14 August 2018

Broadview Gardens

Hadlow College

Broadview Gardens

This was our second trip as a group to Broadview Gardens, Hadlow College. We originally visited way back in February on what must have been one of the coldest days of the winter prior to the beast from the East descending on us. The gardens were bare and bleak. Ian Fleming, the head gardener, described his visions for the summer with such passion and enthusiasm, it seemed only fair to come back and judge for ourselves. Hence our visit this August.

Tree Ferns

After meeting for coffee, we retraced our steps. We were struck immediately by the fullness of the first border, leading onto the tropical garden. Nature is astonishing - it just regrows every year while we are not looking. The banana trees in the "hot" garden that were pruned and wrapped up tight in February had grown to a truly tropical height, along with jungle style shrubs of orange and purple whose names escape me. It all looked very lush and well cared for, but as we progressed along the lawn, the hot and dry conditions of summer 2018 had taken their toll. The borders must have looked good when the aliums were at their peak but now they flopped onto the flower beds like so many abandoned tennis balls. The bamboo garden fared a little better as the variety of grasses and rampant verbena hadn't suffered quite so much. A large bed of extraordinary pumpkins and gourds was doing well, although these seemed rather early. Penny Tomlin did her usual brilliant job of identifying trees and shrubs and Diana Brown rattled off the latin names of


many flowering plants with ease. Clever girls! We were able to walk through a narrow woodland path alongside the little lake which hitherto had been boggy and unpassable. We admired the tree ferns in the fernery and peeked at the "work in progress" at the Japanese Garden. It was interesting to see the dogwood varieties in full leaf and to know that in winter they will transform to the stunning reds, yellows and purple stems that we witnessed in February. Much work needs to be done to keep up with a garden of this size and scope. Presumably once the students leave at the end of the summer term, it becomes largely abandoned. But there was a certain charm in the untidiness - perhaps it reminded us of the challenge of our own gardens as we headed off for lunch and a good natter!


September 10th: Hever Castle Gardens. The plan is to visit the formal gardens in the morning, have lunch and then walk around the Lake in the afternoon. This will give us a mix of both the cultivated and natural sides of this stunning location. There is a fee for those of you without membership of around £12.50 for the gardens which is partly why I am planning a longish visit to give you value for money.

The gardens open at 10.30 so we will met at 10.45 for coffee at the restaurant down the hill from the top main entrance.
We will then walk through the Italian and Rose Gardens and around to the dahlia walk alongside the open air theatre. Then lunch in one of the two restaurants followed by a slow walk around the top lake from about 2 pm. for an hour and a half approx.

October 10th: Knole Park. Autumn colours morning walk around Knole Park. Meet at the White Hart pub and take a circular walk through Knole returning to the pub for refreshments.

November 9th: Funghi Walk. With "expert" from Sevenoaks Wildfowl Trust.

Please make sure you have put your name down to secure your place.

Happy Days!  Briar

28 July 2018

Westminster Abbey

July Visit to 

On the 20h July the group caught the usual 9.09 train from Edenbridge and headed to Victoria. We made our way along the busy Victoria Street towards Westminster. It was a very warm day and the colourful pavements were packed with tourists as we hurried along in order to have time for a pre tour coffee.
Dean's Yard
We met our guide, Simon, in the Wesley café and then moved onto Dean’s Yard to start the tour.  Simon proved to be an extremely knowledgeable and personable speaker who balanced his information with moments of humour.

We learned that in 960 AD Benedictine monks travelled from Glastonbury, presumably because the festival was a wash out, to the quiet, water surrounded site in Westminster. It was here they established the early Abbey. Edward the Confessor greatly enlarged the building in the 1040s but unfortunately he was too ill to attend the consecration in 1065 and died a few days later. We saw the magnificent tomb of Edward, now a saint, which occupies a central position in the Abbey. It has been ‘must see shrine’ for thousands of pilgrims over the centuries that followed.
The 10 Martyrs

The Gothic Abbey we see today was mainly constructed in the time of Henry III during the 13th century, being consecrated in 1269. A number of chapels have been added over the years and the two towers over the West Door were constructed in 1745. 

This doorway now also displays 10 modern martyrs, including Martin Luther King, in niches above the entrance.

Immaculate lawns between the cloisters
The ceilings, pillars and stained glass windows are truly breath taking and one can only imagine the effect this stunning building has had on ordinary people over the years.We learned that Oliver Cromwell was briefly interred in the Abbey, but on the restoration of Charles II, was exhumed and put on trial for signing Charles I death warrant. He was found guilty and beheaded, his head being put on a spike for several decades until it blew down in a storm. This was the man who greatly advanced our system of parliament today.

