Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Cogges Manor Farm

Cogges Manor Farm - side view
Since September last year, I've been working on a freelance and occasional basis at Cogges Manor Farm in Witney:  I'm part of the team of Learning Leaders, delivering education sessions to visiting primary schools. Most of the time I teach university students so it is a wonderful change working with children. It is also lovely just having a 15 minute walk to work!

Looking at the oldest part of the manor

The education sessions are primarily based outside - whatever the weather! We've run them in snow and rain but luckily the forecast looks good for tomorrow's booking. Cogges has a walled garden full of fruit, vegetables, herbs and herbaceous planting (all looked after by volunteers) and extensive grounds including an orchard, old moat and island, fields etc.

The walled garden

We help the children learn the history of this beautiful and fascinating site - particularly the Saxon and Victorian periods - and also about wildlife and growing food. The children really seem to enjoy it - having a chance to get close to the animals, build Saxon shelters, cook in a Victorian kitchen, learn about the life of Victorian servants, explore the walled garden, build a bee house and have a go at making compost...
Looking through to the walled garden

The animals are really popular with the children and visitors of all ages - especially Florence and Fern the very tame lambs as well as the pigs.

We're having a rest!

SPAB Garden update

I actually saw some sunshine in the usually very shady SPAB garden this week and luckily it was on the herbs planted a few weeks ago. Everything is really springing to life and I'm now getting a good sense of what already grows well in the garden. The Hostas are growing rapidly and new ferns are appearing everywhere.

A Polygonatum (Solomon's seal) looked pretty in the dappled sunshine and I'm relieved to see that the Jasmine has recovered from its winter blues and there are now more green leaves than dead leaves...

I've added some new plants to the borders over the past few months including Acanthus mollis, Alchemilla mollis, Euphorbia amygdaloides Purpurea, Polemonium caeruleum 'Bambino Blue' and Ajuga reptans and Stachys officinalis. All seem to be fine so far!

We decided not to plant directly into the old cistern in case the soil damaged it and instead got some basic pots to fit inside (propped up - but need to go up a few more centimetres). I researched Nicholas Culpeper's list of herbs in his book The English Physician and thought about which ones would cope with little direct sunlight and that birds and insects might also like. These are the ones now planted: Hesperis matronalis (Sweet rocket), Anthriscus cerefolium (chervil), Origanum vulgare (wild marjoram), Melissa officinalis (lemon balm), Salva officinalis 'Broad leaved' (sage), Rumex sanguineus (Sorrel bloody dock), Satureja montana (winter savory) and Fragaria vesca (wild strawberries). All have grown in the past two weeks although the Hesperis looks very sorry for itself - it probably needs more sunshine - so that might get replaced on my next visit. It is flowering though so I'll leave it for now - just in case any passing bees or butterflies spot it!

There are lots of tiny strawberry fruits but I would imagine the birds will get them before the staff!