Shropshire Organic Gardeners

Newsletter 43 - Spring 2021

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Judy at the 2021 SOG'S Potato Day - Hindford Grange Farm

We are a group of growers of fruit, vegetables and flowers with gardens, allotments or smallholdings in various places in Shropshire.

Our winter meetings are mostly held in St Chad’s church hall, Shrewsbury, usually on the first Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm. Summer meetings from May to October are usually at weekends, and consist of visits to members’ gardens, outings, practical workshops, demonstrations etc. We are regularly involved in putting on displays at Green Days and at Shrewsbury Flower Show.  See the programme on the back pages.

Subscription rates: £8 single; £10 Couple at same address.

Visitors £1 per indoor meeting and member garden visits.

Facebook: Shropshire Organic Gardeners - SOGs


Chairwoman: Rachel Strivens Tel: 01743 891607

Treasurer: Jean Breakell Tel: 01743 360519

Membership: post to be filled

Programme: Rachel Strivens Tel: 01743 891607

Newsletter Editor: Marian Byrne Tel: 01743 360838

Newsletter Deputy Editor: Maralyn Hepworth Tel: 01743 874254

We keep in touch via emails or phone and in some cases

‘snail mail’

Keep calm, keep fit and carry on gardening!

page 2

Chairwoman’s Report

 As I sit here on Easter Monday, having got into shorts and t-shirt the last two days in the garden, I’m now looking out on the second or possibly fourth snow storm of the day rolling in from Long Mountain.  My pots of tulips which are just about to open their flowers are wishing they were anywhere but here in this icy blast, whilst the Snakes Head Fritillaries are swaying their beautiful arching, chequered heads around with not a care in the world!

So much has happened since the autumn newsletter.  We were again unable to have indoor meetings, but whilst October was quiet we geared up for our very first zoom meeting in November with a Gardeners Questions Time evening.  Sylvi gamely took on the role of Question Mistress, whilst Sue B, Sue S, Peter and myself offered ourselves as the intrepid panel of experts.  A lot of fun was had by all, but more about this event in Sylvi’s article further on.

 Following the success of GQT, a request was put in for a Christmas quiz and jokes session especially for people feeling lonely.  A nice way to round the year off in the absence of our usual knees up, and with more than a few glasses of wine in evidence.

During the summer, Marian set up a new facebook page, Soggies Surviving, just for members to keep in touch (despite being unwell herself at the time).  It’s been a great success so if you’ve not seen it, I do urge you to have a look and contribute even if you don’t regularly use facebook.  It is for members only and there are lots tips and nice photo’s too.  Thank you Marian.  Also, following a bit of a health scare last autumn, Marian and I agreed that it might be a good idea for her to have a deputy for the newsletter.  Maralyn has offered to do this and was proposed and seconded at the AGM.


In early January Ian Thom decided it was time to relinquish the post of Membership Secretary having done a great job of sorting out the membership list, assisting with the subs payments/systems and starting a regular system of emails since 2015, so thank you Ian for all your hard work.  Ian is not disappearing though, and has offered to take on a much greater role with Potato Day next year which is brilliant news.  In the meantime, I am looking after the membership side of things until we recruit a replacement, and as Ian has said, it is probably a good time to decide on what the role of Membership Secretary should include.  So, over to you the members.  If you have any thoughts/ideas, please do let me know by email or phone.


Carol Edwards is also stepping down, if only temporarily from tea monitor duties, due to ill health.  Janet will continue, with help from Sue Fisher and Barbara Davis, as and when needed.  Thank you Carol for helping keep the troops fed and watered and all the best for improved health during the year.


Sue Bosson also needs to step down from her role looking after the website, and likewise Maggie Anderson, the formal SOGs facebook page.  We need one or two members to take these roles on and as of the AGM, no-one has offered.


The website in particular, really proved its worth this year for Potato Day and we should keep this social media presence going.


Talking of Potato Day, this is covered in greater detail below and despite everything it was a success and we made a small profit.  Donations of potatoes increased to include some primary schools this year and following the AGM we will get in touch with all members via email to decide on any cash donations.


Meanwhile, I have drawn up a Summer Programme of visits which are listed on the back page. 


