In March, the Reepham & District Gardening Club enjoyed a fascinating talk from Mike Owers, instigator of the extensive five-year plan to regenerate the walled garden at Blicking Hall.
This area was in constant use for 400 years until it fell into disuse in the early 20th century when ownership went to the Marquis of Lothian, who was an infrequent visitor and therefore did not require the garden to be productive.
Uses have been various and years of neglect have had to be remedied. Now crucial groundwork has been completed, the area has been drained and an irrigation system installed, the last utilising part of the redundant Blickling Hall sewage system for water storage.
The greenhouses (south-southwest facing for maximum light) use kiln-dried cedar wood, and the original Boulton and Paul fittings have been re-erected on the original brick work-bases, which have been neatly repointed.
Years ago the clay for these bricks came from digging out Blickling Lake and were made on the estate. This displays the same neat economy as the way that an amount of funding for the current garden project comes from the profits (£126,000 last year) from the second-hand book shop located in the Lothian Barn.
Detailed records of garden use in the past are patchy, but extensive listings of East Anglian fruit varieties are providing inspiration for new espalier, fan and cordon-grown apples and pears, plums and gages against the walls and also lining the newly laid paths.
Historically, three men were needed to work each acre, and that acre would feed 12 people. However, many part-time volunteers are now called upon for their labours in addition to the full-time professionals, and as much produce as possible will be used in the hall café, providing another example of the neat economy which a microcosm, in this case the Blickling Estate, can illustrate.
I look forward to seeing the progress of this interesting project over the next few years.
Don’t forget the Gardening Club’s annual plant sale from 8.30 am on Saturday 13 May. Take your spare plants to be sold to the Bircham Centre on Friday 12 May at 6.30 pm.