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…and then there was one!

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Those of a nervous disposition may care not to read on.

A week ago we had three drakes, six hens and a cockerel. Today we have one drake, five hens and a cockerel. Such are the joys of keeping poultry in the countryside.

Last Friday only two drakes turned up at bedtime. Not too unusual as one does occasionally get seperated from the others and normally is waiting outside the hutch in the morning. But not this time.

Then on Saturday lunchtime there was a kerfuffle in the chicken field. We didn’t get there in time to see anything but a pile of Light Sussex feathers and a trial of smaller ones down through the new field.

So what was it? Fox? It wasn’t our old foe the goshawk as the body was obviously dragged under the fence.

Then this morning I went out to let the two drakes out and there was only one – and a hole chewed in the bottom corner of the door about three inches across. Also the heavy fork tines which we rest against the door, in case the catch breaks, was tossed aside.

As it happens I had the wildlife camera in there last night as we thought we might have a rat. So I grabbed the photo card and rushed in doors.

Something was going on at about 1.15 this morning, but peer as I may I couldn’t see anything apart from one drake coming out into the run.

Whatever it was – and I’m looking for suggestions – either chewed the hole, squirmed in, killed one and dragged it back out. Or chewed the hole, the inquisitive drake stuck it’s head through the hole and was dragged through and away.

There’s hardly any feathers in the hutch or outside, so it was a clean getaway – hardly any DNA for a sample!

So, fox? Mink? Badger? Ideas please! We have spotted this fox recently, nipping in to get some cat food, so maybe the prime suspect, but wouldn’t a fox have dug under the duck run, rather than chewing through the door?

The poor remaining drake is looking somewhat shellshocked and can’t decide whether to stay indoors or go out to the stream. I think I might put him in with the chickens for company.

Odd things happening

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It’s the 1st of October and we’ve just picked some cracking raspberries for breakfast. Nothing strange there you may think – they must be Autumn friuting varieties. Well, yes, some of them are but the best berries have come off what should be normal summer varieties.

Next to the raspberries is the strawberry bed. For those who follow our Newsletter, (or if you don’t, see the last two issues here on the blog) you will know that this year we grew early, mid season and late varieties. The earlies are flowering ……

…. and even have some green berries on them!

Strawberries for Christmas dinner anyone??

At the other end of the scale, we have apples going mouldy on the tree even before the majority of them are ripe for picking. OK this isn’t quite as unusual, but our Tom Putt’s don’t normally do this and are usually best for picking towards the end of the month.

I blame it all on the weather. We’ve just gone from the second wettest month this year – August – to the second driest – September – and the poor plants don’t know what year they are in!

Sue tells me that the courgettes have totally failed as well, so it’s not just the plants that I tend!

September 2020 Newsletter

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For those not on our mailing list – hint, hint!! – here are the latest info and thoughts from Nant y Bedd.

Watergate

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Most of you are now thinking about shenanigans in high political places in America.

Watergate to us is a fence across our river, placed to attempt to keep sheep out of an area by stopping them using the river as a transit route.

We’d never realised that people other than us wouldn’t know what one was until a friend saw ours and asked what it was. So here’s a bit of background.

The Grwyne Fawr (the river that frames the bottom of our land) is a tributary of the River Usk, a river famed for its salmon and trout fishing. As such the Grwyne Fawr – pronounced griinee vower – is a designated SSSI – site of special scientific interest – and the higher designation SAC – special area of conservation.

There are definitely trout in the river, we see them in the deeper pools when the surface is relatively calm, and there used to be huge salmon coming up to spawn, but we haven’t seen any for some time now.

What’s that got to do with watergates for sheep you may well ask? Well, some years ago an organisation called the Wye and Usk Foundation – a conservation / angling body – came along and asked if we’d help out by having some of the riverside trees ‘laid’ – like laying a hedge. The idea of this is to make shady places for trout and salmon to hide and escape predators and alos to encourage insects on the surface of the water for the fish to feed on.

One of the watergates today –
ten days ago there was no water coming under the left hand side!

In order to protect these laid trees there was a need to keep the sheep out, thus the watergates at each end of our stretch of river. Nice idea, but the ‘forest sheep’ managed to find ways of getting round the gates, as sheep always manage to do!

So that’s the reason the gates are there. Nowadays with this interesting weather we are having the watergates have taken on another role: that of river depth gauge! The gates are suspended on wires stretched across the river which allows them to swing upwards as the water level and speed increases. However by looking at the angle of the woodwork it’s possible to see, roughly, how deep the water is. Back in February with Storm Dennis and co. the gates disappeared entirely underwater meaning a rise of at least four feet!

