from mighty oaks to little acorns

Heatwave again all this week with shimmering temperatures at 20C and up. Watering the seedlings has become a daily necessity. The Park and the beach at Filey, according to David,  are both full of Easter holiday people sunbathing and paddling. I am assembling my forces to do some cream teas if the weather holds through into May. I want to raise money to help Annmarie in Sierra Leone start up her women’s bakery- and for the church lighting fund.

The need for light was obvious this morning when two men from the Forestry team turned up at Church with a display cabinet and a book of names of people who had donated trees in the park in memory of loved ones etc.   I went over with them to site the cabinet and turn on what miserable lighting I could find. They told me about the new wood they are planting up on the Warren above Beeley.  In future people will be asked to donate towards planting trees there, much more eco- diverse and sensible than individual sad trees behind fenced circles in the middle of the deer park.  During the bitter winter weather this last year many have had their bark ripped off by hungry deer.

“Would you like some little oak trees?” I asked, as I remembered the six I had grown from acorns taken from under the Major Oak in the centre of Sherwood Forest eighteen months ago. When the foresters heard where I’d picked up the acorns they became quite excited.  Genetically those trees it seems will be more than  1000 years old, or at least 700 years, as the Major Oak is one of the oldest trees in England. So I fetched the little collection from behind the greenhouse, along with a mountain ash tree seedling which has sprung into leaf, and they went off with them.

In a tiny way I felt I was part of making arborial history, as Chatsworth forestry will last a lot longer than I will, and maybe one or two of those little oaks will live for another seven hundred years.  David, when he came home later, was slightly dischuffed I’d been so generous, as he said he’d liked to have planted at least one in our little strip of woodland in Lastingham.  Nothing for it now- I’ll have to go back into Sherwood forest and collect some more acorns next autumn, before the major oak finally dies of old age.

On the domestic front, we are collecting nine or ten eggs most days. The silkie hen has hatched four welsummer chicks out of five eggs, and they all look vigorous.  I made eight jars of rhubarb and raspberry jam , – well rhubarb mainly, with just a few frozen raspberries thrown in to improve the colour, a batch of Easter biscuits, and two dozen scones, which I had promised for the Rotary croquet event on May 20th. A bit of dolly domestic which I always enjoy when David is absent, and as I’ll be away so much in the coming weeks I may not get another chance to do the scones which will go into the pantry freezer.

I spent yesterday in Leicester meeting Somalians, and am now fascinated by Somalian politics, –  the collapse of the central government, the vigour of the diaspora colonies in Europe and North America, the influences on the inter-tribal militias.  We were thinking of how to improve the educational chances of secondary school pupils, but when I emerged back into the Leicester sunshine I felt a huge sense of privilege to have been able to look into their experiences and struggles. Another country, like Southern Sudan I am now keen to visit for my next hols.  (Mother would have a fit. She thinks going to Leicester is quite scary enough!) 

A small postscript: I drove Mum up past Crocodile wood this afternoon in search of bluebells. The bluebells aren’t out yet, but the hedgerows were full of delicious blue violets and primroses. What a treat to witness them in their native home, another genuine English beech wood of ancient lineage!  (Why crocodile? well seen from afar it looks like a long crocodile lying along the hillside. I think its boring common name is Bank Wood. How prosaic is that?!)

About mrsgarnettsgarden

After a life in International Development where I have seen many resililent women farmers bring abundance out of almost nothing, I'm now more often at home in Derbyshire with my husband David, a retired Archdeacon who runs the churches on the Chatsworth estate. Our garden and my allotment are the setting for a little diary of plants and pottering, aided and abetted by our dogs, Spaniel jess, and Collie, Pip. David is a hen fanatic so the chicken runs encroach ever nearer the house. I work freelance as an assessor for Comic Relief International grants, and also run a little not for profit agency to help African women get going in business, called "Lasting Solutions."
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