The coach visit can wait until next year, and don’t forget that Covid rules will allow small groups in gardens during May, and many of our members are happy to host a few people on an ad hoc basis.  Perhaps those who are happy to have a few people visit them, can get in touch with me so that I can match people up if I get asked.


In the meantime, I hope you’ve all got your potatoes chitting and are looking forward to a brighter spring.  It’s still snowing so having books around me is making up for not getting in the garden.



“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need” - Cicero


page 4





Shrewsbury Flower Show has again been cancelled for 2021.  The decision wasn’t taken lightly, and was based on the fact that the risk is simply too great, being an enormous health and safety, operational and financial gamble which the Shropshire Horticultural Society felt as a charity it would be unable to justify.


Stretton Climate Care: Food for a Healthy Planet event being held on Friday 17th September.  SOGs have been invited to take part which I am happy to front, but it would be nice for others to join me for the day.  More details later on.


Pontesbury Trading Post has cancelled their usual spring show but will be holding a show on 28th August



Minutes of the Annual General Meeting - 7th April via Zoom


Present - approximately 32 SOGs members.


Minutes - There were no Minutes from 2020 because SOGs did not have a 2020 AGM due to Covid-19.  The Agenda and Potato Day finances were sent via email in advance.


Chair’s Report - Rachel highlighted the key elements from her report above.


Treasurer’s Report - Jean presented her draft finance report but had been unable to complete it fully due to a discrepancy in the figures relating to membership subs, partly due to subs being waived for November 2020 and being donation only, and also some subs being part of potato payments.

The largest outgoings are annual insurance, printed copies of the newsletters and speaker fees which have been increasing.

Action - Jean, Ian and Rachel to work through and finalise figures.



We will encourage more members to receive the newsletter on line, and a copy is always on the website.  This will significantly reduce the quantity printed, although we will continue to have some printed copies available for those members who do not use email/internet.  A few printed copies are useful to take to events as well.


William Edmondson queried the cost of insurance and suggested it might be worth seeing if we can get it a bit cheaper.  William will ask a Shropshire Hardy Plants Society colleague and advise Jean. Siobhan Reedy also mentioned that her local village hall in Habberley had been shopping around for a better deal and would let Jean know who they use.


Frank Oldaker suggested it worth speaking to A-Plan Insurance Brokers in Shrewsbury as they had found a good deal for Friends of the Earth. Sue Bosson’s gardening group in Wales use the RHS Insurance Scheme which covers going to events, visits to member gardens and garden trips.  It has the affiliation benefits of allowing group entry for coach trips of up to 55 people, a copy of the monthly magazine to circulate around members, and only costs £120.


Action - Jean to look into costs of other insurers with a view to change.


A gift hamper (£20) was made on behalf of SOGs to Eric Lunt following Pam’s death and a donation of £40 was paid to The Roy Fletcher Centre for the GO Fix-It project which Mike uses to facilitate our zoom meetings.  Jean suggested that a payment is made for each meeting rather than the one off donation.  Rachel agreed to this, as we would have been unable to run the meetings without taking out the full Zoom subscription.


Election of Committee and Auditor

Chairwoman, Rachel Strivens stated she would be happy to continue for a further year.  Proposed by: Peter Anderson, Seconded by: Jean Breakell


Treasurer, Jean Breakell stated she would be happy to continue for a further year.

Proposed by: Rachel Strivens, Seconded by: Jan Gibb


Membership Secretary, post remains vacant.  Chrissy Bridge asked what the role involved.  Action - Rachel to circulate a short job description for vacant positions.

Auditor - Jean looked into this and because SOGs is not an affiliated group or registered charity, we do not officially need an auditor.  However, as Jean quite rightly stated, it is good practice to have our accounts audited by someone with a good head for scrutinising figures and this has been done in the past. Barbara Davis asked if it needs to be done by a qualified auditor and Jean said no it doesn’t.  Barbara (an ex tax inspector), offered to take on this role.

Accepted by Jean and seconded by Rachel.


Programme/Events Coordinator, Rachel Strivens is happy to continue doing this but wants all members to contribute ideas for speaker subjects, and if possible a speaker name, and ideas for summer visits.


Newsletter Editor, Marian Byrne is happy to continue producing the newsletter but, as agreed with Rachel during last autumn, will have a deputy.