We also discovered that the ill feted Mary Queen of Scott is buried in the Abbey not far from Elizabeth I, her old foe. However, her head is higher than that of the Tudor Queen so perhaps she had the last laugh.
Henry the VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York have tombs in a chapel along with the supposed remains of the Princes in the Tower. There was some debate over who was really  responsible for the death of the Princes but Simon agreed with several of us that the culprit was Margaret Beaufort rather than the much maligned Richard III.
Inside the Cloisters

The Abbey has become one of the top tourist sites in London. Scans have proved that over 3,000 bodies have been buried there although currently only ashes are interred and only if you are considered ‘worthy’ .
It isn’t an Abbey at all but a ‘Royal Peculiar’ as, since the dissolution of the monasteries, it is directly responsible to the monarch, with no place for the Archbishop of Canterbury.  All monarchs since William the Conqueror have been crowned there along with many Royal burials and marriages.

We really had our money’s worth with Simon, the tour lasting well over the allotted 2 hours. A few intrepid members then had the stamina to climb the steps to the newly opened Queen’s gallery, which I understand, was really worthwhile. As for the rest, some returned home but a few stalwarts staggered of to the ‘Albert Pub’ famed for its House of Commons Division Bell. 
In our defence we did test ourselves on the tombs and memorials we had seen. Many worthies were remembered but I am sure Elsie Longbottom wasn’t one of them!

An excellent if exhausting day!

Gardening Group One Go Japanese

"Ablaze with reds and gold"

Our June 2018 meeting was kindly organised by Gill who arranged for us to visit an award winning Japanese inspired Garden that has been nurtured over a 10 year period by Sheila Parrish right here in Edenbridge.

Ten of us attended and were treated to the sight of different Acers, some that we didn’t even recognise as Acers, and other trees trained into the famous cloud shapes. There was also a red bridge over a small stream that ended in a water lily pond. There was a vast array of shrubs and trees some of which are evergreen and Sheila said that, in the Autumn, the garden is ablaze with reds and golds courtesy of the Acers.

Sheila is also a talented artist and potter, and we took time looking at some of her work in her studio. After touring the garden, Sheila treated us to a wonderful selection of tea and homemade cake. It was a thoroughly enjoyable morning and the plus side was the sun although the sun and very little rain is hard for gardeners.

The photos were taken by Lynn and Pam.

26 July 2018

Birders in Dungeness


Dungeness Trip Monday 23rd July

What is it with the bird group and extreme weather?!  We bravely faced a trip to Dungeness RSPB on the hottest day of this exceptionally hot summer.  But no worries as the gods were watching over us - the car thermometer had dropped to 24 degrees as we climbed out of our cars and the sea breeze was deliciously cool.  We were probably in the most comfortable place in the country!

White Egret
Thus invigorated, we visited all 5 hides on the reserve and managed a three hour walk around. Our rewards were cracking views of screeching common tern nesting on the island pools; ringed plover and little ringed plover in close proximity allowing us to spot the subtle differences and several sightings of a common sandpiper foraging at the water's edge.

Dungeness has the largest shingle bank in the country and boasts a huge range of unique flora and fauna.  It is a hotspot for migrating and resident birds.  We were not disappointed even though July is one of the quieter months in the birding calendar. The biggest challenge was identification as many young birds do not display their full colours just yet so several robust discussions arose! As we walked on past more pools being patrolled by sand martins - a first for some in the group - cormorants hung rather threateningly in the bare trees decimated by their droppings. Hide number 5 brought the biggest "spot" of the day - a rare sighting of a pair of great white egret --"Egrets - I've had a few - but then again, too few to mention!"  These majestic birds are on the brink of regular breeding in the UK following the success of the little egret so hopefully we will see them more frequently in future.  But for now we returned to our cars in high spirits and with a sense of achievement.  

Birds spotted: blackbird, buzzard, marsh harrier, coot, cormorant, crow, dunlin, dunnock, great white egret, little egret, heron, canada goose, egyptian goose, great crested grebe, jay, kestrel, lapwing, linnet, magpie, sand martin, swallow, mallard, moorhen, ringed plover, little ringed plover, common sandpiper, starling, teal, common tern, sandwich tern, great spotted woodpecker, woodpigeon, mute swans, herring gull, great black backed gull, lesser black backed gull, black headed gull, oystercatcher, blackcap aud.

Butterflies Spotted: Large white, small white, meadow brown, peacock.

This beautiful day was rounded off by chish and fips at the famous Pilot Inn at Dungeness.

