You may remember that I wrote about our volunteering efforts at Delrow House, a home for adults with learning difficulties in Patchett’s Green, back in 2019. Sadly, but for good reason, we were unable to go there for most of 2020 so when we arrived back in late 2020 we were in for a few surprises.
Very few staff had been able to come to work and nature had had a field day. Almost every bed was badly infested with weeds and the polytunnels were in need of a lot of attention. Delrow had also acquired a new head gardener and the Social farm, where we work, has been separated from the rest of the grounds so our new boss is Tammi Gustafson.
All four of the original volunteers, Robin Crosher, Louise Bunge, Julia McNerney and myself are still there but we have been joined by several willing new helpers namely Helen Palmer, Sally Gitkin, Paul Hodgson, John Rowland and Traudi Puri whose daughter Devika also came for a few months between jobs. Also joining us on Friday mornings between 9am and 1pm is Ron Banks a parent of one of the residents.
We all set to work and as I write this in October we are only just getting things properly under control.
We have grown a fantastic range of vegetables and flowers, too many to name here, but highlights were some superb cutting dahlias, a great crop of loofas, cape gooseberries, squashes and pumpkins by the barrow load, beans of all descriptions and oodles of tomatoes.
The 90 year old gardener
All of these are sold to raise funds. The residents and day visitors, known collectively as ‘people we support’ or ‘PWS’s’ also help in the garden and it is wonderful therapy for them. I have to mention Rolf who is well into his 90’s but still turns up for work every day, usually just before coffee break! He also opens and closes the polytunnels and waters in the greenhouse - not bad for a man born in the 1930’s!
The weekly highlight is undoubtedly the 11am coffee break where we all get together to have a good chinwag and compare notes as well as eating home made scones, cakes, flapjack and other assorted delicacies.
Our first task was to clean the polytunnels in freezing January. We couldn’t find a brush long enough so tied a piece of string to both ends of a length of material and pulled it back and forth over the outside. This necessitated a third person in the tunnel to direct operations. At times it was a bit of a ‘Fred Karno’s’ but it made us laugh and kept us warm.
I was hoping we could clean one of the three polytunnels each year but they have got so dirty we will have to do them all again this winter.
Another notable event was a surprise visit from the new CEO of The Camphill Village Trust, Sara Thakkar. Delrow is just one of many sites run by the Trust. She was very impressed by our efforts.
We also approached Burston Garden Centre to see if they had any surplus staging to replace our motley collection of old tables in the greenhouse. Jerry Burch, one of the family, duly supplied us with a truck load of surplus staging as well as some useful pots and canes. Our special thanks to them.
I think all of us volunteers now feel a sense of belonging and that we are doing some good here. I know we enjoy our Friday mornings and we all enjoy working together. If you would like to join us, or find out a bit more, please don’t hesitate to contact me or one of the team, we would love a bit more help.
Peter Hordern, October 2021