Deputy Newsletter Editor, Maralyn Hepworth, Proposed by: Rachel Strivens, Seconded by: Barbara Davis.


Website Management, Sue Bosson needs to step down from this role and will write a short job description of what it involves for circulation.


Facebook Page, Maggie Anderson would like to step down from this role.  A short description of what it involves will be circulated.


The latter two posts could ideally be combined if a member enjoys computers, specifically looking after a web site and facebook page. Whilst neither is an onerous task, it is important to keep a social media presence. If anyone is interested in advance of seeing a job description, please contact Rachel.


Donations -

In 2019 SOGs made total donations of £700. No cash donations were made in 2020, and Jean proposed that we should make some this year. 


Mike stated that whilst we have the money in the account, only 32 members out of 150+ are actually present at the AGM and felt that the decision must be opened up to the wider membership.  Rachel agreed. Siobhan asked if we are going to draw up a shortlist of recipients for donations. Rachel agreed this will need to be done.

Sue Bosson said to remember to keep a contingency fund.


William said that the Hardy Plant Society has been having similar discussions and basically the money is there for the members’ benefit.  If members choose to donate money to other causes, it might mean less available to pay for speakers. William also said that HPS doesn’t pay for the annual coach trip; it is paid for by the members taking part.  This has come up in discussion occasionally within SOGs and now might be a good time to have a membership debate on this issue.

Jean suggested still making donations this year but perhaps more moderate in value.


Action - Rachel to email full membership regarding value of donations and recipients, and coach trip payments.


Meeting ended at 8.30pm.

Followed by a Gardeners Question Time Session to 9.30pm

Rachel and Peter getting into the swing of things agt 2012 SOG'Ss Potato Day
Rachel and Peter getting into the swing of things at the 2021 SOG's Potato Day - Hindford Grange Farm

Rachel’s thoughts on a very different Potato Day 2021

Potato Day for SOGs continues to be a key event in our annual calendar.  It’s when members do what they do best and volunteer to make it a truly memorable day.  However, as many members know, it starts long before February, the previous summer in fact, when we have to make a decision whether to hold it again, to get our order of potatoes (varieties and quantities) into Brighter Blooms, then all the promotion that needs to be done in the run up to Christmas and January.  Then of course the planning of the set-up evening and the day itself needs a steady hand at the helm to stop everyone running around like headless chicks!  For the better part of 16 years we’ve had Frank Oldaker undertaking this role, so my heart sank when Frank announced in March 2020 that he was going to step down - [spoiler alert, big feet puns] a really BIG pair of shoes to step into. (sorry Frank, couldn’t resist it!).  A well deserved rest for Frank though.


Of course we also had the added problem of not really knowing what on earth things would be like in the middle of a pandemic, least of all by Feb 2021.  However, we took the plunge to go ahead.  Peter took on the role of ordering the potatoes and I went over to sit with Frank and Maralyn at a safe distance in their garden and got the low down on everything Frank has done over the years. I returned home with a car full of cloth bags, lots of archive files of information, boxes of props used on the day, and a promise from Frank to provide me with an electronic copy of all the societies and other contacts that he used to promote the day, which he duly did.


Contact was made with the allotments and lots of other groups, who were all incredibly patient with the constantly moving location challenge, but who were equally grateful that SOGs was even going ahead when practically all potato days were being cancelled around the country. By December things were becoming clear that Wattlesborough might be off the agenda, but what to do with a large quantity of spuds on order.  Cancellation was unthinkable.


Click and collect, of course.  A mad panic ensued, but Mike Richardson rose to the challenge to help Sue Bosson out with getting the website sorted.  We’d intended trying PayPal but that didn’t work out, so settled on offering BACs payments, cheques and payment on the day.  Jean got underway with getting our bank account on line so that we could see the BACs spud payments being made daily without the risk of going to the bank.

Louise Lomax emailed to say she was a Tweeting addict and would I like her to get the word out to all her networks?  You bet I would, said I.  I barely have time to use facebook, let alone tweet, so that was an offer I couldn’t resist and it did the trick, a flurry of orders from the Coalbrookdale/Wellington side of the county.


A new venue was sorted out care of Maggie and Peter’s daughter and un-son-in-law at Hindford Grange Farm and we were ready to go.


103+ orders (some very large) had come in online to pick and pack and with all orders printed off a great team got down to picking and packing on the Friday.