Future dates

We will take August off as birds are exhausted from all that child rearing.  Let's put a date in the diary for early September.

Thursday, 6th September - 10.00 am at Sevenoaks Wildfowl Trust, our local patch, followed by a peek at Bough Beech Reservoir on our way back to lunch at the Four Elms cafe.  

Thursday, 18th October - all day trip to Shellness on the Isle of Sheppey

Please let me know if you would like to come along.

Happy Birding!

22 July 2018

Creative Writing


and Personal Development

Millwood Farm, Perryhill, Hartfield
Sally Sugg
Fortnightly,   10.00 - 12.30 a.m.
Wednesdays, from 3rd October, 2018

This will be a chance to explore a variety of themes through writing prose and poetry supported by some fun exercises and creative ways of inviting your muse to emerge!

While we will mostly meet indoors there will be opportunity to use the landscape at Millwood to invite an experience of finding nature as a prompt to write, to find landscape as a mirror for the soul.

A maximum of eight participants means there will be the possibility for sharing and supporting each other in our endeavours.  All abilities are welcome.

If you are interested in joining this new group, please contact Sally Sugg at:

21 July 2018

We could have been in the African bush!

A "summery summary"..... 

After donning sun hats, sun glasses and sun cream, a group of intrepid nature lovers walked along the River Eden and through surrounding fields and meadows to admire and discover the wildflowers of high summer.  When I walked this route last July I was struck by the almost tropical feel of lush summer plants - this July, after many weeks without a drop of rain, we could have been in the African bush!

This wetland meadow area is on our doorstep just down from the bridge by Waitrose. Managed by the Great Stonebridge Trust and maintained by volunteers. It is frequently under water at times of heavy rainfall.  Now, following weeks of drought, the straw-like crust of the grassy path crunched under our feet - the weeds and wildflowers on the banks wilted and withered and the palette was almost entirely dull green, brown and yellow.   But looking towards the river bank there were some refreshing treats to be found. Parasols of hogweed and spires of purple loosestrife were held up high thanks to the water at their roots; the exotic pinky white Himalayan balsam blossomed under the stone bridge and yellow water lilies formed froggy cups and saucers in the river. 

Languid dragon and damsel flies loomed over the water searching for mayflies to munch.
Masses of willowherb, poor cousins of the regal rosebay willowherb, just managed to hold their little pink heads up in the heat alongside water figwort. On the opposite bank numerous bright yellow ragworts tried hard to look innocent; this plant is deadly to grazing animals once gone to seed. A clump of greater burdock - surely the inspiration for Velcro  - stopped us in our tracks.  We studied the curving bracts hooked at the tip. These flower heads are the bane of doggy walkers as they attach onto the fur of passing animals and hitch a ride to seed somewhere new. Teasels were drying nicely in the hot sun getting ready to feed the goldfinches or decorate our homes at Christmas.

As we moved away from the river bank and into the woodland area there was very little colour but much to be found by looking closely.  Delicate white chervil - a smaller version of cowparsley - was growing along the path where hedge bedstraw entwined around the bramble bushes. Sloe and blackberries were already ripening - very early in my opinion. We identified a tall and handsome prickly plant as "spear thistle" and spotted the silky hammock of a spiders' nest in the undergrowth.  

The earth was cracked deep in this normally muddy area and many of the woodland trees, having shed their leaves too early, looked very unhappy.  But a copse of tall willow trees were defying the drought and appeared surprisingly fresh and green.  Their "toes" must be deep in water somewhere way down below. As we left the woods we followed the river alongside a couple of scrubby fields. These were fringed with bright blue chicory, planted by the farmer for the birds. One was already in the queue! We heard the unmistakable call of a yellowhammer ("little bit of bread and cheeeeeese") and were lucky enough to spot it singing out at the end of a branch.  All the usual summer weeds were in evidence here - dark crispy red sorrel, pungent mayweed, pineapple weed, borage, comfrey, plantain, mugwort, nipplewort, prickly sow thistle - nothing madly exciting but good to identify nonetheless.

Back to Town via the Lingfield Sports Field we pushed ourselves to walk across the dead grass and clover under the relentless glare of the midday sun. We had managed a couple of miles in two hours and were more than ready for a cool drink in the shade.  Mad dogs and Englishmen eh!!

I am planning a return visit to Broadview Gardens at Hadlow College, Tonbridge.  We visited in the depths of winter when the grounds were a bare canvas. It will be interesting to see the transformation and, besides, the café and shop there are VERY good!
Date: Monday 13th August - morning and lunch, admission free.  
Let me know if you would like to join us.

Happy Days,