Sunday, 31 August 2014

Lights, Camera, Action - well almost!

Action! Shifting timber (or how it's done now)
Image courtesy Stuart Purfield
Cute little dog (image
courtesy Stuart Purfield)
It’s all too easy to regard the Malvern Autumn Show as being devoted solely to gardening and harvest. But it isn’t. Although those aspects are certainly the main focus, there is so much else going on - in fact if you visit for only one day, you will be hard pressed to cram in all that is on offer. You will need to be selective.

Jumping multi-coloured sheep - it's true ... (or was in 2013)
There’s always a hum of activity in the ‘Experience - Live Shows’ area of the Showground, with a number of small parade rings where you will be able to enjoy all manner of activities. Maybe not the same as pictured here (these images were taken at the 2013 Show) but comparable with the fun I have observed and enjoyed at past Shows. Can you imagine a flock of sheep in coats of many colours jumping over hurdles? Dogs and horses, yes, but sheep? (Or it could have been runner ducks whose upright stance is both comical and endearing.)

Somewhat more traditional - but just as entertaining 
Dogs, supposedly man’s best friend (when well-trained), will be much in evidence. It is fascinating to watch intelligent breeds traditionally used by farmers to herd sheep - enjoy their antics as they are put through their paces. Indeed there is all-day entertainment in the Activity Arena featuring dog agility, and gundog displays. 

What little girl hasn't dreamt of riding - or racing with - a pony?
Indeed, if you and your children / grandchildren love animals, don’t miss the daily animal parades in the Teme Arena and the fur and feathers of the Poultry and Rabbit Marquees! This year the Poultry Show has been upgraded to a Championship Show by the Poultry Club of Great Britain. There are usually horses as well - and there are always knowledgeable owners and trainers on hand to answer questions and point you in the right direction to discover more.

Horseshoes or wrought iron garden ornaments - working with metal is a skill
as old as the hills, and still much in demand today
Horses need horseshoes and making them is an age-old craft which is much the same today as it was centuries ago when the horse was a beast of burden, in peace-time or in war. Farriery is just as much in evidence today (maybe at this year’s show), but smiths also work decoratively in iron - a wrought iron gate, or decorative garden ornament. 

An army of men to plank a tree trunk, with ease and precision
Staggering to see close at hand (within the ‘Nostalgia’ element of the Show), and quite amazing: old and modern machinery used past and present for farm and forestry activities. We are probably all too used to going down to our local friendly D-I-Y store for the odd plank of wood, or decking for the patio, little realising how such timber is transformed from tree to felled trunk to a packaged product. In days gone by, planking would all have been done by hand, often using a pitsaw - one man above ground, the other standing beneath in a pit with the log midway on trestles; extremely hard work.

Cider harvest with mobile facilities for
pressing (it could be straight out of a
Thomas Hardy novel). Image courtesy
Stuart Purfield
Whatever your interest in times past, check out the fabulous vintage vehicles on display including a collection of old commercial vehicles and steam engines, plus threshing and cider machines. Also back in the past, to trigger memories: historic lawn mowers - remember struggling to push those across the lawn? - and caravans that had all the style but few mod-cons. In the ‘Country Pursuits Marquee’ you can discover wood turning, stick making, spinning and other age-old delights at the very heart of the Show. Some of Britain's most traditional rural activities, skills and pastimes that have survived the years - truly a case of Relive and Revive.

Just to remind you: Show opening times on both days are 9.00am to 6.00pm and there’s a free shuttle bus from Great Malvern rail station. There's also no charge for standard car parking.  Book your Show tickets online, or phone the ticket hotline (01684 584924). More next week - so do bookmark this page. (All images are reproduced by kind permission of Ray Quinton, unless credited otherwise.)

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A Fruitful Experience

Strange? Not really: think about it in relation to the enjoyment
obtained from visiting the Malvern Autumn Show
Have you ever, when planning a garden, or re-thinking a plot, likened it to creating a patchwork quilt? A sewing together of seams, a melding of materials, a blending of colours, a loom-weaving of ideas into something which becomes whole-cloth. It’s much the same with staging the Malvern Autumn Show. If you were to see the Showground right now, you would observe a wide-open grid of gigantic grassy rectangles bound together by ‘streets’ and ‘rows’, interspersed with exhibition halls, buildings and permanent gardens. That’s the framework, a living land-map into which will be jigsawed five major ‘components’, each focussing on a different Autumn fruitful experience. ‘Grow’, ‘Harvest’ and ‘Taste’ all interlink - whilst ‘Relive’ (nostalgia) and ‘Experience’ will provide just as much inspiration for the months ahead, be it in garden, home or the great outdoors. The whole Showground will be jam-packed with inspiration and shopping experiences, the like of which it is hard to find brought together in one location.

