Archive for July, 2013

Viewed From the Shed (Mostly)

There is a limitless variety of human life and deliberate debris just waiting to be captured, some of it beyond your wildest dreams
(see Exhibit A: the Godfather Scarecrow)




Fruit and Such …

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An everyday story of allotment produce.

The Sheds Start Here …

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Diligence and the Local Historial Society.

English: Salem Church Methodist church erected...

English: Salem Church Methodist church erected 1855 and enlarged in 1899. The population of Cheslyn Hay expanded rapidly in the mid 19th century with the development of the South Staffordshire Coalfield. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cheslyn Hay has a tireless and frankly very efficient Local History Society. They have an “open-door/drop in session” every Tuesday morning at the Salem Chapel – and are really jolly friendly when you get in there. 


I know because in my quest to find something out about our allotment site I dropped in; took a seat and an offered cup of tea and learned that, once upon a time a whole lot more of Cheslyn Hay was actually turned over to allotment sites. Places where there are now houses and pubs and estates and … they have photos to prove it, but sadly, so far, none of our particular site.


But our site (On Pinfold Lane) remains: along with the few very active plots behind the Working Men’s Club the only allotments now in the village (or indeed for some miles around).


The item below was found by members of Cheslyn Hay Local Historical Society ( ) during a diligent search of newspaper archives. I can honestly say that I was stunned to silence (A rare feat indeed!) when reading it.

If you have ever tried to research your own allotment site you may well have noticed that historical documentation is not easy to come across.

This brought so much of the history alive for me and I then scurried about on Google (other search engines are available) looking for Barn Flat and …)

It certainly sets the land in a context and wow! What an appeal the day must have had with visitors from fairly far afield and – I am guessing – fairly reasonable returns (in old money), making me wonder how much, and indeed how, people were charged.

Take  a moment to read it please:


“2nd August 1913  When the Local Government Act of 1894 was passed, which provided for Parish Councils the good folk of Cheslyn Hay were the first to demand allotments, and soon twelve acres of land was obtained and cultivated by allottees.  It followed that the success should be celebrated and there was a pleasant gathering at which it was proposed that a Horticultural Society should be formed for the Parish.  The idea was heartily endorsed by the public and about 15 years ago the first gathering was held in that favourite trysting place of Cheslyn Hay folk, the Barn Flat.  As usual the public of the place rose to the occasion on the day of the show, which has since been an annual one, about £27 was taken in admission.  This, probably, has not been exceeded, although in this year of grace it is hoped the sum will nearly reach that amount.  It was a beautiful day was that of Monday, but had the weather been unpropitious so determined were the public that this year’s show should be a success that it would have been so.  “It goes without saying” as the old adage has it.

But it was a beautiful day; moreover the display of fruit and vegetables was of such a character that those who lived at Cheslyn Hay a quarter of a century ago would have “rubbed their eyes” and doubted if such was grown in their midst.  It was probably the best exhibition of the series; it was the best arranged affair; it was probably, taking the sale of tickets into consideration, the best attended.  Thus the committee are to be congratulated, for it shows what can be done when the public are taken into the confidence of the promoters.

At this time the attendance was large and the returns were evidently satisfactory.  From five to seven o’clock the attendance greatly increased.  The takings at the gate were £21 0s 4d.  It is stated that there were many tickets sold also.  The committee had arranged a good programme of sports which was satisfactorily carried out. A special word of praise is due to Mrs Allan and her girls for the performances with the Maypole which were very interesting and greatly appreciated by the audience.  There were six prizes in the Horse Leaping Competition.  The results were: – First Prize £5, Mr A Saunders, Tettenhall, with ‘Prince’; Second Prize, £2, Mr R Chadwick, Rugeley, with ‘Nomination’; Third Prize, £1, Mr & Mrs. A Foster, Derby, with ‘Mustard’.

The Bowling Competition which was well organised by Messrs S Parbrook, W Follows, W Hemingsley and H Baker was a great success and there were no less than 73 entries, but only the first round was decided.  The competition is to be continued during the week.

Ham Slicing Competition, winner T Horton.

Kicking the Football through a Hoop, 1st A Wollaston and H Adams (Shareshill); 2nd W Eccleston ; 3rd C Morgan.

Obstacle Race, 1st A Eccleston £1; 2nd Stokes 10s; 3rd S Newell 5s.

Tug of War, organised by Mr F J Altree.  This was a capital contest, but the Great Wyrley Colliery team were winners of the first prize of 15s, and Harrisons Working Men’s Club second prize of 7s 6d.

The Cheslyn Hay Victoria Brass Band was in attendance and played choice selections of music under the conductorship of Mr I Greenfield.  The band played also for the dancing in the evening until 9 o’clock when the National Anthem was played and the proceedings which were very successful were brought to a close.

Mr J Perry as Secretary worked most energetically and this had much to do with the success of the gathering.”



Unfortunately I do not know which newspaper the article is taken from, but my thanks to members of the Historical Society for their amazing work.


Oh and if anyone can enlighten me as to “horse leaping” and ham slicing, please get in touch …

Virtue, Patience and Some Nerves.

Needed a day to recover: from the warmth and from helping our daughter move house. Long story, but she had to move out of one house, furniture into storages offered by various very good friends and – one week later – into the new house. Generally anti-social behaviour by the lettings agency not to allow them an extra week (which would have made things so much easier – perhaps); especially as the house is being sold (not re-let) and builders were on hand to start seriously refurbishing the place (a.k.a.  major demolition!).

But, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger eh ?

The plants from the garden were surgically removed , survived the journey to our house and are thriving; strawberries taste beautiful, believe me… that was one well loaded, no space left unfilled car on the way home let me tell you!

But, during the moving I had chance – after more years than I can count on one hand – to ask about the fate of a fridge that has been sitting in our garage; since an earlier move.

“Yeah!  Oh, er … yeah. Sorry had forgotten all about it.”

“Don’t need it; get rid of it please!”

First thought. Simple. Put it on the pavement, some passing “tatters” will pick it up and problem solved. But, clearing stuff out from on top of it and around it … I paused to open it up. It looked so perfectly clean. Some eminently sensible soul had put pure white paper kitchen towels on the shelves. The door was taped closed. No smells. So … I decided to try something I have never done before.

Freecycle*. Have you come across this yet?

I have picked up a few things on this altruistic site. A gas barbecue: fine condition. Wine making equipment; which we collected then found the seven demi-johns we had failed to find before. The concept is simple. Go online. Register. Then, if you have anything you want to get rid of that is reasonably useful post a description of it and wait.

Now it is not an auction site. Payment is not allowed. So I posted a brief description of the fridge.

To be honest was not expecting much back. But quickly people e-mailed expressions of interest. The plan is that mutual collection is then arranged (or delivery). Fair enough I sent our location to the first respondent, but there was no reply … and an ever-lengthening queue of more and more people, apparently desperate for my fridge! So I e-mailed a second. Comeback was quick: a phone call and within the hour a  car came round – followed by a youth on a small cylinder motorbike (he’d just passed his test and was desperate to ride, ride, ride (how lovely is that ?)) Ironically enough the fridge was needed for a daughter, who, ironically has just moved into a new flat.

However a small dread then crept in: what if the first person turned up? I “managed”  the site, posting a “taken/thanks for interest” message easily enough. But, while rather proud of myself: the fridge was heading for a useful life instead of a scrapyard (got to be environmentally friendly I’m thinking), I was quite nervous for quite a while.

In the end, these couple of days later, I am reassured that it was the right thing to do … and would do it again, with a little more confidence next time.

•    if you need to know. Easy to use; heartily recommend it.

Damson Wine and Time to Reflect …

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Last year when we survived a plum blossom storm that resulted in a surfeit of damsons and plums. Ate them like a hero, crumble, stewed,, every which way … and turned some into wine. Six demi-johns have been sitting on the back bedroom window ledge since last year. Generally neglected (save for almost guilty “must-do-that-tomorrow” thinking) and gathering dust.
So, as a respite from battling nettles and enthusiastic brambles at the allotment today, we had a go at bottling the wine. Bottles we collected from a lorry spill over ten years ago, corks from the market stall, patience from wherever it comes from.
Surprisingly none of the contents of the brown demi-johns has gone off: a bit of a fear when we started, then, frankly a curse as the carrying and siphoning went on and on and on …

Taking a break in the mid-morning sunshine on the sun-baked back lawn with, ironically a cup of tea, we took five minutes of quiet. Beneath the too-far spread umbrella of mock orange which is shedding pure white petals and a divine scent , attracting bumblebees and a hunting robin pair.
Like a few moments on the plot yesterday, between the water carrying and planting runner beans. Time to notice and enjoy all that has been done and all that is happening. I am generally not good at doing this – so the intense heat (30 plus Celsius is sweatbox hot for me) slowing me down did me a favour.
The cinnabar moths raiding the flowers in the “mini-meadow”, the exotic poppies that survived being weeded out that rise like flower fairy towers from the Potato Haulm Forest, the dipping flights of swifts, the woven spider nets visible every now and again, the ants working away where this year’s parsley is expanding and pot marigolds are flourishing. Small sounds from the wildlife pond behind the bench I am sitting on (note to self: when I get moving again it needs topping up, the heat has evaporated it at a tremendous rate). The leaves of the now established pumpkins spreading out like something from a John Wyndham story. A trio of scarlet pimpernel plants on the potato ridges remind me of hours spent learning the names and associations of wildflowers as a child. The green wealth of the hedge inter-planted with gooseberries … and the strawberry masses.
Strawberries, that snaps me back. We have been dealing, gratefully with a glut of these. We have neighbours now who will not answer the door because they know we will only offer them buckets of strawberries (perhaps I exaggerate, but only a little) and have decided to make strawberry wine. There are, I suspect “wine experts” on every allotment – and why not? – but we have a great book called “Drink Your Own Garden” (Judith Glover) that has easy to follow instructions …
… and we need to empty the demijohns of last. Years. Damson. And. Plum. Wine.

Somewhere in the background (although it’s possibly rolling in from memory) I swear I hear someone singing softly:

There’s a Hole in My Bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza, a hole…”


Big Butterfly Count

Science on the Land

If you’re in Britain, Butterfly Conservation invites you to take part in this year’s Big Butterfly Count. This will be fun. Also it will be useful because butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) tell us what’s happening on the land. That is, they’re great indicator species.

Our butterflies are in a bad way. The BBC’s Nature Notes pages tell us that UK butterfly numbers are at a historic low. No doubt this is partly due to the last year’s weird weather. But there are longer-term declines too, for example the small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae).

The Big Butterfly Count is only supposed to take 15 minutes. I think I’ll do it in my back garden. The easy identification chart looks useful. They’re not asking us to identify a lot of rare species, just the ones we’re likely to see. If I’m lucky I might see a small…

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