Winter 2016



As 2016 draws to a close we would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and thank you for your support over the year. As years go this one seems to have flown by faster than ever and as we prepare the gardens for the winter months it seems hardly any time since we were  cutting hedges, mowing the lawns every week and frantically trying to keep everything alive with enough water. In these drab, gloomy days of December it is good to remind ourselves of what it was all like back then.



We would particularly like to thank our wonderful team of volunteers and wish them all a much deserved break from gardening over Christmas. Volunteer numbers have been stronger than ever this year and with the community garden volunteers to boost our numbers we are up to 18. Many thanks to Brian Butler, Andy Robson, Diana Goodliff, Dawn Auker, Kathy McCormack, Jane Casement, Barbara Humphreys, Jane Gardiner, Paul Shuttleworth, Lisa Gymer, Bob Adams, Lynn Jones, Rosemary Walker, Mary Madders, Erica Peagram, Mike Madders, Valerie Wade and Tanya Sewell.img_1179

For our volunteer Christmas party this year we had a bonfire at the community garden followed by some willow wreath making. Despite dismal weather everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and forgave the fact we managed to cremate the potatoes in the fire!

Fortunately there was a backup of soup and everyone brought something to the party so we didn’t go hungry.


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Although our volunteer numbers are looking good, we are always on the lookout for new recruits. There is plenty of gardening work, but if that is not your thing we also need help with fundraising, organising social events, maintaining our website and Facebook page, marketing and selling plants and other merchandise. If you were thinking of volunteering in the garden, here is a first hand account from Mary, who joined us this year with her husband Mike.

From an amateur gardener

img_1193Mike and I started helping as volunteer gardeners in the walled gardens at Cressing Temple soon after the last AGM, in the Spring. Having lived in North Devon, only a ten minute drive from the RHS gardens at Rosemoor, we were delighted to find we are now only the same distance from the beautiful Cressing Temple!

We signed up as ‘Friends’ of the gardens within weeks of arriving in Essex and very soon answered the request for helpers in the gardens. The only experience we have is of growing our own flowers, fruit and vegetables in our garden at home or on the allotment, and a real love of beautiful gardens. We are not qualified in horticulture in any way whatsoever.

Because of other commitments we are only able to come once a fortnight. When we do Rebecca has a wonderful way of making us feel that our contribution has made a difference to the gardens! She is always organised and has something for us to do. She is an excellent teacher, patient and encouraging and spends time giving useful advice as we engage in different tasks each week.

In the last nine months we have been involved in weeding, hedge cutting, digging, grass cutting, composting, planting and transplanting, watering, deadheading, seed collection, apple picking, and lots more. We have met all sorts of very interesting visitors as they drift around the walled garden and we have learnt so much about the plants.

On several Saturdays when an event has been on we have been in charge of the plant sales at the entrance to the walled garden. Another lovely way to meet interested people and encourage them to think about joining ‘The Friends’.

We feel really accepted as part of a team by the other people who work on the estate and everyone is very friendly.

We count it a real privilege to be trusted to do the work, sometimes even using our own initiative.

I hope reading this might encourage other people to offer to help in the gardens. There is plenty of work for unskilled people and something to suit every age and ability. Some of us are well past retirement age! Rebecca gives good useful training and is always concerned for the welfare of her team.

Mary Madders

Contact Rebecca on 07747670058 / if you are interested in helping out in any way.


The Bees

chr2016-7We were pleased that our beekeepers, Jan and Walter French could join us for our Christmas party. They have been marvellous in caring for our bees this year and encouraging us to be more involved and interested in the fascinating and important world of the honey bee. As you may know, our hives have been moved to a new site at the end of the apple orchard where they have settled very well and produced some delicious honey this year. We still have jars available if any of you would like some, just pop into Cressing or let Rebecca know.

We have added a smart new shed to the beekeeping area for the storage of all the bee equipment and bee suits. Here you can see the beehives protected by woodpecker proof jackets for the winter.

Jan will be running her introductory beekeeping courses at Cressing next year and we will be offering a special apiary day to our volunteers in the Spring.

Community garden

img_1122Excellent progress has been made on the community plot since the summer. We managed to procure a load of old fencing rails going spare (thanks Bob for finding these), and with the help of a Country Parks ranger and trailer they were collected one morning and everyone helped unload.

They are already being put to good use to mark out the paths and planting beds. It is all about teamwork and everyone learns from each other, which is part of the fun.

img_1168Even at this time of year there is plenty to do. The rhubarb has been planted, cut flower seeds are sown and we have onions, garlic, leeks and broad beans all doing well. Here is Erica doing a bit of log sawing for our bonfire.

chr2016-10An interesting experimental crop this summer has been some South American tubers called Oca (Oxalis tuberosa) and Ulluco (Ullucus tuberosus). Grown rather like potatoes and producing interesting and colourful mini tubers we harvested them for the volunteer party and everyone had a taste. The verdict was reasonably positive – eaten raw they are crunchy, carrot like with lemony overtones. They can also be cooked and used any way you would a potato but our crop produced rather tiny results that nobody fancied peeling!

