Halsway Manor’s Golden Garden for our 50th Anniversary by Bonny Sartin

sleepers 002In the early summer Maureen and Graham Knight asked me to help create a Golden Garden for the 50th anniversary of the forming of Halsway Manor Society and the purchase of the Manor. This sounded like a very positive project and if there’s one thing I enjoy its a very positive project. Maureen and Graham have their work cut out looking after the garden so I thought a little assistance would not come amiss.

dancers 005The plot allocated was the one in front of the Summerhouse which hadn’t been dug over for years. When we went to attack it we quickly discarded forks and spades and got the pick axes out. It was, ‘As hard as hells bells’, as father used to say. The water was not soaking in at all but just running off the top and in the first few days we only found one lonely worm. However, as we progressed and the piles of rubbish, roots and stumps grew, people began to take an interest in our activities and stop for a chat. We found that they were very enthusiastic about the Golden Garden and with their support, our ambitions and the size of the plot seemed to grow and grow. During the summer I bumped into some friends from Coventry. I told them what we were about and when they came to the Big Sing weekend in October they brought a bag of compost with them. Brilliant!!!

2013 summer wendy house 002My sister-in-law made us two golden folk dancing figures and these were installed at the end of September, just before the A.G.M. They make a great centre piece and, so far, have stood up to all the storms that mother nature has thrown at them.

We received a donation, which paid for some solid oak sleepers to put around the edge of the garden and Graham and I heaved these into place in the middle of October. Just behind them we have planted hundreds of daffodils which Maureen and Graham have saved from other parts of the garden. We have also put in some Winter Aconites so there should be some gold showing as early as January.

sleepers 008The main planting will take place in the Spring of 2014. Many of the people staying at Halsway seem to be keen gardeners and we have already been given a lot of advice and promised a variety of plants. Two big and potentially expensive jobs need to be done too; taking a couple of branches of the beech tree and re-thatching the summerhouse, but I can see filling the plot with flowers is going to be relatively cheap. Incidentally with the breaking up of the soil the worms are coming back so we must be doing something right.

If you are interested in helping Maureen and Graham to keep the garden under control they are organising Garden Working Days on the 13th and 20th of December.

Bonny Sartin

 

 

From Bagpipes to Nyckelharpa – an instrumental journey

Vicki_Pipes3Our guest blogger this week is Vicky Swan who tells us of her own personal journey in learning, playing and discovering these wonderful, yet quite different instruments. Over to Vicky…

These two instruments might seem poles apart and in many respects they are, so how did I get to become a player of both? My Dad was piper and entertainments manager at a hotel up in Scotland one year, where he met a Swedish lass on holiday – the rest as they say is history. As my Dad was a piper, the pipes naturally came first. He was an excellent teacher and ran the Brentwood School of Piping, which was later to become a full-blown competition pipe band. I like to think that I got my pedagogical background from him; his mother and sister were also both teachers. I tried at many different times to take up the Highland Pipes, but they just weren’t quite right for me, so when I discovered the Scottish smallpipes I was instantly away. Unfortunately my Dad died quite early on in my piping career, but I know he’d be proud of what I’ve done. I’m sure we’d have had many discussions on style and grace notes. He would definitely be proud of the teaching work I did for my Masters degree in Education and the subsequent tutor that I wrote.

quartet1Having spent several years teaching students with no face-to-face interaction as a teacher on-line I decided to put myself back in the position of being a learner with no teacher of my own. What better instrument to choose in the UK but the nyckelharpa. Being half Swedish I had the advantage that I’ve always known about this stunning instrument and I could speak the language and was able to get hold of one. It was a major turning point in my life. I discovered that I could never really be a beginner again, I have too much ‘prior learning’ and too many ‘transferable skills’ to eve really be a beginner. Initially it was just an instrument I could sing and play with but gradually it has taken over my life.

quartet1With my Swedish connections I do as much as I can to bring instruments into the country and unite them with new owners. I have a little stash of instruments that I can let people use to see if they like the instrument. It’s not likely that anyone wouldn’t want to take it up, but it can be a big outlay for an instrument you’ve never tried. Not everyone can take the risk I took of ordering one before I’d really seen one properly live (at the Swedish Church in London as a small child doesn’t really count).
My leap of faith paid off but if it hadn’t I’d have had no difficulty in selling it on as nyckelharpas are like gold dust! Of course I haven’t forgotten about the pipes and since taking up the nyckelharpa I’ve added English borderpipes and Swedish bagpipes to my collection. It’s a lot of up keep, practicing all these different instruments but luckily I love playing and it’s really not such a hardship. The only problem is deciding what instrument to play first!

lesson

Vicky will be running a Nyckelharpa Workshop Weekend on 1st to 3rd November at Halsway, and a Scottish smallpipes workshop weekend 29th November to 1st December.

If you would like further information please contact vicki@swan-dyer.co.uk or to book, please email office@halswaymanor.org.uk.