Saturday dawned, warm and sunny - crikey, is it really February I thought.  I know the weather is fickle, but gosh it could have been so much worse - cold and wet at the very least; but no, the sun shone for us.  In fact afterwards Peter confided to me that he was worried about snow!  It really was a great atmosphere with members doing a fantastic job greeting customers, ensuring they got the correct order, helping   out any problems, chatting with many of our usual customers, and of course taking orders away to deliver far and wide across the county.  We had an old customer who went to the very first potato day at Nesscliffe 17 years ago and who drove all the way over from Stafford to see us - probably illegal under the circumstances, but who’s counting!  Another lady from across in Wales, had also been to the first event and arrived to collect her spuds.


Matthew and Gete from Brighter Blooms simply couldn't stay away and travelled down with all their on-line orders.  A nice day out for them and lovely for us too.


Silver Linings

One major silver lining of the situation we’ve found ourselves in is that Potato Day didn’t end on 6th February this year.  The potatoes left over were taken back to Maggie and Peter, and we continued selling them on line from the SOGs website, via continual word of mouth and networking.  One new route of sales has been via Maddocks Fruit and Vegetables who have their farm not a million miles from Baschurch.  During 2020 they set up a Farm Shop at the site, run by a friend of Maggie’s, who got in touch with them and they are continuing to sell our seed potatoes from there, sharing the profit.


Sadly, Phil and Nicky Moore from Glebe Farm were unable to take any on the market due to lack of space on their stall but took the website details.


Again, we donated potatoes to:

Oak Farm, Ditton Prior (they would like to host a SOGs summer visit in due course - how can we resist that invitation)

Green Acres Farm, Baschurch

The Moat - via Carol Edwards, Telford

Lovelyland via Clare Andrew, Shrewsbury

Lovelyland's East Trail for the community

One of a number of blue varieties of potatoes that SOGS has on Potato Day

New for this year for receiving a donation of potatoes is Longlands Primary School in Market Drayton.  Through a contact we learnt that the children had started a new community/social garden to one side of the playing field.  It is so encouraging to see a younger generation taking an interest in veg growing and animal care - they have guinea pigs and rabbits and will be getting some quail and pigs later this year.  We will make a return visit in the summer before holidays start to follow their progress.

Pupils at Longlands Priary School, Market Drayton, with their donated potatoes

Further donations to the following schools via members grandchildren/children have also been made this year:


Lilleshall Primary - Rachel Phillips-Street

Manor Park Primary, Sutton, Surrey - Judy Crook (nice that our spuds have gone further afield)

Condover Primary – Maralyn Hepworth

A Primary in Manchester - Maralyn’s grandson

Oxon Primary - Emma Mayho


I was also quite taken aback by the incredible support we had and I want to thank Sylvi, Maralyn and Louise in particular for their flow of wonderfully supportive emails.  Below is a small selection of the thank you emails from non-members and members that came through to me but are for everyone.




Hi Rachel

Thank you so much for your help and for the organisation of the Potato Fest today. Although it was muddy and everyone had to be masked it was great to be where other people were and to rummage through the potato sacks.  I found four types of potatoes that suited me and look forward to planting and harvesting them.

Good Luck


Hello Rachel

We have just been to collect our potato order from Sylvi and wanted to thank you very much for organising it all for us.  We now have seed potatoes and some other bits and pieces from Brighter Blooms so all we need now is warmer weather.

Thank you for your hard work

Best wishes

Andrea and Chris Walker

Thanks so much for our delivery by Siobhan, Rachel, much appreciated!

Best wishes, Caroline


Rachel - Many thanks. We collected our order on Saturday.  Excellent service. 

Thanks to all who worked on Potato Day.

Kind regards 

Martin Fuller


Dear Rachel

The potatoes were safely delivered in two cloth bags to Dorothy.  Who should we send them back to as we have many ourselves?

Many grateful thanks to all who helped in this massive operation. 


One third of my order, once chitted, will go to Sheffield to my daughter.  She also is appreciative to get organic potatoes.

Heather & Nick Hall


Hi Louise & Rachel,

Thanks very much for sorting out my seed potatoes. They are now sitting in egg boxes waiting for some better weather!

