blooms brightening up this shaded part of the garden. Just along the fence from here, the musky scented 'Rambling Rector' rose has exploded into life and is not only enlivening my fence, the flowers are also making a skywards bid to take over the ash tree on the neighbouring public land.
As usual there are plenty on non-scented flowers in bloom, far too numerous to mention. I've noticed that many of them ha…

Postcard From Yorkshire

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NAH and I have just returned from an invigorating week in the Yorkshire Dales. We stayed in a cosy "two up, two down" cottage in Embsay, a small village just outside the thriving market town of Skipton. Last Monday we ventured high into the Dales to the village of Hawes where we stuffed ourselves with deliciously authentic Wensleydale cheese from the local creamery.
The pictured scene is one we encountered about half way between Hawes and Kettlewell and is the kind of picture I've always wanted to capture of the Dales. We were only about an hour from the bustle of Leeds and Bradford, but this scene is from a completely different world: a place of sky, rock, hills and water. I love the distinctive shape and stone of the lone barn dwarfed by the hillside rising above it and the tiny cotton-wool like blobs of the grazing sheep.
What this picture doesn't show you are the sounds I was hearing whilst taking it. There was the bubbling cry of a curlew and the twittering song …

Pottering With Pots

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I've just put the finishing touches to my summer pots and as you can see this velvety Mimulus aka monkey-flower is my plant choice for the season. I've not grown them before, which in itself is a recommendation to me as well as the red cheerfulness you see pictured. They're supposed to be edible, though with a reputation for saltiness as they concentrate salts from the soil, so I might have a little taste test later!

I have quite a selection of pots in clusters around the garden. This year's dry spring has made me have a think about water supplies and thus edit them quite drastically, so that only my largest of pots will contain annual bedding. This should reduce the amount of water I'm using this year (as does the clustering), and it'll also take me less time to look after them.
The smallest of pots have been removed altogether as I've got fed up of fiddling around with them, and the medium pots have been planted with perennials selected for their scent i…

ABC of Chippenham: Unity and Loyalty

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Unity and Loyalty is Chippenham's motto and as you can see also appears on the town's coat of arms which was granted by charter in 1554 by Queen Mary.
Chippenham was a royal manor in Saxon times, with the important right to send a burgess to parliament (mentioned in 1295) and to hold a market on Wednesday, plus a fair on St Andrew's day granted during the reign of King John (1199-1216). However, by Tudor times the authority of the town's steward was being challenged by other local landlords and tenants because Chippenham's high status wasn't properly documented. This led to a petition to Queen Mary to clarify the steward's authority, which resulted in her granting the town's charter on the 2nd May 1554, together with 217 acres of land and the right to send 2 burgess to parliament.
The land is today called the Chippenham Borough Lands and some of the income from the remaining 70 acres is distributed to local charities, good causes and projects each year vi…

Smarter Growing

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Now that Malvern and Chelsea are done and dusted my attention has turned to planting up my summer pots. However, the demise of the DIY chain Focus means I haven't been able to stock up on my usual brand of compost (aka growing medium if you hail from across the pond) beforehand, so I've been out seeking a good source from elsewhere.
There's been quite a bit of debate about peat in the press and in the blogosphere lately: I'm not going to add to it here, except to say I've yet to see the pro and anti peat lobbies set out their evidence side by side so that ordinary people like me can make an informed choice. And talking of informed choices, I was very pleased to see the above notice at my local garden centre last week (click to enlarge image if needed).
They've started a labelling system showing the peat content of the products they sell. Thus customers can clearly see exactly what they're buying: a tick in the green box means that the product is peat-free and…

The Legacy of Chelsea: Ideas

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I was originally going to show you The B&Q Garden as part of a joke: as part of a 'Separated at Birth' picture alongside my original Hanging Gardens of the Barbican.

But whilst I was thinking along those lines and planning what I'd say, I realised that this 'garden' wasn't really about our own plots at all. Instead it's an expression of ideas around the issues surrounding our need to grow more food in a world where land and the other resources required to do so are dwindling. Thus it isn't a joke at all, but something of importance.

The garden is a collaboration between a garden designer and architect and is their response to an estimate that London would run out of food in a mere four days if supplies ceased. It's meant to encourage us all to develop new growing spaces, either as individuals or part of a community initiative. It also encourages urban greening, which was the subject of my other Chelsea legacy post on Monday.

Issues of sustainab…

ABC of Chippenham: Tourism

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Chippenham is often described as a market town, but since the demise of the cattle market a few years ago, this seems a little out of date these days. It's also a town set to grow, so there's fears it may just become a dormitory town.

There's other claims to its classification (see W coming soon for one of them), but today I'm more concerned with looking at Chippenham as an ideal base for tourism. Doing this themed ABC has helped me to start to revise my feelings about the town: there's much to commend it, but I have to honestly say it's a place which has much greater riches surrounding it.

Within a 15 minute drive there's the National Trust village of Lacock to explore, not only a pretty village in its own right, but with links to both the Harry Potter films and early pioneering photography. There's also Castle Combe, the oft called 'prettiest village in England' and Corsham with its attendant stately home - Corsham Court - within a similar ti…