Water like that, needless to say caused some damage, and so I could have been seen bare-leggedly standing in front of one of the gates just recently with my trusty cordless drill in hand!

So next time we are able to welcome you back to the garden you will be able to explain to your companions what these strange structures are!

By the way, as I write this on August 21st we have just recorded the second highest monthly rainfall of the year to date – and 10 days still to come – so there’s unlikely to be any sheep trying to cross the torrent!

July Newsletter

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Here, for those who don’t get our bi-monthly Newsletter delivered straight to their mailbox, is the latest blockbuster from Nant y Bedd Garden!

If you would like to get your copy direct, just drop us an e-mail to garden@nantybedd.com.

We hope you find it enjoyable and interesting and we’d love to hear from you

Virtual Tour of Nantybedd Garden – Part Three

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Concluding our virtual tour of the garden as it was this May. It has been an interesting exercise, not least in the decision making process of what constitutes a ‘good’ picture and what doesn’t – let’s just say we din’t agree every time!

Day 10

The wildflower meadow. A little bit of cheating here, as we have included some shots of flowers in our new field, part of which will become a wildflower haven in the future, and a couple of things from the cottage garden. But first of all….

The path through the meadow by the pond
Fox and Cubs by the house
Yellow rattle by the apple trees
Aquilegia by the pond
Ox-eye daisy
Stitchwort in the new field
Lady’s smock
Pignut, plus some Lady’s Smock and buttercup
…and a dew covered cobweb!

Day 11

The star of Alan Titchmarsh’s visit last year, when I had to give him a telling off for running on the bridge and scaring the ducks – watch the clip posted last autumn!

Built about 12 years ago to Sue’s specifications by Daryl Rogers, the rope bridge is always a big talking point for visitors – some think it is too wobbly, others just want to cross it again and again.

Low-down looking towards the pond
Looking from the pond …
…and looking from a higher point

Day 12

We come back across the road to the original areas of the garden around the house. Immediately around the house is the Cottage Garden.

Bright morning sun illuminates the planting by the patio
The wonderful bronze leaved Rodgersia
The Alliums are looking good this year
A bit of everything below the greenhouse!
Sweet Rocket, with Iris and Bistort behind by the little pond
I think the run-off from the compost heap makes this lot grow so well!
Alpine strawberry, carrot, parsnip and, in the background, peas
Flowering Chives, Myrtle, Good King Henry and dark purple Aquilegia

Day 13

We reach the end of the tour in the Forest Fruit Garden where we find not only the usual strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants, rhubarb, blueberries, asparagus and walnuts but unusual things like Honeyberry, Japanese Wineberry (taste like wine gums!), a tea bush and …

..the Sichuan peppercorn tree, with Aquilegia and Welsh Poppies
in the foreground is the Asparagus bed
Strawberries? Yes! Musk Strawberries- native of Eastern Europe.
One of the Plane Trees lit by the early morning sun
Looking across the Cottage garden from under the Walnut Tree
Fancy a cuppa?
Stunning Maple (l) and Walnut tree (r) shade the comfrey bed
A bit of art to finish off!

We’ll probably post some bonus pictures – those that didn’t quite make the final cut in the next week or so, but we hope you enjoy being able to ‘visit’ our garden even though you can’t actually be here at the moment.

A Virtual Tour of Nantybedd Garden – Part 2

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The second of what will be three parts of our current virtual tour of the garden.

Day 6

We move into the Spooky Forest. Planted many, many years ago by the Forestry Commission as a Christmas tree nursery – if you are good with heights we’ll lend you a saw to cut a ‘tree’ from the tops!! – and never really managed. There’s also some lovely, huge, Douglas Fir at each end, and a few stands of Ash, at the moment.

Looking skyward- there’s Christmas trees up there!
Not all logs reach the fireplace.
This lovely rill lined with wood sorrel runs through
…and Wild Garlic is starting to thrive
We hope we don’t lose this lovely old Ash
The Eagle’s Nest – something odd happened up there!
Why it’s called the Spooky Forest!
Name the native broadleaf trees in this pic!

Day 7

Do you remember the song “Down by the Riverside”? Well, that’s where we were on day seven. We’ve about 250 yards of river along this stretch (plus about another 350 alongside our new field) and, after clearing decades of brash and brambles, all sorts of flowers have sprung up.