There was a rogue one in the box, can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Kind regards,

Richard Collier






Dear Rachel,

It was lovely to meet you and co the other day.  I would just like to thank you all for doing such a brilliant job at getting it all together and also a huge thank you from 2 friends of mine who would not have got round to getting their potatoes otherwise!

Best wishes



Thank you Rachel for your hard work involved with organising the Potato Day and making my collecting so straight forward.

All good wishes.



Hi Rachel, That's great, thank you. 

I have sent over the money.

I had a good long chat with Peter and he showed me his bees!

Many thanks again



Hi Rachel,

What can I say?

I’m very impressed and very grateful for the whole process of ordering, paying for and receiving my potatoes.

Clearly, a huge amount of work done by you and so many others to achieve the amazingly efficient result, particularly in these difficult times.


As you say, Louise did a great job in collecting my, and other people’s orders on Saturday.


I will certainly be back next year, and hope to be in a position to be able to help – perhaps I could collect Louise’s order for her next time?

My potatoes are chitting and I look forward to a great harvest.


Please don’t feel the need to reply to this, you’ve had enough to do. I just wanted to add my voice of appreciation to you and all concerned.





A definite advantage of email contact is the ability to easily find out how people know about SOGs potato day.


Dear Catherine


Maggie said you'd called by to collect some and I hope you enjoy them when they've grown. As a matter of interest, would you normally have come to the event at Wattlesborough Village Hall, or is this the first time you've come across us?


Happy chitting!


Catherine’s reply

No never knew of your existence before recent search, have bought direct from Scotland before.


They’re sitting in egg trays on the window seat and looking very peaceful!



It is definitely not the same as having the day itself at the hall, with the buzz of everyone chatting, greeting friends etc, but under the circumstances we couldn’t have wished for a more successful Potato Day, especially as we actually made a small profit.  Emails (like Zoom) can sometimes feel very impersonal, but this year they were imperative in dealing with orders and keeping people updated and in touch.

Gilbert White 1720 – 1793: From The Natural History of Selborne, on Worms.


Lands that are subject to frequent inundations are always poor; and probably the reason may be, because the worms are drowned . . . .


. . . worms seem to be great promoters of vegetation, which would proceed but lamely without them, by boring, perforating, and loosening the soil, and rendering it pervious to rains and the fibres of plants by drawing straws and stalks of leaves into it; and, most of all, by throwing up such infinite numbers of lumps of earth, called worm-casts, which, being their excrement, is a fine manure for grain and grass.


Gardeners and farmers express their detestation of worms; the former, because they render their walks unsightly, and make them much work; and the latter, because, as they think, worms eat their green corn. But these men would find that the earth without worms would soon become cold, hard-bound, and void of fermentation, and consequently sterile.



(Once when I visited an elderly aunt in the retirement haven of Thornton Cleveleys, she was weeding her garden with a poker at her side. Surely she had no need of a weapon to fend off thugs? No, it was for killing worms because she couldn’t stand them!




Out of courtesy to our hosts for each visit, please can you let Rachel know whether you will be attending so that refreshments and parking can be organised. Email: Tel: 01743 891607/ 07881 998821 OR

Full details of all visits will be circulated nearer the dates.

 June 6th (Sun) - 1.30pm - Visit to member’s garden, Louise Lomax, Coalbrookdale, including the rain garden in the community centre car park and possibly including Louise’s neighbour’s garden.  Please be aware that you need to be fairly able-bodied to tackle Louise’s garden which is steep.

Tour of Treflach Farm followed by a talk - Morda, Nr Oswestry SY10 9HX Tel: 01691 654321.  To be rescheduled. A family run farm since 1904 practising permaculture to raise free-range animals and care for the environment. They have key principles that guide their vision of agriculture as a sustainable industry.


July 25th (Sun) - 1.30pm - Tour of Pontesford House Garden, Pontesford, a Victorian house and garden that is being renovated by the new owners.  The garden includes a walled kitchen garden, refurbishment of which is in progress, plus restored rose garden, a secret garden and more.


August 22nd - 2.00pm (Sun) - Visit to member’s garden, William and Linda Edmondson, Rowley on the side of Long Mountain – lots of interest, including a new woodland, veg beds, greenhouses and ornamental borders.

 September  - Linley Hall, near Bishop’s Castle - to be confirmed



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