Month: March 2013

Trugg and Barrows Garden Diary Spring 2013

The ground is white,
The winds are wild, They chill and bite;
The ground is thick with slush and sleet,
And I barely feel my feet.”

It is now the end of March and the garden is still stuck in the grip of winter. Mild weather at the turn of the year looked like it was going to encourage early flowering of daffodils, magnolias and other spring flowering shrubs. Flower buds were swelling and, if conditions had stayed mild for a week or so longer, buds would have burst and flowering would have happenend very early indeed. But nature, as it often does, intervened; high pressure that sits over the continent in winter spread westward and has been sitting over us ever since.

Over the last couple of months we have spent much of our time painting benches, graveling paths and clearing overgrown areas of the garden. Due to the wet, cold, snowy weather opportunity to get on to the garden has been rare, but when conditions have allowed we have been able to prune and muck the roses and the hydrangeas (more below).

One major job carried out on the estate over the winter was work undertaken on the site of Hodnet Castle, which is a Scheduled Monument. This work mainly entailed the clearing of undergrowth and trees from around the site. The work was carried out by local arborist company Nagingtons and by the estate woodsmen, Rick and Dave.

The castle that once stood on this site is thought to have been built by Roger de Montgomery, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, under William The Conqueror in the late 11th century. Originally of wooden construction, it was in time reinforced with red sandstone and a circular tower was added. The castle was garrisoned under William III. Fire is thought to have been the probable cause of the demise of the castle. All that is left today are the humps and bumps of the moats. Visitors to the garden are now invited to walk across the field to view the inner moat, which is still pretty impressive when seen close-up.

Winter Woes and Unfinished Business.
Despondent. If I had to pick one word to sum up my feelings about the garden at the time of writing it would be this. As I sit down to write at the end of March, the worst of winter is taking its toll. Heavy snow and freezing winds are wreaking havoc. There are none of the crisp frosty days and clear skies, the type of day when one takes the time to turn up the blooms of hellebores to admire the interior or sniff the spicy scent of Chionanthus praecox.
Perhaps there are two reasons for my mood. The first has to do with the state of the garden before all the weather related chaos. Despite best efforts it was still looking out of sorts; more reminiscent of November, before the weeks of serious tidying up than the result of such laborious effort. There were more leaves blowing around stuck in the grass than I would have liked.
We have changed tack in recent years. Whereas previously every leaf was blow out of borders and off of the grass and gathered up, the new policy has been to leave them on the borders. This is certainly the right thing to do. It avoids the compaction created by treading on the soil and saves time and energy by leaving the leaves to break down where they lie. What is the point of removing leaves to make leaf mould and then barrowing it back on to borders (doubling the compaction) when it will make good leaf mould if left to its own devices. It also prevents the degradation of the soil which occurs when organic material is removed, exposing it to erosion by wind and water and further reducing the topsoil. It provides an in-situ mulch that over time will retain moisture and smother weeds. Finally it stops the accidental damage done by clumsy gardeners!
All this of course depends on the leaves pretty much remaining where you put them and having the time to push them back to where they came from if not. Time is exactly the problem. This winter it seems to have slipped past so quickly that it has left little time for the touches of refinement that we might have employed. It seems to have been more than enough just to get the basics done! Now we have broken branches to contend with and debris everywhere. Added to which as the snow melts, the already wet soil will not hold up to the necessary traffic.
Doesn’t despondency affect all gardeners at some point? Aren’t we all perfectionists trying to wrest control of a space from nature? I wouldn’t mind, but spring seemed to be on its way. One of the main signs I look for eagerly every year is the flowering of Oemleria cerasiformis. This is a suckering shrub from America which can reach over 2m. In March clusters of pendulous flowers appear, small and pale greenish as the leaves emerge which give off an incredibly powerful marzipan scent.
The second reason for my low mood is the damage done by the snow and wind. This is especially true of the evergreens, including the camellias which have become unshapely in recent years. Ideally they should be cut off about a foot from the ground before this happens. This is usually done after flowering, they are then fed, mulched and left to reshoot which they usually do (although they can take a year before anything appears!). This year we have suffered from broken branches leaving quite serious scars. We had already tackled some of the camellias last month but those that remained have become casualties.
Yet as the snow begins to melt my spirits begin to lift. There have been unexpected positives such as the resilience of the hellebores. We remove the leaves when cutting back in the autumn as this prevents the transmission of disease and exposes the flowers to better viewing. All seemed lost as the flowers were bent under frozen snow. However, as the sun came out, up they stood again, proudly presenting their intriguingly mottled flowers. Another surprise was the emergence of crocus flowers as the snow melted. Bright purple against the dazzling white, splendid!
Suddenly it occurred to me, the solution to our problem with the leaves. Planting hellebores and other evergreens to edge the borders will hold back leaves whilst quietly fading into the background in summer. Perhaps this winter was not so bad after all!
In the Kitchen Garden
On the whole the kitchen garden is tidy and more or less ready for the growing season. The remnants of last year’s crops have been removed, weeds have been cleared and any mucking has been done. In my view muck is best left on the surface and not dug into the soil, worms will do that job. Make sure the manure or compost is well rotted and not spread too thickly on the surface. This approach, if carried out each year, will gradually improve the soil structure. Too much digging destroys soil structure and causes organic matter to oxidise more quickly than it needs to.
Normally I would have hoped that early sowings of luttuce, spinach, spring onion, radish and carrots would have been carried out by now. But the ground has been so wet, to the point of saturation, that it has been impossible to get out on to the garden. I fear that the soil has been so wet and cold, that seed would have rotted in the ground. Broad beans and peas have been sown, but there is no sign of these yet. These are under a layer of fleece, which helps retain any heat in the soil, but just as importantly keeps the birds, mice and voles from having the seed before they get a chance to germinate. Some sowings of lettuce etc have been made on the propagation bench to be planted out as soon as the weather allows. In order to catch up on the slightly delayed growing season, April will probably prove to be a very busy month for sowing and planting out in the veg garden. If you don’t want to be left behind, you’d better get under starter’s orders. As soon as the soil conditions allow get out there, otherwise the time will never be made up.
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.

