17 Apr 2015

Planting and Weeding at Blakesley Hall

All in a day’s work for our University of Birmingham volunteers…

The Birmingham University Conservation Volunteers are a society that aims to help in the conservation efforts taking place around Birmingham and take part in enjoyable, practical outdoor tasks. We are able to go to various green areas, nature reserves and parks all around Birmingham, where we get involved in activities from litter-picking to tree-planting. We were lucky enough to be invited to Blakesley Hall by Alex Nicholson-Evans, as part of Student Volunteering Week, to take part in the gardening activities going on that Wednesday afternoon at the Hall.

We were met by the staff members Maddy and Kim, Blakeley’s volunteer gardener Jean-Pierre and Alex herself. To start the event off we were weeding and turning-over of the garden’s soil beds, which is always a rather therapeutic exercise, in preparation for planting.

Turning-over of the garden’s soil beds

Luckily the weather was good for us, and we were able to complete this task in no time. Afterwards, with the beds prepared, we were then able to then peel and plant garlic bulbs (after learning which end is up) which have hopefully taken and grown for us!

The garlic  at Blakesley Hall
Said garlic bulbs have indeed started to grow at Blakesley!

The society had had experience in gardening before, but our knowledge was put to the test in comparison with volunteer gardener Jean-Pierre, who was an amazing source of gardening knowledge, both modern and historical. We were able to add to our knowledge the various uses of lavender in the past from medicinal use to food and soaps, and old superstitions about holly trees and their importance within pagan beliefs. It highlighted how important it was to not only obtain knowledge, but also to pass it on so that it isn't lost.

Learning about gardening with volunteer gardener Jean-Pierre

After a tea and coffee break, kindly provided by the Blakesley staff, we got to work on pruning a rosemary bush, and planting the rosemary cuttings into a nearby bed, in the hope of growing new rosemary plants.

Planting the rosemary cuttings

It was interesting to be working with the same herbs and plants that were important back when the Hall was built and at various points during its history. The staff explained to us that Blakesley Hall tried to keep an authentic range of period plants in its gardens.

Rosemary planted in the garden
The rosemary is doing very well now at Blakesley too

After the rosemary was planted, the day was wrapped up and we had to say goodbye. The staff at Blakesley kindly gave me a post card of their lovely mural, which now sits proudly on the mantle shelf in my room. It was a lovely day out at Blakesley, and it was nice to see another garden in the grounds of a historic building. The Student Gardening Society at the University of Birmingham is currently working to develop a plot of land at Winterbourne, a heritage house and gardens, so there was a lot of parallels to be drawn between the two garden projects.

The team

On behalf of everyone who attended I would like to thank everyone at Blakesley Hall who made the day very enjoyable for us. It was great! The staff were extremely friendly, and obviously very enthusiastic about the work taking place at the museum, which we couldn’t help but share by the end of the event. We will have to come back and see the progress of the garden, and the things we planted, at some point in the future.