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Gardens & Gardening

Talents of budding gardeners nurtured with gift of seed kits

Maxine Chandler presents a Grow and Sell kit to the children of Skylab ClassMaxine Chandler presents a Grow and Sell kit to the children of Skylab ClassGreen-fingered youngsters from St Peter’s School in Marlborough have been given everything they need to make their garden bountiful, thanks to Waitrose.

St Peter’s is the first school to receive a free Grow & Sell seed kit from the supermarket. And after hearing how children struggled to keep their raised beds – at the Richmond Fellowship’s Community Garden – watered during the summer holidays, the store’s customer services manager, Maxine Chandler, offered help as part of Waitrose’s volunteering scheme.

The school runs a popular gardening club where children are encouraged to grow flowers and produce. Children from the Skylab class were delighted to discover that the bulbs they planted in Occtober are now in full bloom.

The Grow & Sell scheme, which began in 2013, aims to inspire seven to 11 year olds to grow their own produce during the summer months whilst learning where their food comes from and developing their entrepreneurial skills by being given the chance to sell the produce they grow outside the store.

The kits contain seeds to grow vegetables such as basil, beetroot, courgettes, red lettuce, green lettuce and snap peas, as well as step-by-step growing instructions and gardening equipment. Children also receive badges to designate roles for both the growing and selling elements of the scheme – the pest patrol badge, featuring a snail, proved particularly enticing.

The kit also includes wild flower seeds, which will help boost the number of bees, butterflies and other pollinators in school hedgerows.

Waitrose Marlborough has nine more kits to donate to schools and community youth groups. Schools or groups interested in receiving a kit should contact Maxine at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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Burbage florist Julia Russett chosen to compete at the Chelsea Flower Show

Julia Russett, the owner of Robins Flowers in Burbage, was one of only 16 floral designers chosen to compete in her class at the Chelsea Flower Show. Her design was displayed in the Floral Design Studio, which showcases some of the country’s best, most creative and technically accomplished floral designers.

Julia’s design marked the centenary anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.  She gave her design the  title ‘Gone But Not Forgotten’.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) set strict rules for this competition.  Designers started work at nine in the evening and had until six o’clock next morning to complete their display using only components which had previously been declared.

Julia, who is the Chairman of the Burbage Flower Club, explained: “This was my first attempt at this level and although nothing was awarded this time, I found out that I was only one point away from a bronze medal. I really enjoyed the whole experience and I will definitely be applying to do it again next year.”

In order to enter at this level a flower designer must be selected by the RHS and needs to have already proved themselves with other awards.

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Waitrose’s Grow and Sell learning project for children is given Alan Titchmarsh’s own accolade

Alan TitchmarshAlan TitchmarshAlan Titchmarsh, the nation’s favourite gardener, who has been working to raise the profile of British horticulture and agriculture, has given his support to the re-launching of Waitrose’s Grow and Sell project.

It is aimed at encouraging children to grow their own produce, especially as the Spring sunshine arrives, and then sell it.  And here in Marlborough children aged from 7 to 11 from five schools are now testing their skills growing crops of their own in the weeks ahead.

Waitrose has presented them with Grow and Sell kits created by Seed Pantry, a family business, which contain vegetable seeds, equipment and step-by-step growing instructions – as well as badges for the young entrepreneurs to designate roles for both growing and selling their produce.

They have gone to pupils at Ogbourne St George, Burbage, Ramsbury, St Andrew and Pewsey primary schools and, as part of a new feature, their kits have also included wild flower seeds, aimed at boosting the number of butterflies and bees in their areas.

And Waitrose plans to launch a Grow and Sell educational app to enable children, teachers and parents to access information a variety of subjects, including the importance of the environment.

“The expansion of the Waitrose scheme means that even more children can benefit from learning about the food they eat,”  Alan Titchmarsh told Marlborough News Online.  “And they might just learn to love eating fresh produce because they’ve grown it themselves.

“Understanding the value of preserving and restoring nature through growing wild flowers to encourage the return of bees is also a fantastic lesson for children to discover.”

The Grow and Sell scheme has already been popular in Marlborough where the supermarket’s customers can support the schools by dropping a green token into one of the Community Matters boxes.

“Having seen the success of last year’s project, it brings us immense pleasure to be able to offer the Grow and Sell scheme to many more schools,” said Waitrose departmental manager Charles Betney.

“We hope it will encourage children to choose to eat well and inspire entrepreneurial minds to flourish.”

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The hunt is on for Wiltshire's Best Kept Village

Mike Hill left and John Blake are encouraging Wiltshires villages to enter the competitionMike Hill left and John Blake are encouraging Wiltshires villages to enter the competitionThe search is on for the Best Kept Village of the Year 2014.

Last year, Burbage walked away with the crown in the Large Village category of the competition, which is run by the Council for the Protection of Rural England and sponsored by Marlborough-based Hills Group.

Invitations to enter the competition have been sent to all 234 villages across Wiltshire and entries need to be submitted by Wednesday, April 30.

As an incentive to get entries in early, the first 30 entries received at the CPRE Office in Devizes will each be given 10 complimentary bags of Hills’ Warrior Compost.

The compost is made from green waste collected throughout Wiltshire, it is certified to the BSI PAS 100 (2011) and the Compost Quality Protocol standard and accredited by both the Association for Organics Recycling and the Soil Association.