We are planning to sell some of next year’s crops and Brian has been working hard renovating an old wooden trolley to be our veg sales stall. We will let you know when the first Cressing grown produce is ready.

Rebecca has applied for some grant money to pay for power and water to be connected to the plot, to build a covered lean-to next to the potting shed and to buy a load of bark chippings for the paths. There are also plans to renovate the old porta cabin to become the volunteer mess room, not to mention getting the ‘Men’s Shed’ started in the workshop. So plenty to do for next year.

Contact Rebecca on 07747670058 / if you are interested in being part of this project.

 The walled garden

In these early winter months the main tasks are clearing up the endless leaf fall and windfall apples and cutting back anything which turns brown and mushy after the first frosts. Some things such as fennel stalks and the cardoons are left standing because they add structure and interest to the garden in winter but otherwise it is a great time for a tidy up and some maintenance tasks. We are busy re-laying the brickwork in the knot garden and are hoping to realign the grass edges in the potager.

On the planting front we are about to introduce two new David Austin roses to the border by the bakehouse  –  “Gentle Hermione’ and ‘Thomas a Becket’ which are both good roses for poor soil and reputedly very healthy.  We will also be planting a rose hedge in the tea garden and for this we have chosen a lovely hedging rose from Cants of Colchester, Wild Edric, recommended by one of the committee members for its strong scent.

 The Cullen garden

chr2016-11The wooden barrel which featured such a stunning summer floral display is now planted up for winter interest and underplanted with spring bulbs. We hope to plant it up with a new display each summer and offer it as a design opportunity to a different person each year.

Here’s a reminder of what it looked like last year.



With Alison’s year as our WRAGS trainee drawing to a close we were reluctant to let her go so we have decided to keep her on for another year, working two days a week with Rebecca and the volunteers. Her help and support have been invaluable and we felt she would help us increase our ability to produce ‘grown at Cressing’ stock and make the plant sales better than ever. Alison has been hard at work collecting and sorting seed from the walled garden and as a result we are able to offer the following seed sharing scheme as an extra benefit to our members this year.

Seed Distribution

Dear members,

This year we would like to offer you the opportunity to grow some of the seed which has been collected from the garden. The list consists mostly of seed from the walled garden, plus a few varieties of donated seed. Each member can request 5 packets of seed at a total cost of £3.00 to cover administration and postage. If you would like to order seed, then please fill in the form.


Payment can be made by:


·       Made payable to ‘The Friends of Cressing Temple Gardens’.


·        Account number 65657883 and sort code 08-92-99

·        Please use ‘Seeds’ + your surname as a reference.


·       Please do not post cash, but cash payments can be brought in person to Cressing Temple.


Order form

Please post to:

Seed Distribution,

c/o 21 Golding Crescent,

Stanford le Hope, Essex,

SS17 7AZ


or hand your envelope (marked ‘Seed distribution’) in at reception at Cressing Temple.


You will find the seed list and order form as a separate attachment with this newsletter.

Meanwhile our thoughts have turned to taking on a new trainee for the coming year to continue the process of passing on horticultural knowledge to the next generation of gardeners. We are thankful to the Women’s Farm and Garden Association for administering such a beneficial training scheme.


The orchard and apple day

chr2016-12This year’s apple harvest was a good one, with some trees cropping more heavily and with larger fruit than in previous years. There were some exceptions, with St Edmund’s pippin hardly fruiting at all and a poor crop from Lady Henniker. Always the last to crop, there are still apples on the D’Arcy Spice tree in the walled garden and they will be good for several more months if stored well. A delicious russet with sweetness but also acidity, this has been a particular favourite this year.

With such a bumper harvest it was good to have the help of a group of volunteers from County Hall who were a tremendous help picking and sorting the apples.


chr2016-13Apple Day itself was staged in October and was another successful and enjoyable day, with many of our friends returning from last year and a few new ones joining us. We had one heavy downpour in the middle of the day when everyone dashed for the barns but we discovered the Morris dancing and folk singers in the barn added an extra dimension and might be repeated next year, whatever the weather.


A special part of the afternoon was the planting of a damson tree in the walled garden, as a memorial to Martin Wakelin and John Hunter who we have to thank for the garden design. The tree was planted by Martin’s widow, Christine, and was witnessed by our guests from the former Essex Archaeology team who were with us for the day holding their reunion. Many of them would have known Martin and John well.


Dates for your calendar

Back by popular demand is the Friends Quiz night, this year to be held on 24th February at 7.30pm in the conference room.


The AGM will be on 11th March at 2pm in the conference room.


Further details of both these events will be posted in the New Year.


Contact Details


The Friends:




Plant sales rota:


Lesley Killin at




Subs to:

Jane Palmer,

Old Wills,

Little Tey Road,






Have a look, the more views the better!




Look for the ‘Cressing Temple Garden Friends Group’


Our address:


The Friends of Cressing Temple Gardens, Witham Road, Braintree, Essex, CM77 8PD



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