Newsletter Autumn 2017

Chairman’s report October 2017

The Flaxmill had an open day.  SOGs has a strong connection to this project.  I went along.  There were second hand books for sale.  There was one on gardening.  I bought it.  It was published in 1945.  It cost me 50p.  I will add it to my gardening library of about 1,000 books.  (You can never be too rich, too thin or have too many gardening books.)  It is called “Of Cabbages and Kings”.  It swings its gardening information around quotes from Lewis Carol. It is all very middle-brow.  The take on gardening is fascinating.  It is just the kind of thing to grab a pseudo-intellectual.  As you might have guessed this is leading somewhere.  Chapter one begins thus;

“Life is too short to make any one of us a perfect gardener.  Equally fortunately, the human race is not sufficiently old for gardeners to be born perfect.  Thus in the great garden of the universe, amid sunshine and shadow, in calm and storm, beset with giants and dwarfs, fighting pestilence and profusion, famine and fertility, the gardener must go his slow way to produce a fitting home for all the lovely things of earth, adding thereby to his own stature, while his charges spread before him the riches of the universe in unbounded generosity.”

 I can’t think of anything to add that wouldn’t undo the spell created by that passage, so I will end this report here.  It could almost be the ethos of SOGs, what do you think?

Peter Anderson



David Parr has passed away from cancer.  He died peacefully.  His family were with him; in spirit, we were all with him.  David was so easy to like, even to love.  This is because he was full of love and it shone out of him.  He was always genuinely pleased to see you and he was always genuinely interested in how you were doing.  Some things you can fake but sincerity is unfakeable and David was sincere.  10 years (give or take) ago, David and Sue were just there at Sogs; it was as if they had always been there; they just belonged with us.  Whatever we were doing, there was friendly, helpful, smiling, full of creative ideas, David.  Whatever shall we do without him?  The best way to honour David is to continue developing his energetic enthusiasm for all things Sogs.  He was a ready volunteer for whatever project was in hand and his energy and enthusiasm were contagious.  Everyone who knew David learned something about genuine, cheerful, helpful smiling.  That is how we will remember him.   Peter



Oh Woe!  This is the second obit of a Sogs member in one newsletter.  How can it be so?  Such people who are just there and are so reliable and lovely and lovable and suddenly they are not there.  Angela lived up to her name, she was an angel, sometimes she was a fallen angel, she would be the first to admit it, and to revel in the thought.  She had that touch of telling you exactly what she thought about you, and when she had finished knocking the shine off you, you ended up loving her all the more.  We will all miss her but our heart goes out to those who were extra close to Angela, John and her sister...and all those other people, she did so much with her energy and candour.  Angela had such good ideas when we were doing Sogs things.  She would say “I don’t want to push myself forward...but if it was like this...” and I would say “Oh Angela, I do wish that you would push yourself forward...” and she did, and we were so glad that she did.  She was there when we won the Mike Hough trophy, and she was at the allotment, and she was a talented artist, but, she was not a cook, has she told you the story of the Shepherd’s pie?  I will not repeat it here in case it was you who ate it...Angela faced her end the way she faced life, with acceptance, and with dignity.  We were privileged to have known her.

Peter Anderson


Making the World Organic, one person at a time.

1st April 2017 and we have our AGM when we mull over what we’ve done over the last year, how well Potato Day did and whether we need to find a new chairman. Thankfully we didn’t this time but we are going to need a new treasurer as we have worn out Eric; he’s been in office for so long and needs a well-earned rest. Any volunteers?

We chose the charities that are going to benefit from some of our Potato Day profit and they are Oak Farm at Ditton Priors, Garden Organic, Compassion in World Farming, Self-Help Africa and Village Water.

Our speaker to follow all this was a very young lady, Lucy, who happens to be the granddaughter of long time member, Mary White. She is very lucky to have Lucy to look after her garden.

Lucy told us her story. Finishing college with only one A level, (her words, not mine), she realised that University wasn’t going to be for her but she needed a job so was soon working in a restaurant. She soon realised she didn’t want to be a waitress for the rest of her life either. She knew that she liked plants though, including wild flowers and so she found an apprenticeship scheme with a local garden centre. She studied at Pershore Horticultural College for three-day stretches. This opened her eyes to nursery growing and non-organic practices. She was astounded at the amounts of chemicals constantly washed down the drain. She also learned that all this was profit driven. Staff were encouraged to sell rather than give good advice.

