Weekly Reports for July 2020

29 July 2020

We’re starting to harvest in earnest: broad beans, french beans, fava beans, runner beans, garlic, peas, courgettes, cauliflower, radish, beetroot. And we start to plan for seed collection and saving. The cycle of gardening is unrelenting. We can’t plan for a seed swap event next January: there may be no Seedy Saturday for 2021. Instead we hope that Pavilion Gardens, reopening  this coming Saturday, will agree again to display seed packets in their foyer with the donations box on the shop counter.

Last July we logged 397.5 volunteer hours on site. This year’s total is half that, in part as we’ve missed out on big open events  (the Garden Trail, the Arts trail, the full Fringe celebration) but we’ve made every minute count. It’s a great pleasure to show visitors all that has been done. Bookings are coming in for the four tour sessions in August – Sundays 9, 16, 23, 30 at 1.30 pm. The invitation is limited initially to our contact list of supporters. We’ll consider a wider invitation, to facebook friends, for sessions in September if all goes well.

22 July 2020

Our Secret Garden event on the final day of Fringe 2020 was all we hoped. The sun shone and our six scheduled groups all arrived in good time and good order. Fringe volunteers were first on the scene. Our reviewer, Dan Osborne, noted (in a waterproof notepad bought just in case) “the need for social distancing meant that my visit was strictly by invitation, the ‘secret garden’ seeming all the more alluring as a result.”

Later we welcomed members of Transition Buxton, the Phillips family and friends, two groups from Covid-19 street by street volunteers and the High Peaks CVS staff team: a great mix of old friends and new. Despite the fact that many people have stopped carrying cash around and we don’t take cards, we gathered £96.61 in donations and sold a copy of War and Peas. Alyson gathered crops in buffer times to keep the supply of beans, cauliflower and salad leaves for take-away fresh. Lots of plants were taken: borage a run-away success as people saw it in glorious bloom everywhere.

We also garnered: an offer of beer slops (strictly for the slugs) from the Working Men’s Club when they reopen in August; offers to join a working party to shift an old municipal planter from the banking; an invitation for inclusion in a future projects; a list of new friends wanting to be on the list for updates; and a couple of much-appreciated packs of plant labels.

As promised, we propose a next step for visits. Bookings are now open for four sessions: 1.30pm on Sundays 9, 16, 23 and 30 August. Guided tours are scheduled for times when there are no, or few, volunteers working in the Garden. Group size is limited to 6. You may form your own group or join other visitors. We’ll try to fit in private visits if that works best for individuals, couples and families. Please register your interest and preferred date by emailing to this address (serpentinecommunitygarden@gmail.com).

15 July

St Swithin’s day and the weather’s changeable. As will be the next 40 days if the old rhyme is right. Nothing new there for Buxton. We’ve had a good week through rain and occasional shine. This was our final week of preparing bags of freshly harvested salad leaves for the street by street delivery of food parcels. We’re proud and pleased to have been able to contribute to this heartening initiative. We aim keep working together to support and strengthen our community into the future.

Next weekend we’ll be focused on the Fringe Secret Garden event – fully booked for all sessions. From the end of the month we will return to selling our produce as cafes open for eat-in (and eat outdoor) trade. From August we will work on taking bookings for guided tours and visits at times when there are no, or few, working volunteers on site. Details to follow after we have reviewed the Fringe event and our Covid-19 risk assessments.

The old tractor garage now stands in social isolation, strictly enforced by Arris fencing and forbidding notices. Happily, in contrast, members of the core team of volunteers are venturing out to re-join us in carefully timetabled sessions. John and Gil’s first visit in nearly four months coincided with the reappearance of Peacock butterfly caterpillars in the nettles: a happy coincidence.  Visit their blog on the website to read more and see the pictures.

9 July 2020

It transpires that last week’s herculean task of shifting a ton and a half of muck from the gate to the composting bays was just a warm-up. Contractors from Derbyshire County Council visited to estimate the cost of demolition and clearance of the old tractor garage. Late on Friday evening we were given notice that its condition had deteriorated. We must clear anything we wanted from it and from several metres around it as it was to be locked and surrounded by a perimeter fence early the next week.