Mike Hill, chief executive of The Hills Group, said: “The competition encourages village residents to work together and build a stronger community. I am looking forward to seeing the results of their efforts as I was extremely impressed by the work that was undertaken last year.”

John Blake, secretary of CPRE Wiltshire, said: "CPRE Wiltshire is delighted that The Hills Group are sponsoring this competition again this year, its 56th year. With the bonus of Hills generous offer of organic compost to the first thirty villages to enter, the preparation for the competition becomes an important part of the cohesive efforts of the villagers during the year."

The competition is judged in three categories – small villages with populations of less than 300, medium villages with populations between 301 to 1,000 residents and large villages with populations between 1,001 to 3,500 residents.

This year for the first time there will be a short seminar about the competition aimed at helping both newcomers and those villages which would like more information on BKVC 2014.

It will be held in the evening at the Worton Village Hall on March 31 and those interested in attending should contact CPRE Wiltshire on telephone 01380 722157.

Judging will take place during May to August and the final winners’ presentation ceremony will be held on October 12 in each of the winning villages with prizes awarded by Wiltshire’s Lord Lieutenant, President of the CPRE Wiltshire Mrs Sarah Troughton and the Hills winning plaque by CEO Mike Hill.

The winning villages in 2013 were:
Small – Teffont
Medium – All Cannings
Large – Burbage

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Gardeners get a chilly lesson in apple care

Apple guru Neil MacDonaldApple guru Neil MacDonaldWith the ground underfoot as crunchy as an apple, there was a cold lesson for gardeners at Marlborough's Apple Workshop on Saturday.

Led by Neil Macdonald – the man behind the popular Orchard Pig cider – and John Gillam, a local horticulturist and stone fruit expert, the workshop started in the warm at St John's Academy.

Attendees learnt about choosing apple varieties and rootstocks for small gardens, planting fruit trees, after-care and pruning, including how to train espalier, fan and cordon trees. 

Horticulturist John GillamHorticulturist John GillamAfter lunch, the class moved outside to winter-prune young apple trees, recently planted at the school, and then moved into town, to prune and train Waitrose’s espaliers.

The next venue was Culvermead Close, where some mature trees in need of rejuvenation were tackled, followed by a planting demonstration at Wye House.

The well-attended event was organised by Marlborough Community Orchard.  

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Green-fingered children get involved in a blooming good idea to help bees

Sarah Hart, community Champion at Tesco, mayor Guy Loosmore and mayoress Fiona Lawson present certificates to St Mary's School pupils Callum, Madison, Lucy, Ava, Dylan and Daisy – growers of the award-winning sunflowersSarah Hart, community Champion at Tesco, mayor Guy Loosmore and mayoress Fiona Lawson present certificates to St Mary's School pupils Callum, Madison, Lucy, Ava, Dylan and Daisy – growers of the award-winning sunflowersSunflowers grown from seed by primary school children will soon be planted in Marlborough's Priory Gardens, in a bid to save the ailing bee population.

Children from St Mary's infant school and St Peter's junior school have been growing sunflowers from seeds and compost donated by Tesco.

And this morning (Tuesday) mayor Guy Loosmore was on hand to judge the best sunflowers – so far – and to present green-fingered growers with certificates.

The mayor also took the opportunity to tour the school and tell the children about the work that the town council does, revealing along the way that one of the jobs of mayor – but one not practised for many years – is to measure loaves of bread to ensure citizens are getting a fair deal from bakers.

All of the sunflowers will be planted by head groundsman Richard Beale at Priory Gardens. It is hoped the brightly coloured blooms – which grow up to 15ft tall - will attract bees, whose UK population is dramatically declining.

And the mayor promised to judge the flowers again in September, saying: “We'll award prizes for the tallest, and they won't necessarily be those that have won prizes today.”

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That hosepipe ban will stay till Christmas despite all the rain

Despite having well over double the average rainfall during April -- only four dry days were measured in Marlborough -- the River Kennet is still only half its average flow for this time of year.

And although drought orders have been lifted in various parts of the country, the hosepipe ban is likely to continue to Christmas in the Marlborough area.

“The cold wet weather has provided a welcome respite for the beleaguered river, but is not enough to get us out of drought yet,” Charlotte Hitchmough, director of ARK, the River Kennet action group, told Marlborough News Online.

“The groundwater level is rising, and the springs at Avebury and up in the Winterbournes are now flowing, which is great news – however groundwater levels are still well below normal for the time of year.”

“Effectively, we have had below average rainfall of almost two years, so one or two months of above average rain is not enough to get us out of trouble.  But it has made a really positive difference.”

And she added: “The hosepipe ban is likely to stay in place until Christmas, but the rain has moved us further away from other restrictions like water rationing or restrictions on business use, so it's very good news.”

Everyone can help further, she pointed out, by getting a FREE water saving makeover for their home. So far, Barton Park is topping the tables with the most homes in Marlborough signed  up to save water as part of the Care for the Kennet


It's simple:

1. You call 0800 358 6665 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2. A trained fitter from Climate Energy comes to your house at a time to suit you, and in 20 minutes fits free gadgets to help you use less water and more is left in the river.

3. As well as those good things,  you save money by using less water if you are on a meter, and you save energy by using less hot water.

Thames Water is sponsoring a prize to the school which signs up the most home makeovers, so you can nominate the school of your choice to win.

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