Bluebells and Stitchwort, with Ian’s fave chair in the background
The stone in the river is quite geometric
Ferns unfurling
More bluebell with Pignut
A nice place to sit and let the world go by …
…or climb down and dangle your toes in the water

Day 8

Heading back into the garden, hidden in the embrace of an 178 year old Sycamore (we have its birth certificate, if you don’t believe me!) is our much loved treehouse. Designed and built by Dan Tuckett (after an initial plan by Mick Petts) with help from tree-climber Oli Stinchcombe, it is both a thing of beauty and a great place to spend some quality time listening to the birds and the river.

The shape of the tree was just crying out for this, and Dan and Oli managed to do it all with only three (stainless steel) bolts into the tree itself, the rest is clamped round and counter-balanced. Fantastic job!

The main A-frame
Looking down the path with the new gate in the distance
View from the new field
Halfway seat – with convenient drink holder!
Looking back toward the turbine house …
…and down to the river.

Day 9

Today we get to the pond. A wonderful place to sit and chill, or even more wonderful to slip into and bash out a few lengths of breaststroke. The border planting keeps the water crystal clear by gulping up any algae-inducing nutrients and looks beautiful as well. If the weather turns, then a quick dash to the shelter of the Shepherd’s Hut is all that is needed.

Grasses can be beautiful too
Pale lilac Iris just coming into show
Cotton grass and looking down the valley
Shepherd’s Hut and Sue’s little yacht
Big Gunnera and huge Douglas Fir behind
Sit, sleep or read – the choice is there

Do enjoy our pictures. We are not sure at present whether we will be able to open this year. But keep watching here and on Instagram.

More pics in a few days

A Virtual Tour of Nantybedd Garden -Part One

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This weekend should have seen our annual opening for the National Garden Scheme, but the COVID-19 has put a firm end to that, so this week and next we are posting a series of images on Instagram and Facebook to help you to get your ‘fix’ of our lovely garden.

We are following the route that Sue takes in her Candide Gardening audio tour, and today we reach day 5.

We do hope you enjoy these pictures and will come – maybe again – to visit us when we can open. At this point in time it is all so uncertain that we can’t even say whether we will be open at all this year.

Day one

The woodyard, which as visitors will recall is the start of the Nantybedd tour, our meet and greet place.

The attention grabbing pyramid
Looking down from the road
Pea sticks and the hardwood stacks

Day two

and we move into Sue’s little domain – the potting shed – the hub of all that happens in the garden – or Home as Sue calls it!

The door to Home
She doesn’t actually use those riddles!
Potting on .. in the potting shed
Dried flowers from former years .. and redundant signs this year
Seed storage and tools

Day three

We move back outside to yet another key factor in our gardening ethos – compost. You may have been on one of Sue’s Compost Making workshops or seen our earlier published video (which has been used by the National Garden Scheme) on making the perfect compost. If you haven’t then it’s a potential Oscar winner!

The composting hub
Owl keeps a close eye on the leafmould bin
Compost in use on the spuds
Compost bins come in all shapes …
…. and sizes!

Day four

Through the gate into the potager, home of flowers and vegetables, and wonderful hazel support frames.

Welcome desk!
Through the gate – the onions are looking good
Recycled windows make a great cold frame
Planting out the runner beans at the tunnel
Hazel sweet pea supports

Day five

Venturing through the runner bean tunnel, we come to our tree carving Cedric, who symbolises our approach to editing nature, not dominating it.

Cedric and a bit of Sweet Cicely
Close-up Lovely green ‘hair’!
Sue does like writing Haikus
Self seeded conifers …
…and ferns
Just then along came the ducks!

There’s more to come. We’ll be publishing some more early next week – keep watching.

You can also help the National Garden Scheme to continue to support such worthy health and nursing charities as Macmillan Cancer Support and Queen’s Nursing Institute – to name but two – by donating to our JustGiving page – scan the QR code below with your phone or tablet for instant access to our page.

May Newsletter

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For those of you who are not ‘signed up’ to receiving our bi-monthly Newsletter, here is the latest issue.

To get it straight to your e-mail box, just ask!

May 2020 newsletter p1

May 2020 newsletter p2

May 2020 newsletter p3

May 2020 newsletter p4

Building the bean tunnel

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Over the years of our opening the garden we have had so many comments about the hazel tunnel we build every year or so (depending on the winter weather) that I thought we’d give you a quick insight into how it is constructed.

First of all, harvest your hazel poles.  We are fortunate in having two areas from which we can select just the right size sticks, although those in our new field will need quite a few years of management before they give a useable crop.

Here’s Sue, with trusty Silky saw, down by the river.