With no working days notice, our volunteer workers sprang into action. Four people went down individually on Saturday variously to prepare alternative storage space, to rescue panes of glass – dutch lights – carefully preserved for running repairs to the large greenhouse as required and to sort and label small items for transfer. On Sunday, the muscle assembled with an informal rota magically managed by WhatsApp. The only casualty was the weekly contribution to food parcels. The Covid 19 mutual aid group were splendid:  never mind about the salad, could they come down and help?  It was good to know they had our back but we managed, the team working seamlessly together. The depot site is now looking very smart. We hope that contractors and the council are as speedy in progressing demolition and clearance as they have been in putting the structure into lockdown isolation.

And we carry on gardening. Weekly feeds with diluted ‘worm juice’ from the wormery are reaping rewards. Slug traps baited with six cans of beer donated by Bargain Booze have proved attractive. We tried shandy, garlic water, dilute tomato sauce, lemonade. Only real ale hits the spot. We unearthed a young toad in the topsoil heap and transferred him/ her/ it to the potager. We’re harvesting young broad beans. We are in good shape to show off at the Fringe secret garden event. The Buxton Garden Trail Virtual Tour is now online. Amongst many beautiful images there is an early tantalising shot inside one of our polytunnels. Towards the end of the show the shots linger longer on our herb area and raised beds.

2 July 2020

In this last week before lockdown is relaxed we’re keeping calm and carrying on. New routines for spreading volunteer activity across the week serve us well with individuals and couples performing acts of kindness: Anne and Keith building a new fruit cage covering a large raised bed; a tall but spindly ash tree self-sown in an awkward spot taken down by Steve T (after consultation with HPBC’s Arboriculture Officer); a weekly deep clean by Margot and a shift of gear in building up herb stocks By Anne and Carole ready for next year. In combination with larger crews for two days a week, it works well, not least yesterday when we took delivery of a jumbo bag of soil improver. Barrowing 1.5 tons of gently steaming muck mix from gate to compost bay took six of us a couple of hours. They say that many hands make light work. They lie.

We feature in two Fringe events – online and socially distant – this year. The virtual Garden Trail runs from 7 July 2020. Our own Secret Garden event on 19 July is fully booked for six groups of six: Fringe volunteers; Transition Buxton: the Phillips family and friends; street by street food delivery drivers (two groups) and High Peak CVS. Some have set up waiting lists in case limits on outdoor gatherings are eased.  We plan to offer booked visit times – at times when there are no, or few, working volunteers around – from August onwards and will learn from experience of the Fringe event.

The Charities Trust have conducted due diligence and confirmed our £10,000 grant from Cadent (regional gas infrastructure provider). We receive half the cash in January 2021 in preparation for a Saturday programme from April 2021 for 11-14 year olds. Places will be offered first to 11-14 year olds in families receiving food parcels. ‘Give Peas a Chance’ combines green gym activities, growing, cooking and eating vegetables. There is such a thing as a free hot lunch.

The project also provides for secure, dry, storage for tools. (The stone stores are cleared and locked in compliance with our new, but still draft, lease. The old tractor garage was erected years ago as a temporary structure and is at the end of its working life.) We hope that new storage space may ease the passage of the lease. Discussions on detail stalled back in February over the status of the old garage. HPBC Officers maintain that it should be empty and locked, like the stone stores. Our negotiators suggest that we should literally clear the ground and demolish it. The Council can’t commit funds to this. (Budgets were tight anyway and receipts from business rates and parking charges have declined by £750,000 this year.) So we will need to crowd fund. Please be prepared.

We’re surviving and thriving. As always, we welcome new and returning volunteers. As never before we need to introduce new-comers gradually. Please let us know if you would like to make a regular commitment to onsite working in future.  We are also looking for a Garden Manager. See the vacancies page on the website for details. And finally, we are keen to expand our team of trustees. We set out as a Charity with four trustees and have co-opted two Trustee Designates. Our governing document allows for a team of up to eleven. Let us know if you’d like to learn more.

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