Published: 23 June 2014
Sue's Views: Week 22
Sue visits places of horticultural interest and finds inspiration in their diversity.
It was like having a reunion when our class returned after Easter. We’d all been away so long and had such varying experiences on placement. Some better than others! I’ve tackled my ‘pests and diseases’ assignment which threatened to turn into a book at one stage. I focused it on my placement and luckily they don’t have many disease problems at Shillingford so that kept the word count down. I still need to do another assignment about my placement and also one on mixed borders, then I’m FINISHED! Well, plus forty Latin names to learn. Then a few visits to go on but just fun stuff really.

All I know about mixed borders is that they may contain some shrubs and maybe the odd tree as well as the usual perennial and annual herbaceous plants. This provides more structure, variety of texture and extension of the flowering season. The rest I’m going to have to look up. I’ve got a book from our ‘extensive library’ (one shelf) on gardening through the seasons by Percy Thrower. Do you remember him? I vaguely recall some of my parents’ friends watching him on Gardener’s World. We must be talking 35 years ago. I also remember being very disappointed in a very cool male idol of mine when I overheard him discussing Gardeners’ World with his mum. He saw my crestfallen expression and told me my time would come. And so it has. I now love spending time in the garden. Truthfully I always have just in different ways.

We’ve been on a couple of very interesting visits. The first was to Chagfood up on Dartmoor. I had a really heavy cold but I woke up to a crystal clear morning and couldn’t resist a chance to visit the moor on a heavenly day. Ed, who is at the core of Chagfood is an incredibly principled and hard-working character. There is not an extra ounce of flesh on him. You can see why, when he’s farming several acres of land, mostly by hand or with horses. We saw the two Dartmoor cobs that he uses. They were gorgeous. Really strong and healthy beasts. He wants to keep alive old traditions and age- perfected skills. I really admire his energy and enthusiasm. 


The whole idea of Chagfood is to supply local organic food to people on the moor. It works as a CSA so people buy into a year’s worth of vegetables, good year or bad. They see what vegetable is ready when and can get involved with harvesting if they wish to. It serves an environmental and also social purpose and is one of those organisations that you know make the world a better place, even if its on a moderate scale.

A much smaller project is Jeremy’s Velwell Orchard. Again volunteers are welcome but in a (even) more informal setting. Jeremy’s ideas on economics are fascinating; really turning the world on its head. He likes to offer people something and then see what comes back in return, rather than charging for anything specifically. It certainly does bring out the best in people and creates such a feeling of generosity and benevolence. He won’t earn a fortune but he’s happy.
Not officially on the course but well worth a visit if it’s sunny is Castle Drogo. I stopped in on my way back from Chagfood and sat in the orchard, watching some guys tackling the bee hive. It was totally idyllic and I even saw a woodpecker. The scaffolding on the castle is incredible too. You can climb up it (if you’re an adult) and see everything happening inside, quite awe inspiring and a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Reported by Sue  

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