 

Make sure you have enough and they are long enough

Then assemble your tools;

Something to make good deep holes in your soil

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Lots of good string – here we have sisal baler twine

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and two people.

Work out how long the row needs to be and make a start, keeping the distance between the opposing sticks as close the same as possible.

Here we are after the first half a dozen (out of 27 pairs)

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You’ll see later the process of matching up the two opposing sticks works.

Tie in the two sticks to make the arch, making sure you keep a constant height all along – it will make things easier later.

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Here we have about half of the arches complete.

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and this is how you make them

 

 

Speedy aren’t we??

Now it’s just a case of tying it all together. First with long straight sticks along the apex to make sure the spacing is correct.

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then the all important side sticks, woven in (it’s not that easy) to provide a really solid framework.

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And, in the immortal words of Blue Peter, here’s one I made earlier.  Actually, WE made today.

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Tunnels like this have survived snow, rain and high winds and provide a lovely, easy way to pick your beans.

Now all that’s needed is a bit of warmer weather to plant the beans!

Here’s what it looked like in Summer 2018

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It’s bluebell time by the river

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Continuing our series of short videos so that you can see a little bit of what you might have seen if we were able to open.

After we purchased the woodland and riverbank, we cleared years of fallen branches, matted with groves of bramble, all along the bank.

Without any planting, we now have a few rapidly growing patches of bluebells, establishing themselves with glee in the shade of the hazels.  The big irony is that for years we’ve been trying to establish bluebells in the garden, with only limited success!

 

 

Somehow I managed to stay upright whilst walking/filming – does one look at the screen or the ground? –  so apologies for a slightly uneven view.

The river, the Grwyne Fawr, feeds into the Usk at Glangrwyney, delineates the boundary between Powys and Monmouthshire and is a Special Area of Conservation – not bad for ‘our river’!

Yesterday we were delighted to find that we are featured this week on the National Garden Scheme Virtual Tours, which concentrates on the more formal (if that’s not a contradiction at Nantybedd!) parts of the garden.  Our video makes a nice counterpoint.

As well as, hopefully, giving you some enjoyment, the other reason for these posts is to ask you to help the National Garden Scheme (for whom we would have been opening for the 15th year at the end of the month) to make up the massive expected shortfall in the funds which they are usually able to give to a raft of really deserving – especially at this time – health and nursing charities.

The NGS is the biggest single contributor to both Macmillan Cancer Support and Marie Curie, usually donating around £500,000 to each every year.  Other major beneficiaries include the Carers Trust, The Queen’s Nursing Institute and Hospice UK.    At present a shortfall of around 80% is forecast with gardens being unable to open.

Instead of visiting us you can simply click here or scan the code below and make a much needed donation directly to the National Garden Scheme. Please be generous at this time.

I make no apology for repeating this request as the Scheme is so important to the future of the above health and nursing charities and the people who make them work..

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Chilling by the pond

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Continuing our theme of posting short videos to make up for the fact that you won’t be able to visit for quite a while yet, we hope that this little clip of Sue’s sailing boat on the pond might make your lockdown a little easier.

The boat is quite amazing in it’s ability to keep itself going.  Once launched I had no hand in it’s movement at all – there’s a short bit removed when it was stuck for a few moments, but even then it freed itself and set off on another journey round it’s own little ocean.

Turn the sound up to enjoy the silence and birdsong – no traffic, no planes.  Let us know if you can identify the birds – we are hopeless at it!

The water is crystal clear as the marginal planting does its clever job, allowing us to see loads of tadpoles, newts, great diving beetles, dragonfly larvae and others.

As well as, hopefully, giving you some enjoyment, the other reason for these posts is to ask you to help the National Garden Scheme (for whom we would have been opening for the 15th year at the end of the month) to make up the massive expected shortfall in the funds which they are usually able to give to a raft of really deserving – especially at this time – health and nursing charities.

The NGS is the biggest single contributor to both Macmillan Cancer Support and Marie Curie, usually donating around £500,000 to each every year.  Other major beneficiaries include the Carers Trust, The Queen’s Nursing Institute and Hospice UK.    At present a shortfall of around 80% is forecast with gardens being unable to open.

Instead of visiting us you can simply click here or scan the code below and make a much needed donation directly to the National Garden Scheme. Please be generous at this time.

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Thank you

Here’s the video.

 

Perfect Compost making – and a plea

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We were due to hold one of Sue’s “excellent” (participant’s quote, not ours!) Compost Making workshops at the beginning of June, but that isn’t now going to happen due to the virus.

So we’ve made this short video to whet your appetite for some date in the future.

