Stony Stratford in Bloom 2013 First Half
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The big sweep of the town ready for Judging Day
Once again Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers and residents of Stony Stratford, supported by Tony Higgins of Milton Keynes Council Neighbourhood Services, came out with their brooms and their cloths to clean up the town ready for Britain in Bloom Judging Day on 1 July. Meeting at 10 am on Saturday, 29 June in the York House car park, they were issued with gloves and litter-pickers and buckets of water by Tony, and divided into groups to cover the town and begin the big clean-up.
One group had started already at the north end of the High Street, moving towards the centre of the town; another started at Cycle King and worked in the opposite direction; yet another group focused on Wolverton Road and King George’s Crescent; while another worked on London Road and Coronation Road.
Gutters were swept and weeds were removed; planters were washed and polished up; and bags of litter were filled and piled up ready for SERCO to pick up. Some residents even climbed on ladders to clean the fronts of their houses, and the Stony Stratford in Bloom group felt very grateful for the community spirit that was much in evidence. There was a great sense of satisfaction when the task was done, and everyone was sure that the town was looking its best for Judgement Day.
Fashion fun and fund-raising at Re:Love
Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers and friends enjoyed tempting themselves with lovely clothes at Jackie Allen’s Re:Love Fashions in Stratford Arcade on 3 June. With one hand on the clothes rail, the other clasping a glass of wine, customers had the pleasure of trying on dresses and tops knowing that 10% of all that they succumbed to would go to Stony Stratford in Bloom. Jackie donated raffle prizes, topped up by prize donations from others, and in one of those win–win situations we all relish, Stony Stratford in Bloom raised £78 for enhancing the beds in the town, and supported a local business at the same time.
The Bard of Stony Stratford launches RHS Edible Britain 2013 in verse and with perfect panache at SSIB–York House joint event
What a terrific success the Stony Stratford in Bloom – York House joint Edible Planting Event, plant sale and coffee morning was on Saturday, 13 April. The tables were groaning under the weight of enticing plants, and the grand total on plants sold and Tombola tickets was an amazing £470.23. (Breaking it down it was: £379.13 on the fabulous plants, and £91.10 on Daphne’s fabulous Tombola.) And all these funds will help make Stony Stratford even more beautiful.
There was a fantastic buzz inside and out. The Bard’s poem was superb – launching the edible seed-planting event with perfect panache – and the children who miraculously appeared on cue were enthusiastic about playing their part in the edible seed-planting. Mary Sarre from Stony Stratford in Bloom and Bruce Messenger from the Community Gardens organised the seed-planting in the raised bed at the side of the car park, which had been erected in a joint working party a month ago. The free edible seeds from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) were dropped into the sandy circles that Bruce and Mary had prepared: sage, thyme, chives, spinach, fennel and nasturtiums. Some of the RHS seeds will be set in the polytunnel first, to give them a head start. Some herbs were also planted in the bed at the front, so passers-by can take a pinch of herbs as they pass.
And inside York House there were lots of extra stalls. Mike Brown from Prebendal Manor, who has helped so much with our Queen Eleanor Garden, brought an interesting Historic Garden display, with ancient tools. Ruth provided an unusual seedy swap at her table and there was Theresa’s fascinating display from her Social Enterprise – not to speak of the usual array of mouth-watering cakes from the York House volunteers.
These joint Stony Stratford in Bloom – York House events work so well, and Stony Stratford residents have the opportunity to stock up their gardens with plants at a very reasonable price. Many thanks to the children who made the seed-planting a real community event – and to the customers who came in droves to buy and support Stony Stratford in Bloom and York House.
Valiant York House and Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers brave the rain to prepare the bed for the Edible Planting event on 13 April
It’s been a feature of this so-called spring to see a cluster of Stony Stratford in Bloom’s bright yellow jackets bent over a flower bed or border around the town while the rain pours down. Saturday, 16 March was no exception, when Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers joined forces with York House and Mind volunteers to get the beds ready for the Edible Planting Event on 13 April.
Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers at first concentrated on the bed that runs alongside the London Road pavement: weeding, pruning and mulching - and what a difference they made! They then turned to building the new edible planting raised bed at the side of the car park at the front, with extra muscle power from York House and Mind volunteers. The wooden frame had to be put in place, and loads and loads of top-soil brought round from the back – no easy task. Meanwhile both groups of volunteers were also hard at work at the back of the building, hacking away at tough weeds and ivy.
What brightened the day for many was the delicious curry produced by Ken Daniels – and of course, all went away glowing with a sense of virtue at what had been achieved, which made up for returning home rather wet and muddy as well!
Preparing the ground amid a flurry of snow in March
Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers and Marcus Rixon from the Rotary Club joined forces today (13 March) to get started on the oval bed on Wolverton Road that the Rotary Club is kindly sponsoring. Mary Sarre had earlier marked out the ground, Marcus had moved daffodil bulbs to grow elsewhere, and a doughty band of volunteers braved the miserable March weather that’s been inflicted on us this year, to start removing the turf and fork the ground before the rotavating and planting can begin. The bed is located near a seat, close to the spot chosen for the flowering cherry that was planted in memory of Sheila Plater – and it’s an even larger oval than we’d remembered – but we were heartened by the fact that there was another excellent turnout. Muriel brought an amazingly effective tool for turf-removal that she’d brought from France; the rest used more conventional spades and forks. Undeterred by a flurry of snow at one point, the ground preparation was satisfyingly completed in an hour and a half.
Alex Ballance from Blooming Marvellous Plants tells us all about ‘Easy Plants for Difficult Places’
On an unseasonably cold March evening, what could be nicer than thinking about what plants we’re going to grow in our gardens when this miserably extended winter gives way to spring and summer? Alex Ballance’s inspirational talk in The Crown on 6 March gave us all sorts of useful tips on what we can grow in those awkward places where things have failed to thrive in the past – the shady, dry or overly wet corners, or those stretches where the sun tends to burn too brightly. (Though I’m not sure we’ve been suffering from this affliction very much this year so far!)
Alex was very happy to answer questions, and an enthusiastic audience drew on her wealth of knowledge with a host of queries. To illustrate her talk she’d brought an array of unusual plants, which provided an attractive back-cloth, and very few people came away without having allowed themselves to be tempted by at least one of these lovely blooms or shrubs for their gardens at the end of the evening. We learnt of the versatility of variegated periwinkle; large bright poppies; a wide range of different heucheras and sedum.
Lots of work on the ponds
As part of its aim of increasing biodiversity in the area, Stony Stratford in Bloom has been hard at work preparing the ground around the two pond areas that volunteers have created – one in the Wolverton Road Recreation Ground, and one that Mary Robinson’s ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ Group has been involved with beneath the bridge at the North end of the High Street. Stony Stratford in Bloom has been working with Tony Higgins of Milton Keynes Council to send in an application to the Royal Horticultural Society for Green Flag status for this park.
On Saturday, 2 March there was such a large turnout for clearing the pond edge in Wolverton Road Recreation Ground, ready for the bog plants that have been ordered, that the volunteers were able do a litter pick of the Recreation Ground as well, and then move on to give Mary Robinson and Robin Nicholls some help with their pond-side at the North end too.
Stony Stratford in Bloom, Milton Keynes Council Neighbourhood Team, Residents and Neighbourhood Action Group volunteers work together in Vicarage Road
Stony Stratford in Bloom has always gained great support from the Milton Keynes Council Neighbourhood Team – and the working party on 27 February to give a face-lift to Vicarage Road was no exception. Having leafleted residents in Vicarage Road beforehand, the Stony Stratford in Bloom group was delighted to see that a number of residents turned out to help – and a member of Stony Stratford’s Neighbourhood Action Group came to help too, as the Neighbourhood Action Group has been particularly concerned about the importance of tidying up this part of the town.
Milton Keynes Council brought vans with tools and enormous bags for the ivy, and everyone set to work to pull off the tough stems to reveal the beautiful wall behind. Within a short time huge piles of debris were piled up and bagged, and by the end of the afternoon everyone had an immense feeling of satisfaction at what had been achieved.
Take a stroll down Vicarage Road, and you'll notice the difference. Now we're hoping that SERCO will be able to maintain the area much more effectively as their sweepers will be able to get through.
That time of year for tidying and clearing!
