All a bit fishy

The AGM on 24th March rounded off another busy and successful year for The Friends Group. Following reports by our Chairman and Treasurer there followed the election of a new treasurer,  two new trustees and the report on the garden. We concluded the meeting with a presentation of the main achievements of the heritage lottery project so far, including the second teaser clip from the memories of Cressing Temple video:

The weeks either side of the AGM have been dominated with our efforts to solve the problem of our murky pond problems. The leak has been getting steadily worse over the past few years and frequent filling up with tap water had done nothing for the water quality – not so much gazing at our reflection in a clear blue surface. more like staring into a bowl of pea soup!

Something had to be done and we needed to empty the pond but how to catch fish when you can’t see them? We had no idea how many there were and nothing bigger than a child’s fishing net!

Never fear, the ever inventive Pete, the ever ready Paula and the ever willing set of Tuesday volunteers worked out a method and several hours later we had buckets full (about 60 to be precise) of healthy looking wonderfully golden goldfish. Having prepared for this eventuality by putting ‘re-homing goldfish’ notices in the Visitor Centre,  we managed to find new (and frankly much nicer) ponds for them all to go to. And we found ourselves a little richer too!

With the fish taken care of we could move to the next stage: draining and dredging. Oh boy, did it need dredging! Yuk.

Everyone put on a brave face and pretended it had been fun……

…..and it was a joy to see the fantastic brickwork  base for the first time in years.

So much for dealing with the murk, now to deal with the leak. Once again we have Pete to thank for spotting the corrosion on the fountain which had been allowing water to seep through to the centre of the brickwork column and out to the surrounding ground. The solution, we hope, is to line the corroded dish with fibre glass which will be completely hidden once the water is flowing. Not an authentically Tudor solution, but fingers crossed this will work and issue that has had us scratching our heads for years will be solved. I will let you know.

The final step will be to re-introduce the water lilies and fish (maybe three or four – all males!). Anyone wanting to see the water sparklingly clear and the pattern on the brick flooring had better visit soon before a more natural balance is restored and the lilies do their excellent job of covering the surface.

Phew, what an episode that has been!

After all the muck and grime of pond cleaning it has been rather nice to have contrasting moments to admire the stunning display of spring bulbs. Always such an uplift at this time of year.

The gentle, subtle charm of our native bulbs, the Lent lily (Narcissus pseudonarcissus), the snake’s head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris), the cowslip (Primula veris) and our native tulip (Tulipa sylvestris) are hard to beat.

But I must say a splash of the more exotic has been very welcome lately too.

We went for a combination of bright and cheerful tulips and the intoxicating perfume of Delft Blue Hyacinths to attract visitors to the start of our plant sale season.


We are hoping to do better than ever with our plants this year, with our new sales area near the Visitor Centre. It has long been a frustration to us that many visitors seem to visit the tearoom for their delicious offering from Wilkins & Sons but rarely venture further to see what temptations there are on the rest of the site. Maybe we could entice them out by having things for sale visible from the tea room.

We are not intending to sell Community Shedders! These are the kind gentlemen who constructed our new plant table and carried it to its new position.

Still a bargain at £2.50 per plant, our lovely range of perennials are ready and raring to get going in your gardens, so please visit to buy a few this Easter.

Part of the Heritage Lottery money was allocated to improving our interpretation and training  our volunteers. Three talks have been planned for this year and the first one took place on a cold but dry day in early March. The volunteers were treated to a fascinating and very informative talk by Hilary Mynott which covered the history of the Templar barns, the Tudor walled garden and folklore surrounding the plants grown in our garden.

In the second talk early this month, Mike Brown, the historic gardener, treated us to a very enjoyable slideshow of Tudor gardens, describing their main features and giving some good examples of Tudor gardens to visit around the country. He followed this with a demonstration of his diverse collection of Tudor gardening tools, including wooden spades, bird scarers and a Tudor rat trap!


Mary examining a tudor mattock, used for digging in the same way we might use a fork.

Later in the year we are looking forward to the third of these talks, which will be a demonstration of distilling and the uses of herbs in Tudor times. We will all be so well educated, courtesy of the Heritage Lottery Fund!


With Easter just around the corner we have been doing some research about the customs and traditions of Easter and the plants that can be seen in the walled garden this Easter time. A display of what we discovered can be seen in the wellhouse and it makes very interesting reading, including the significance of simnel cakes, the ancient tradition of dyeing eggs and the making of Tansy pudding in Lent.

We intend to update this table with a changing displays to give our visitors something new to experience on return visits. The next one planned will be about different textiles used in the Tudor period, followed by one on Tudor beekeeping. With the volunteers helping with the construction of these displays it promises to be an interesting and varied year.

Our native viola (Viola tricolor) is looking cheerful in the potager right now. The sixteenth century herbalist John Gerard was fond of the look of this flower, if not the scent ‘..of three sundrie colours…that is to say purple, yellow, and white or blew; by reason of the beautie and bravery of which colours they be very pleasing to the eie, for smell they have little, or none at all’

Several affectionate and very descriptive names were given to this plant including – Cull Me to You, Three Faces in a Hood, Herb Trinity, and Love in Idleness. But the one still commonly used today is heart’s ease, meaning tranquility or peace of mind. Altogether the flower is said to have sixty names in English and two hundred on the Continent. No wonder plant naming was confusing before Linnaeus gave us his straightforward binomial system!

For Shakespeare it was the plant he chose in Midsummer Night’s Dream, the juice having the power to make men and women fall in love:


Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell.

It fell upon a little Western flower –

Before, milk white; now purple with love’s wound –

And maidens call it love-in-idleness.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, II.1.165-168


A fitting thought, as I jet off to Japan for my son’s wedding.

See you all in May







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