Lubera 'Redlove' apples - Swiss-bred and available to UK buyers
It’s a fruitful experience for me, too. How I love to visualise that familiar blank framework (overlooked by the enigmatic Malvern Hills) and within my blogposts draw together disparate threads of information that come my way. How good it was this last week to hear from a new exhibitor who is inviting you to visit their stand and taste the forbidden fruit (my words, not theirs). Rich, red, tasty, juicy, luscious, appletastic apples!!! The ‘Lubera’ show team is very excited  to be promoting their beautiful apple range and specifically their ‘Redlove' family. So why not pop along and say hello and hear all about apple breeding and 'hot off the press news' of new varieties to come. You will also get the chance to partake in fruit testing and tasting. I already grow various varieties produced by Lubera, and believe me, they really are something. (Where:  Stand WH83, Garden Sundries Pavilion - meanwhile take a preview of their fruit-breeding programme.)

An appreciative audience in the Good Life Pavilion theatre
(image courtesy Stuart Purfield)
Further fruitful experiences continue throughout the Show, with visitors flocking to the theatre in The Good Life Pavilion.  Meeting well-known TV personalities ‘live’ is always a thrill and this September will be no exception as television gardener, Monty Don, is to head up the celebrity guest list, and will be at the Show on Sunday. Renowned as a writer and presenter, he is best known for fronting the team of experts behind the popular weekly gardening programme, BBC Gardeners' World. 

Monty Don
He will join fellow gardeners Joe Swift and Mark Diacono; and will be talking to Joe live on stage in the event's Good Life Pavilion, about all things gardening. He has presented gardening and travel programmes for over twenty years and became the lead presenter for the BBC flagship programme Gardeners' World  between 2003 and 2008, and then again from 2011 when he began hosting Gardeners' World from his home in Herefordshire. And that’s not all: Monty is a committed organic gardener and President of the Soil Association. He has worked with schools, and groups of drug addicts, to build respect and reward from working with the natural world, and has a strong belief in the importance of communities working together through an understanding and love of the land. He says: "The real importance of gardening  is the empowerment that it gives people, however small or seemingly insignificant their gardens might be. It is surprising how liberating it is, if you can grow anything  at all -  and there is as much pleasure in a snowdrop as in a successful career.” 

Forgive the thesaurus, but reflect on how much you could gain
from an inspirational day at the Malvern Autumn Show
Words of wisdom indeed - don’t miss the opportunity to hear him, and other celebrities; but do check the Show website for times of appearance. In fact visit it regularly for updates on all that is happening, and many more fruitful experiences to come.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Sunshine and Showers ...

The Malvern Hills in the background -
and all the fun of the fair on the Showground
Whenever I think of Malvern in my mind’s eye, I see that whaleback line of hills, and marvel at the fact that no matter when I am there on the Showground - Spring, Summer, Autumn and even Winter, the weather does not matter one jot to my enjoyment of what is on offer.

Floral delights, as always
And thinking ahead again to this year’s Autumn Show; what a joyous occasion it will be. Do you know that feeling of pleasurable euphoria? A day out in the country after a busy summer, tasks accomplished, harvest ongoing - late September in all its glory.

A true celebration of Autumn harvest
Latest show ground news is starting to trickle into my inbox - it’s really exciting when this happens, and has me ferreting for stories surrounding a series of bullet points. First up this week is related to ‘The Good Life’ aspect of the Show, which is all about sowing, growing and cooking with fresh, wholesome food harvested from the garden. 'A Brave New World of Beauty' is the theme of a brand new feature garden in the Good Life Pavilion.

The filigree beauty of hoar frost
on hogweed (c.rquinton)
The design celebrates a new shift towards allowing perennials to stand over winter - enjoying them in the frosty garden rather than tidying them away.  Plant beauty rather than bare soil. Three of the four seasons will be depicted - Autumn, Winter and Spring.