Hodnet Primary school run the tearooms

Hodnet Hall Gardens open for the first time in 2013 on Easter Sunday and Monday and the mums and dads from Hodnet school are the chefs and waiters.
Wrap up warm and come for a big walk and then have a rest in the tearooms and sample our lovely food – the tearooms are open from 12pm and we promise to have some hot food and delicious cakes.
All the money raised from the teamrooms goes directly to Hodnet Primary School and Hodnet Preschool Playgroup so please come and support us.
Easter Egg Hunt from 12pm around the gardens.
Hodnet Hall  Hodnet, Market Drayton TF9 3NN
01630 685786 or for further information have a look at the Hodnet Hall website.
Hope to see you there.

Hawkstone Hall Open Day

Spring Bank Holiday Monday, 27th May 2013, 12noon – 5pm
Visit this beautiful house and gardens.
There will also be a BBQ, a variety of stalls, refreshments and a licenced bar available.
Tickets can be purchased in advance:

  • Adults £5.00
  • Children £2.00 (under 5’s free)
  • Family Ticket £11.00 (2 Adults +2 Children)

Contact: The Secretary, Hawkstone Hall, Marchamley SY4 5LG
Tel: 01630 685242 or email

Hodnet and District Garden Club

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 16th April, and the subject is ‘Violas’.
We extend a warm welcome to ex-members Jack Willgoss and Laura Crowe. Jack and Laura left us in 2011 to open Wildegoose Nursery, specialists in Violas, and now located in the walled garden of Millichope estate in Shropshire. Violas can be striped, splashed and blotched, bi-coloured or the image of simplicity itself. Many are wonderfully scented too so there is something to please everyone, and with a flowering season stretching from March to October they are hard to beat.
Why not come along and hear all about these wonderful little treasures and hopefully see Viola ‘Janette’ and Viola ‘Jean Jeannie’, two new introductions from Wildegoose.
HODNET & DISTRICT GARDEN CLUB meets every month on the third Tuesday at the Lyon Hall, 7:30pm
Visitors are most welcome to come along to our talks and partake in a cup of tea and biscuit. Entry fee for guests is £2.00 per person,
or why not join our club, it’s only £12 for a whole year.