Once Lucy had her necessary qualification she soon decided that she didn’t want to carry on in the garden centre trade and so she took herself off to Italy, earning her keep by ‘WOOFING’ on farms. Here she discovered levels of self-sufficiency from growing food to compost toilets and knew that she didn’t want to work in retail again.

Coming home, she got a job at a restaurant again, but her heart not being in it, so to speak, she decided she would try to be a self-employed gardener. The Prince’s Trust gave her a loan and she could buy tools so last summer (2016) she began working in private gardens, at first one day a week and two half days until she now works six days a week! Support from The Prince’s Trust was a big help to enable her to advertise in parish and SY1 magazines and word of mouth soon got her more clients.  She has tried to educate these clients to become organic and helps them to build compost bins in their gardens.

Lucy is now working through the Royal Horticultural Society's diploma course and although she doesn't agree with everything on it, she realises it's to be recommended to enhance her career.

Her audience were well impressed and as she was thanked for telling us her story, she was told that "she is making the world organic, one person at a time".

Sue Bosson


 High up, on a hillside above Clun we eventually found Guilden Down Cottage, and parked at the muddy roadside. How do you make a garden so high up?  And so exposed? However, the owners, Mike and Sue, took on the challenge 13 years ago, and have made an excellent job, using organic principles.  Plenty of manure from neighbouring farmers! They divided the garden into areas to provide shelter, but leaving the amazing views from both the garden and the house, providing  shelter for the many and varied plants.

The garden wrapped round the house, with lots to explore.  Herbaceous borders, fruit trees and herb beds surrounded it so that you could go round and round picking herbs, smelling roses and meeting Soggies!  A picket fence surrounded the vegetable plot, with a cunning structure in the middle to hold a bird feeder.  Free bug eaters!  Due to the altitude and cold weather, they had decided to hold planting the veg out as they had hoped to do for us, but we could still see them waiting patiently in their pots in the polytunnels.  We were then drawn though an arch to find a lake. Quite a surprise! And with a viewing platform too.

 Of course, the highlight for most Soggies is the teas, and they weren’t disappointed. The teapot cosies were rather spectacular, as, I am told, was the cake.

Maralyn Hepworth

 Visit to Pam’s Pools on 10th June

Pam is a retired GP who has over the years created a unique mini estate. It is a permaculture and wildlife site.

In her own words:-“Since 1995 , I have developed a 50 acre permaculture/wildlife site which gives me endless pleasure which I would like to share with others now that I have retired & have the time to do so.

I am self-sufficient in fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs & honey; use my own wood and water and generate more electricity than I use. I hope that visitors will get ideas from looking at what I have achieved & I am sure I will also learn from discussions with them.

Day visitors would probably only want a free guided tour but some might want to be involved in activities like fruit pruning and harvesting ; cider-making ; juice and jam production ; coppicing and logging etc for a share of the produce.”

There is a substantial meeting room, where we started our visit, which she has built to deal with visitors. She lives in a house on the land and has purchased more to add to the original when the opportunities arose. The first part of our tour was through the orchard to get to the vegetable garden near the house. This was doing well. Potatoes in containers were then discussed as this was a method she used and recommended. Squashes etc were growing on the green roof of a purpose built store for the produce.

 By the house there is an attractive ornamental garden, which she is equally keen on.

 She is very keen to support wildlife and that was vividly illustrated when we walked around a large pool and came upon thousands of this years tiny frogs spreading out into the area. She intends to leave the property to Shropshire Wildlife Trust so works with them now.

Not only is there all her work going on, but she has rented space for a couple to create a lavender field and also for a new business growing pollinator friendly plants.

 Pam’s Pools is a creation by one woman who has through her vision and hard work created a really impressive mini estate. There are a good number of visits by groups like us but also Wildlife Trust events that you can book on. She has a website: and if you didn’t come on our visit, put your own on your “must do” list.

Frank Oldacre


Visit to Rachel’s garden, 29th July

A garden with hardly an inch of level ground – that is the first impression given by this ingeniously designed plot, which makes the most of its situation on a site on a steep declivity (I never thought I’d ever use that word!) in beautiful south Shropshire. It does have some level bits, which are used for flower and vegetable plots and from which there are views over the countryside. There are trees on the outskirts giving shelter from the wind. There is a Mediterranean feel to the upper garden, with its steps and wall painted a beautiful blue with a lavender tinge. Then there is a section with a more English formal feel, with a lawn.