The subtlety of Autumn
Autumn features warm colours (particularly red), with bright Autumn foliage forming a backdrop.  The Winter section will make use of frosted glass and silver foliage, white bark and white plants to evoke the feel of the Winter season.  The Spring section will feature a sumptuous array of Spring coloured flowers with a meadow feel, created using long grasses and asters (the latter normally associated with Autumn) - but that’s in the nature of show gardens: theatricality rather than reality. Do look at the website for the three ‘mood boards’ already featured.

A packed and appreciative audience
As to Celebrity Speakers at the Show, so far confirmed are Joe Swift (both days), Monty Don (Sunday) and Jim Buttress (Saturday); always popular, it’s an excellent opportunity to catch up on the latest professional guidance. Again - keep visiting the website for news; and don’t forget to purchase your tickets in advance. More news will follow from me in due course … it may be trite to say so, but “watch this space!”

Back to the Basics: Show opening times on both days are 9.00am to 6.00pm and there’s a free shuttle bus from Great Malvern rail station. There's also no charge for standard car parking.  Book your Show tickets online, or phone the ticket hotline (01684 584924). And bookmark this Blog if you haven’t done so already as I’ll be posting regularly right up to the Show.

(All images, apart from the frosted hogweed, were taken at the 2013 Autumn Show, are copyright Stuart Purfield and reproduced with his permission.)

Friday, 8 August 2014


Memories from the 2013 Malvern Autumn Show
Summer isn’t over yet, but it’s good to say hello again after my break from Show blogging. Mind you, the Showground has been busy with many activities since I last posted about the RHS Malvern Spring Show. So welcome back to Ann’s Malvern Jotter as I now bring you news of the forthcoming Three Counties Malvern Autumn Show.

The Regional Cookery Theatre is always popular (this, too, was 2013)
And oh, what a treat it will be! Note the date first: Saturday and Sunday 27th and 28th September when the Three Counties will be celebrating food, gardening, harvest and nostalgia - and a whole lot more.

A new collage from 2013 images
So, in a nutshell for today’s introduction - what to see and do: Food - taste it (packed full of flavour); Gardening - grow it, harvest it; Nostalgia - re-live it (wander down memory lane); Live Shows - experience it (catch all the action!) and pick up something really special: Shop - buy it (or as they say in a well-know supermarket ad, “shop till you drop”.

Fascinating talks and demos by remarkable specialists
Early news that has just landed on my desk relates to another popular aspect of the Malvern Shows - Plant Demonstrations and Question and Answer Sessions. Two of the Royal Horticultural Society’s major bodies - The Tender Ornamental Plant Committee and The Fruit, Vegetable and Herbs Committee, plus the National Vegetable Society - are joining forces for the second year to host these sessions in the Harvest Pavilion. Visitors can glean advice and benefit from years of experience from an outstanding panel of speakers. 

We all use them, but obtaining the best results requires skill and knowledge
Scheduled for the Autumn Show are the following: Pelargoniums  -  Helen Bainbridge, Member of the RHS Tender Ornamental Plant Committee; Fruit Tree Pruning - Nick Dunn, Chairman of the RHS Fruit, Vegetable and Herb Committee; Growing Vegetables in Containers - Mark Hall, Trustee of the National Vegetable Society; Plants in the Home -  John Hughes, Member of the RHS Tender Ornamental Plant Committee; Fuchsias  - Geoff Oke, Member of the RHS Tender Ornamental Plant Committee; Home Composting -  Mick Poultney, Chairman of the West Midlands Association of the National Vegetable Society and Abbey Road Allotments; Carnivorous Plants  - Matthew Soper, Member of the RHS Tender Ornamental Plant Committee; Showing Fruit and Vegetables - Colin Spires, Vice-Chairman of the RHS Fruit Vegetable and Herb Committee;  Planting Winter Containers  - Brian Taylor, Vice-Chairman of the RHS Tender Ornamental Plant Committee; Tender Plant Associations - Jon Wheatley, Member of RHS Council and Vice-Chairman  of the Tender Ornamental Plant Committee. Talks will take place at hourly intervals (if space permits, I’ll list these with the relevant day in a future post). I sat in on a number of similar talks at the 2013 Show and found them both useful and absolutely fascinating.

A grand day out at Malvern - all the fun of the fair
Now to the nitty-gritty: Show opening times on both days are 9.00am to 6.00pm and there’s a free shuttle bus from Great Malvern rail station. There's also no charge for standard car parking.  Book your Show tickets online, or phone the ticket hotline (01684 584924). And bookmark this Blog if you haven’t done so already as I’ll be posting regularly right up to the Show.