White cloud with occasional sunshine was what the meteorologists had promised for today, and this is what we received. This was much to the delight of the organisers of the Bishop’s Waltham Garden Fair which we attended with Elizabeth.
We began the day by visiting The Firs to collect Elizabeth. This naturally involved further investigation of the fruits of last year’s work. The berberis was glowing orange; wallflowers, gigantic when compared to their pre-compost existence, displayed a range of colours; tulips, pansies, and other spring flowers brightly raised their faces to the sun.
When, this time last year, we first attended the Bishop’s Waltham Garden Fair in the grounds of Wintershill Hall, Durley, the ground was so wet that we feared for the lawns over which we were tramping. Our car, like many others, had to be pulled out of the car park mud by tractor. Little had we realised that the rain we were experiencing would be more or less consistent over the whole country for the next twelve whole months. Today, however, the weather was warm with plenty of sunny spells, and visitors to the fair enjoyed the luxury of sitting on grassy banks eating roast pork baps, sandwiches, cakes and ice creams ; or just contemplating the scenery. Families with children, and enthusiasts of all ages milled about everywhere. Such fairs are a feature of English life, but I doubt that there are any settings more beautiful than the garden of this large stately home.
Plant stalls boasted excellent examples of the owners’ produce; garden ornaments, bric-a-brac, and hand-made gifts were also to be found. These latter were mostly situated inside the marquee where sandwiches, cakes, and hot drinks were also available. For those who had the patience to queue, a hog roast was in place outside. Many people, including me, soon became impatient, and went inside for a sandwich. I doubt that the organisers could possibly have estimated how many people would flock there today, and the two person staff offering the baps filled with pork and crackling, for which debit and credit card payments were accepted, were clearly overwhelmed. Their red faces were not simply due to their proximity to the spit. They were working flat out.
Entertainment was provided by the Cuff Billett New Europa Jazz Band whose original stage beneath the spreading branches of an ancient tree against the backdrop of a colourful Japanese maple, was an example of the magnificent setting. After a while they went walkabout and performed amongst the stalls, some of which also had backdrops of flowering trees and shrubs.
A question time service was relayed throughout the grounds. Gardeners presented the speaker with their questions and he gave very knowledgeable answers, on one occasion disagreeing with a very well-known but un-named expert who had provided a different solution.
On 13th September last year the post ‘Moving The Eucalyptus’ described just that. There were a number of reasons why Matthew, the tree surgeon who had felled the dying tree, had been asked, instead of sawing it up and taking it away, to leave it by the pond. Firstly it provided an interesting photographic project for my artistic sister; then it was to become the basis for a wildlife garden. The site of this section of the grounds took some time to establish before it was finally forgotten. This meant two more moves of the heavy corpse; the first by the tree men, the second by Jackie and me. The third reason was that it might come in useful sometime. When we returned her to her home this afternoon Elizabeth proudly showed us that, through the good services of her friend Geoff, it has indeed become useful. Geoff has made from it an excellent fence between The Firs and the chapel next door. It has a rustic appeal and reflects the pointed arches of the neighbouring building.
Danni and Andy are to attend a Charity Ball partly in aid of her Jubilee Sailing Trust. This meant a frock had to be bought. We were all asked to witness a two ball gown fashion parade in the kitchen during which we were to help Danni make a choice. Since she looked stunning in either, this was not easy. Nevertheless we all agreed on my niece’s own preference, which was also quite handy.
Back home we dined on Jackie’s sublime chicken curry and pilau rice such as any Bangladeshi chef would be proud of. I drank some more of the Carta Roja.