Next we plunge to the depths of the garden by means of winding paths and sets of steps, with trees towering in the foreground, and no means of knowing where the garden begins and ends. A sense of mystery prevails. There is a pond, and this secluded spot must be a haven for all sorts of wildlife - and also maybe a hiding place for someone who wishes to escape some household chore or other!

However, you must not rely on being invisible down there, as Rachel’s partner Dave, a garden designer, has built a wooden “skywalk” cantilevered out from the top level to overlook the leafy depths below. This was a most enjoyable and inspiring visit – thank you, Rachel and Dave.

Marian Byrne           click to see picture page

TIME FOR TEA AND CAKE------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A recipe for apple cake  I made for one of the planning group meetings and everyone liked it. It came from a book from the American Community School of Abu Dhabi, which my friend, who was teaching there, gave me.

Maggie Anderson

Fresh Apple Cake

1 1/4 cups corn oil (I used sunflower oil)

3 cups flour

1 tsp salt (I used a pinch)

1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons vanilla

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3 eggs

3 cups chopped apples

1 cup nuts

2 cups sugar

Mix all ingredients well.  Bake in 325 F, 170 C (less for fan) for 1 hour 15 mins.


Recipe for Cheesejack from Susan Tonge

For many years now I have been bringing 'cheesejack' to SOG’s outdoor summer visits. So you don’t have to wait until next summer

for any more cheesejack, I have been asked to pass on the recipe. It is from Cranks’ (1992) cookbook.

(According to Cranks, it is 'particularly popular with children'.)

5oz porridge oats

2oz butter, melted

6oz cheddar cheese, grated

1 egg, beaten

Herbs, pepper, salt to taste

 Mix all ingredients together well. Press firmly into 7” square tin (I use round flan dish). Bake at 180˚/Gas 4 for up to 40 mins. Cut into slices while still warm.

Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.
Dust if you must, but the world's out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it's not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

Rose Miligan 1998
Lancaster in Lancashire,
From Facebook: Sue Rhodes from the Shropshire Star replies to comments from people complaining about the overgrown state of Shrewsbury cemetery:

Longden Road cemetery in Shrewsbury has been awarded Local Wildlife Site status following surveys in 2013 and 2014. Those carrying them out were amazed by the diversity of wildlife found in the older part of the cemetery. The surveys were first suggested to Shropshire Council, owner of the cemetery, by locally-based national charity Caring for God's Acre.

Older cemeteries such as Longden Road, established in the 1850s, are often the last refuge of grass and meadow-land not subjected to modern development, farming or gardening practices. Such cemeteries have remained as unimproved areas of land escaping from weed spraying or fertiliser use. Amongst the many species of grasses, wildflowers and fungi found at Longden Road cemetery were a number of interesting finds such as tor grass, (brachypodium pinnatum) unrecorded elsewhere in Shropshire, and fungi with names such as Parrot Waxcap, Russet Toughshanks and Stinking Dapperling.

Wildlife bosses say the diversity of species present combined with the shrubs and trees on site provide habitat, food and breeding space for all manner of insect, bird and mammal life including hedgehogs.
Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Caring for God's Acre have been advising Shropshire Council and Shrewsbury Town Council – who undertake the grounds maintenance work at the cemetery – on how best to manage the cemetery grounds in order to conserve its wildlife value.

Kate Singleton, wildlife sites officer at the trust, said: "We'd like to trial approaches such as leaving some areas uncut throughout the growing season to allow wild flowering species time to flower and set their seeds for the coming year."

Harriet Carty, of Caring for God's Acre, said: "We are really pleased to be involved with the cemetery, advising on how to conserve the site and also helping out with looking after the cemetery with our practical conservation volunteers. "This is the largest of our projects in the area as the cemetery is around 30 acres in size, so all help is appreciated."