Holiday Roller Skating at Maurice Chandler Sports Centre

Monday 8th April, 2:00 to 4:00pm – For children aged 6-12 years
£4 per child which includes skate hire, or £3 per child if they bring their own skates.
Organised by Shropshire Leisure Services as one of a series of children’s holiday activities.
All sessions have a limited number of spaces available, so please call Leisure Services on 01743 255071 to secure a place.
The full list of activities can be found on the Shropshire Newsroom here.
Running between Wed. 3 April 2013 and Tue. 9 April in various sports centres and village halls across Shropshire, other activities include Messy and Multi Play sessions and a walk.  Of the other sessions the next nearest is a Messy and Multi Play session in Tilstock Village Hall. This is take place between 10am & 11:45am on Wed. 3rd Apr.

Easter Monday Walk

Would you like to join members of Hodnet Footpath Group for a short country walk?
If ‘yes, please meet at the Lyon Hall car park ready for 10.30 am departure.
The walk should take around 2 hrs – so back in time for a warming drink at the refurbished Bear Hotel?
We intend to walk the route of footpath leaflet 2, weather permitting. Dogs on leads welcome, but may need a lift over 1st two stiles – but help will be available !
For further info on group see website, otherwise please contact the secretary Mary Hardy Tel 01952 540970 or email

Maureen Edwards presented with British Empire Medal

The New Years Honours List recognises the achievements and service of extraordinary people across the United Kingdom and Hodnet has one such person in its midst. Maureen (Mo) Edwards has been awarded the British Empire Medal, for services to the North Shropshire Hunt Branch of The Pony Club.
Many people will recognise Maureen by sight, riding through the village and surrounding lanes but they may not know about her unflagging work over the last 30 years in helping organise local events to introduce younger people to horse husbandry and the sheer fun of anything to do with horses. She has held the position District Commissioner for the area since 2009 and continues in the post although now in ill health.
In talking to the Pony Club about her award she said, “I was very surprised when I received the letter to find I had been awarded the British Empire Medal, but extremely thrilled as it is a great honour, and I was touched that I had been put forward for it.” She went on to say,” I love to see the Members having fun and progress at the Rallies, Camp and Tests. The North Shropshire Hunt group have developed into a large Branch, but I try to attend most of the rallies so that I get to see most of the Members throughout the year. The Pony Club is a great institution and has retained its original ethos of being open to all children which I feel is very important.”
The award was presented by Shropshire’s Lord Lieutenant Algernon Heber-Percy, but I am sure we would all like to say “Well done  Maureen. We are proud of you.”

Hodnet to Marchamley Path

As many passers by will have noticed, the path is largely complete and can now be used. Remaining work includes the erection of some signage and, where it is necessary to cross the road, dropping of kerbs – which will be carried out shortly by the SC highway contractors.

For the first time in decades, probably since the rapid growth of motor traffic in the 1960’s, it is now  possible to walk between the two villages in relative safety. As well as providing village connections, the path opens up some leisure walking routes; one of which could tie in with a current Hodnet Footpath Group walk where it reaches Long Lane – Walk leaflet No 2 – see their webpage for details

New Yoga Class

A NEW YOGA CLASS is starting on a regular basis EVERY MONDAY AT THE LYON HALL AT  7.30pm.

The class got off to a disappointing start last week and MORE PARTICIPANTS are needed to make it a success.


It would be a shame to let this opportunity slip through our grasp.