Eventually the snow melted, and Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers could get back to the business of clearing and tidying and sorting things out ready for spring – if it ever comes!
The paths through the Bluebell Wood had become rather muddy and the committee was casting around for where we could get chippings – when we learnt that Kevin, Special Branch, a local tree surgeon, was willing to let us have as big a mound as we needed – an offer we gratefully accepted. So at the end of January volunteers with an impressive collection of wheelbarrows shovelled and spread to make the paths passable once again.
February’s the time for planting and pruning roses and other shrubs. First it was the turn of the Galley Hill roses to get a haircut, and then the roses, shrubs and perennials in the Four Seasons Garden on the corner of Augustus Road and Calverton Road. A host of roses were planted there, too, by Mary and Pat, as sadly a number had been destroyed by scaffolding for building work on the nearby bungalow. Andrew, who has recently moved in, obligingly gave us a hand with both working parties.
Pruning was required on the Sensory bed on London Road too, Mary Sarre giving the volunteers tips on how to prune buddleia. February is also a good time for tree planting, and Mary Robinson’s ‘It’s Your neighbourhood Group’, together with Ray Cobley and Mary Sarre, added some more locally sourced, traditional fruit trees to the area behind the Queen Eleanor Garden at the North End.
The Royal Horticultural Society’s theme for Britain in Bloom this year is: ‘Edible Britain’, and the Royal Horticultural Society Britain in Bloom magazine, Growing Communities, is interested in doing an article on Stony Stratford in Bloom’s Queen Eleanor Garden, as many of the thirteenth-century plants we chose to plant there have a culinary connection – for example the sage, fennel, thyme, and wild strawberries.
With school gardening sessions starting again after half term, much needed to be done to ensure we are prepared. First there was a meeting to work out the programme of planting with the children; then working parties to tidy up the polytunnel and clean the pots; to fill the depleted raised beds with wheelbarrow loads of compost, and to tidy the beds at the front of the school. Despite arctic winds, and on some occasions, a fluttering of snow, all these tasks were completed, with extra plants for the flower beds sourced from Stony Stratford in Bloom’s York House community plot. Kieran Salter, the Head of St Mary & St Giles, has kindly offered to fund the compost, seeds and sundries for the gardening sessions, as he feels the sessions are so valuable for a balanced curriculum.
Yet more support for Stony Stratford in Bloom from the Rotary Club
As always, the Rotary Club gave a warm welcome to the Stony Stratford in Bloom representatives, Judy Deveson and Ray Cobley, whom they’d invited to speak at their dinner on Tuesday, 5 February. After Judy and Ray had described what Stony Stratford in Bloom had achieved over the last year, and some of its plans for this year, the discussion turned to the Rotarians’ exciting new idea of sponsoring a Rotary flower bed on Wolverton Road – this, in addition to the £100 the Rotarians have generously given Stony Stratford in Bloom annually as part of their planter sponsorship.
The following week Mary Sarre and Judy, together with Marcus Rixon, who is the Rotarian with responsibility for community projects, investigated possible locations for the new bed, and decided on a small plot on the left of Wolverton Road going out of town, near the bench and close to where Shelia Plater’s memorial cherry has been planted. The Rotarians will move the daffodils to another spot, and Stony Stratford in Bloom members will work together to produce what we hope will be an eye-catching flower and shrub bed for passing pedestrians and motorists. Mary has drawn up a plant list, and work will start to prepare the ground later in March or early April.
Before the snow descended!
Work has paused on the Stony Stratford in Bloom gardening projects around the town now that everywhere is beautifully coated in white, but volunteers did manage to get a few important jobs done before those snowflakes floated down.
The Four Seasons Garden at the corner of Calverton Road and Augustus Road required our attention. First, manure was bagged up at York House and then loaded on to a trailer and brought to the Four Seasons Garden, where it was spread around the roses. This was done in arctic conditions, but the fennel and grasses looked magical in their coating of hoar frost. Pruning the roses must wait for a milder day!
First working party of new year
Our first working party of 2013 was on Saturday, 12 January, tidying up the planters in the town – leaves had piled up in the crevices; chickweed had sneaked in to nestle up to the primulas; and one or two euonymous had been yanked out of the soil and needed to be slotted back in.
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