Dr Larry Wolfe, head of bereavement services at Shropshire Council, said: "We continue to manage the cemetery for its main purpose but we also wish to get the most from this site for the people of Shrewsbury and to enhance the old part of the cemetery for the benefit of its wildlife."
 Soggy day out at Hergest Croft.   
It rained and rained on our trip to this lovely site in Herefordshire, with its gardens and woodlands, on September 3rd. This did not deter most of the party from going on the two hour guided tour with an enthusiastic guide, and many purchased plants from the nursery.  Fortunately they were able to dry off and have refreshments in the café afterwards.
click to see picture page

Daily Telegraph 28.6.17 Himalayan Balsam may reach Catastrophic Levels
Introduced by the Victorians as an ornamental plant, it can take over whole areas of river and canal banks, and as it is an annual it dies back and leaves bare soil, which is subject to erosion. It is spreading into hedgerows and road verges, and crowds out native species. It can be controlled by pulling it up or bashing it down before it seeds, and armies of volunteers are needed to tackle it. Several counties have such projects, including Shropshire. (The article does not mention which organisation, but it is presumably the Wildlife Trust).

D.T. 14.7.17 A use for Himalayan Balsam.
Puddingstone Distillery in the Chilterns is distilling a gin which uses the flowers of Himalayan balsam, and will help fight against this invasive non-native plant. £2 per bottle sold at Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust’s Festival this summer went to charity. 

D.T. 9. 9. 2017 Get people gardening!
Gardening needs to be put at the heart of Government policymaking, Tory MPs have said. A 56-page report from the Conservative Environment Network said that “getting more people gardening” has to be part of a “truly holistic, cross departmental, high impact policy”.
.  .  .  encouraging gardening should be adopted as a policy by a range of government departments including health, justice, defence, local government and education.   . . .  it could help to cut childhood obesity, improve public spaces, help people deal with mental stress and provide purpose for prisoners in jails.  . . . Realising the free benefits the outdoors can offer, some GPs are recommending ‘green prescriptions’.
Mrs May pledged that Defra “will consider the evidence within that report and will focus on what can be done to ensure that the benefits provided by access to green space are available to all segments of society”.

D.T. 19.9.2017 Nature Notes by Samantha Herbert. Street Trees.
The Woodland Trust has launched a neighbourhood watch scheme to protect street trees. In November 2017 there will be a National Tree Week and it is hoped that people who care about local trees will take part in a tree dressing day. The Trust have developed a Street Trees Celebration Starter Kit.

D.T. 31.8.2017 Chick peas and lentils commercially grown in Britain

Six farms covering 24 acres have made history by harvesting several tonnes of non-split lentil, and it is expected that more non-native beans and pulses can be commercially grown here. British-grown chick peas are to be harvested commercially next year.
(Have any Soggies grown their own lentils or chick peas to harvesting stage? They can of course be used for sprouting.)

D.T. 29.9.2017 Lavender for ‘greener’ pesticides

In the search for an alternative to chemical pesticides, scientists are exploring the use of the organic compounds in lavender’s natural defensive system which deters insects other than bees, to create a new class of pesticides.

‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wished:
 “Come Sunday morning in a not-too-distant future, the roar of suburban mowers may be replaced by the gentle swishing of scythes.”
That quote is from Joe Shute writing in Weather Watch, D.T. 22.4.2017 about how cherished British lawns may have to be given up in favour of wildflower meadows, because of  future water shortages due to climate change.

RHS advises gardeners in the UK to use native plants to best support plant-dwelling invertebrates.
Invertebrates are some of the most useful animals to have in the garden, and a Royal Horticultural Society study has shown that native plant species in the UK support more invertebrates than plants from other regions. Plants for Bugs is a four-year study into wildlife gardening, which was undertaken at RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, UK.

Wildlife gardening is as much about growing plants as putting up bird boxes or bug hotels. But what type of plants to use has been confusing. The RHS study looked at the question of whether the geographical origin of a garden plant is a significant factor in biodiversity richness. An average garden in the UK contains around 70% non-native plants to just 30% British native plants. Data from the Plants for Bugs study is beginning to reveal if there are any recordable differences in invertebrate numbers and species between these plant groups.

Plots were planted in 2009 with species from three geographical zones – the UK (native), the northern hemisphere excluding the UK (non-native – northern), and the southern hemisphere (non-native – southern). Each contained a mix of 14 species of plants, including bulbs, perennials, shrubs, grasses, ferns and a climber, and designed to be typical of a small garden border.