This is just a very quick run through of the why’s and wherefore’s of making a really wonderful compost which you can use in so many ways around the garden.

As we are also not going to be able to open for the National Garden Scheme as planned at the end of May, we are looking for ways of replacing the £1000+ that we are normally able to pass to the scheme to support such a wonderful set of health and nursing charities.

So, if you like this video, find it useful or are just wanting a way to support the NGS charities, we have set up a JustGiving page where all donations will go directly to the NGS to help make up the expected 80% shortfall in funds this year.

Please just click here (or use the QR code below) and give what you can to support health workers at Macmillan, Marie Curie, Queen’s Nursing Institute and others.  It is so important at this time.

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March Newsletter

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For those who are not yet on our Newsletter mailing list  – shame on you!! – here’s the recent March one.  Next one will be early May (as long as I can get Sue out of the garden long enough to write her bits).

It’s easy to get a copy direct to your e-mail box (and we promise that no-one else will get in touch with you), just e-mail garden@nantybedd.com and ask!

March 2020 newsletter 1March 2020 newsletter 2March 2020 newsletter 3March 2020 newsletter 4

Traffic silence = Birdsong

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Just a few sounds for you today.

A somewhat uncommunicative owl from last night as we had a quick stroll to check the forest barriers were locked – essential travel!!

 

…and a much more tuneful Dawn Chorus from early this morning.

With virtually no planes and no traffic, it’s lovely to hear the birds as they should be.

A tale of many mulches

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Our latest video clip of the garden features Sue explaining the different mulches that she is using on each segment in the circular bed around the Szechuan peppercorn tree.

Keep a look out for Oreo photo-bombing in the last few frames!

The power of water

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Continuing our current video posts (or should that be vlogs?), here’s a little snippet of one part of our river, before and after Storm Dennis.

We’ll be continuing to vlog this and other aspects of the garden over the next months, so you can see the best of the garden from your armchair.  For example, just along the bank from here will be carpeted in bluebells in May, and we wouldn’t want the “Virus Thing” to stop you seeing them!  Keep logging in.

In the first part you can see the clearly defined ‘tongue’ of water. At the time of filming it the river was a bit up, so you can’t easily see the two huge flat stones which usually stayed dry on either side (mini waterfalls in this clip).  The gap was just wide enough for the cats to be able to leap from one stone to the other, crossing the river without getting their paws wet!

In the second part, you see it as it is today.  Even at the current low level of water, the two stones are well under water and the ‘tongue’ has completely disappeared.  Instead of a rush of water the whole area is now almost a millpond.  Look how much stone has been displaced to where the ‘tongue’ would have been.

Further down the river, alongside our new field, there’s a big waterfall, which was always straight across.  Now it is V-shaped!

The power of water!!

Another video lovely

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Continuing our series of short garden videos, here’s one for all of us who find the sound of running water so relaxing.

Being where we are, we have no shortage of running water.  The Nant y Bedd – Stream of the Grave – running through the garden and feeding into the beautiful Grwyne Fawr.  And then we have our ‘adopted’ waterfall on the opposite bank, which is unfortunately never as spectacular when our summer visitors are here as it can be throughout the rainy winter months.

We hope you will be able to visit at some point this year and enjoy the soothing sounds.

A little video for you

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In these difficult times, we thought we would try to lighten your days (or make you even more frustrated that you can’t get out!) by uploading a few little videos of the garden as it is now and as it progresses over the next few months.

As a starter, and especially for all those who like to think of themselves as a kind of Indiana Jones, here’s one of the rope bridge.

Hope it works!

Virus / Opening News

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Despite not being able to open for the NGS, we have set up a JustGiving page where you can donate directly to the National Garden Scheme and help to continue their magnificent support for a raft of really important UK nursing and health charities.  JustGiving is easy and secure, just click here to go to our page. 

 

Following advice from the National Garden Scheme (NGS) our planned opening over the late May Bank Holiday is now cancelled.  We have also cancelled any workshops, events and visits until at least the end of May.  Please check back later for news from June onwards.

We hope that we will be able to carry on with our normal (non-NGS) openings starting at the beginning of July, but will confirm this at a later date when things will hopefully be much clearer.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

In the meantime if you want to learn a bit more about Nant y Bedd, you can download (if you haven’t already done so) the Candide Gardening app for your phone or pad and listen to Sue describing the background and ethos of the garden and interesting detail about the key features.

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As the Spring weather appears to be finally upon us – OK that might be a bit presumptuous! – let’s all use the opportunity of being ‘confined to barracks’ to enjoy the great health benefits of our own gardens!

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