By the end of December 2013 (four full years of recording) approximately 80,000 invertebrates had been counted and more than 300 species identified. Two peer-reviewed papers have been published, looking at the results from the pollinating insects and invertebrates that live on the plants. The results and recommendations for gardeners have been published in two interpretation bulletins:

Bulletin 1: Gardens as Habitats for Pollinators in August 2015, and more recently:
Bulletin 2: Gardens as Habitats for Plant-dwelling Invertebrates, in August 2017.

The significant messages for gardeners from Paper Two, which deals with plant-dwelling invertebrates, are:

•   Plant a predominance of plants native to the UK.
•   Planting schemes that are based on plants originating from the northern hemisphere (near-natives) may support only marginally fewer (less than 10%) invertebrates in some functional groups (including herbivores and some predators) than UK native plant schemes. Plant schemes based on southern hemisphere (exotic) plants will still support a good number of invertebrates, albeit around 20% fewer than plants from the UK.
•   Regardless of plant origin, the more densely a plant scheme is planted or allowed to grow, the more invertebrates of all kinds (herbivores, predators, detritivores* and omnivores) it will support.

*detritivores: consumers of detritus.
The Permaculture Garden at the Green Wood Centre (now the headquarters of the Small Woods Association) was planted in around  2000 and was probably designed by Ben Law,  a well known writer, woodsman and eco-builder, who delivered a permaculture course there at that time.  The garden had a classic forest garden design, with apple and cherry trees as the top storey, fruit bushes underneath, and herbs such as mint, sweet cicely and ransoms as ground cover.

While permaculture gardens are meant to be low maintenance, they are not no maintenance, and unfortunately over the years the garden became infested with bindweed, horsetail, and ground elder.  Some of the herbs also started to become invasive, with the mint and ransoms in particular starting to roam freely.  The garden was also overshadowed by mature trees, so that some of the bushes and fruit trees did not thrive.  The apple trees had become less productive.

In 2014, some members of Transition Town Telford were asked to renovate the garden and started to dig out the pernicious weeds but it became clear that this was not a viable option, even though it is not a huge garden. We experimented with a small area where we created a barrier of cardboard, topped with wood chippings.  This seemed to be a cheap and physically manageable way of reducing the weeds, so we decided to use this method for the whole garden.

In 2016 Transition Town Telford were granted £1,000 from Veolia to improve access to the garden, and replan it.  So far we have opened up the site by removing a large tree, and Men in Sheds, who meet at the site, to raise the front, put in new steps and a small retaining fence. The apple trees have been regularly pruned.

The barrier method of killing off the weeds has been largely successful, though we did learn some lessons.  The wood chippings needed to be at least six inches thick and we should have overlapped the cardboard more, as some weeds did get through the gaps.  We resolved this by hand weeding once a week until it stopped coming back.  We did the same with the bindweed and horsetail. We expect to continue to pull up the horsetail until it weakens. The ransoms will keep coming back, as they are bulbs, and don’t mind being covered.  However we will try to keep them in check by digging out sections if they become too invasive, and perhaps sell them (with a warning!) at our garden event GrowLocal.

Our next task is to replant the garden and build upon the forest garden concept by growing guilds -   communities of plants around the trees utilising different levels from below ground to climbers, and that will contribute in different ways to ensure the health of the soil. These will include fruit bushes, herbaceous perennials, including herbs, as well as spring flowering bulbs for pollinating insects and comfrey to enrich the soil.

We have recently started a new permaculture group linked to Transition Town Telford, and are hoping to get our members planting soon.  The fruit and vegetables we grow will be free food for the local community and ultimately we hope to develop a free food trail across the Ironbridge Gorge, which will include the permaculture garden. Any suggestions or offers of plants or support would be greatly appreciated!

Alison and Louise

The Moat Plant Sale, Sunday 13th May 2018

The plant sale is a week later this year than last, which gives us longer to produce bigger and better plants for this most worthwhile cause.
Carol requests that when sowing your veg and flower seeds in modules, please plant a few extra to grow on to be sold to help people disadvantaged by disability, special needs or illness who are welcomed and supported at the Moat. Final details in the next newsletter, but meanwhile plan to grow as many as you can: flowers, brassicas, tomatoes, herbs and cuttings.
Over the past three years we have raised £715! We need to keep this up, or improve on it.

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