The entry for the Wallington gardening Club is, sadly, now only a holding entry because it ceased to exist (in its present form) after Christmas 2015. Over the years it had held monthly meetings with guest speakers and had through the year arranged a variety of outings (like trips to Wisley) and other activities. Once it had hosted BBC’s Gardeners’ Question Time and had occasionally welcomed notable local gardening celebrities like Brian Kidd.
A gardening club existed in the village before the Second World War (and maybe before that) but it lay dormant until the Wallington Village Community began in 1979. The birth of that society acted as a nucleus for several groups that formed under its umbrella (e.g. the Wine Circle) and many of the people involved were active across the range of new village activities.
The Harvest Festival was one of the first functions resurrected in the village when the Wallington Village Community was born. Though long gone, it had not been forgotten thanks to the memory of older villagers, and it returned to its traditional home of the White Horse public house in autumn 1979. For many of us that evening there was a feeling that it brought together those who had only recently found the closeness of the land that is on our doorsteps, and those who had been fortunate enough to have known it all their lives. The hops hanging from the bar and the centrepiece of the bread wheat sheaf kindly donated by John Gauntlett, our nearest farmer, left an abiding impression. After the event had relocated to the newly acquired Village Hall its running passed fairly naturally to the Gardening Club and so it remained. However many of the stalwarts of the club have been harnessed to this particular plough for over thirty-five years and, not surprisingly, need a rest. Whether their sapling that grew into a tree will remain dormant or will be tended by new hands and blossom again only time will tell.
In the meantime popular functions like the Horticultural show and the Harvest Festival will continue, perhaps in a different format, and be looked after with greater input from the Executive Committee and co-opted members of the WVCA as happened once before.
A home-grown recipe for spring lawn treatment from Tom Hilton:
The late and greatly respected Tom Hilton lived in Drift Road. He was a long-time resident of Wallington and his working life, except for a period of War service, was spent at Prices School Fareham where he was a chemistry master and, latterly, the Deputy Headmaster.
His garden, especially its lawns, was a picture and in the Once in a While of February 1982 he passed on his secret formula for Lawn Sand – which some of us have used to good effect ever since. He wrote:
‘The first feed can now be put on. I use lawn-sand that I make myself; 20 parts of dry sand, 3 parts of sulphate of Ammonia, 1 part sulphate of Iron. This needs to be applied at the rate of 4 oz. Per square yard. Besides encouraging the growth of grass it will deal with the bane of all lawns – moss. One word of caution; try to apply the fertilizer when the grass is dry.’
He went on to recommend killing weeds with Boots Lawn weedkiller in April and then applying the second dose of his patent Lawn Sand in June. The visible results of his methods were obvious throughout his garden – although it has to be said that he never did manage to stop what appeared to be a leak from his pond that produced a year-round damp streak in the road! There may be a clue in the former name of the house, which was Byrhfunt. In Old English this is said to mean ‘spring of (or at) the fortification or town’.
[Tom died in 2006, aged 93.]
Comfrey - the wonder herb (from Article in OIAW Spring 2015)
This was originally intended to be a short filler extolling the virtues of a very common wildflower for its liquid plant feed properties. A few moments checking the references about it, however, revealed that it could have been seriously short-changed with such a narrow cv.
Common Comfrey, Symphytum officinale is a member of the Borage family. It has been known as Boneset, Knitbone, Nipbone or Blackwort.
Its humble habitat is waste ground and riverbanks generally places that are damp and shady and it is a bushy perennial with dark green, hairy, spear-shaped leaves. The plant grows to about four feet and its drooping, bell-shaped flowers (may october) are clusters of white, cream, pink or mauve. Coming from the borage family it might be guessed that the flowers are very attractive to bees.
Because it is a greedy feeder comfreys deep roots work to bring nutrients up from the subsoil, notably nitrogen and potassium but also phosphorus. Scientific research has actually shown that the relative ratios of these chemical elements are higher than for animal manure. The abundant leaves produced (up to 5 lbs per plant per year) therefore contain a ready source of natural fertilizer and can be harvested throughout the growing season.
It can be used in the garden in several ways. As a compost activator leaves can be added in smallish quantities with other matter to add nitrogen and heat the heap. A shallow layer of the leaves can be placed around a crop as a mulch to release nitrogen as they break down. This is reportedly particularly good for fruit crops because of the potassium. Avoid using flowering stems, though, since they may root. Even as a companion plant for trees and shrubs comfrey is beneficial for increasing soil nutrients. Whether this is a good property or not might be debatable but it is a slug attractant, so a possible use might be as a decoy plant.
Possibly the most elegant way of using comfrey is as a liquid fertilizer. It can be produced by stacking dry leaves under a weight in a vertical tube a few inches in diameter, sealed at the bottom and fitted with a tap. When the leaves decompose the black concentrate is collected. This must be diluted at 15:1 before use. Alternatively leaves can be rotted down in rainwater for 45 weeks to produce the so-called comfrey tea; this is ready-to-use.
Herbal uses are listed by Kay Sanecki such as collecting the leaves before the plant flowers to use as a poultice for sprains or in an infusion for bathing painful joints. Roots and leaves, she says, are old remedies for quinsy and whooping cough. Jean palaiseul in grandmothers secrets adds more purposes including maceration of root in water as remedy for stomach upsets, even ulcers. The medieval, classical external use (the derivation for the name boneset) was from the root lifted in the spring, grated and the mash made into a plaster which, apparently, sets as solid as hardwood in a short while. Miraculous properties included the ability to draw splinters or heal ruptures.
Not surprisingly Richard Mabey in his 1970s landmark book food for free includes its culinary use in some detail. It can be treated by boiling like spinach, when the furry nature of the leaves disappear, and no butter needs to be added since the leaves are fairly glutinous. He also suggests a recipe for a teutonic fritter called schwarzwurz (see blackwort above? ) using egg, plain flour, salt and milk or water.
The derivation of the name, in case you wondered, is from the latin confervere, to grow together.
There is clearly far more to comfrey than meets the eye and it deserves more than a casual glance next time that you see it, doesnt it?
Recipe for schwarzwurz:
Comfrey leaves, 1 egg, 50g (2 oz) plain flour, 250 ml (1/2 pint) milk or water, 14 teaspoon salt, butter or oil for frying.
Leave stalks on comfrey leaves, wash and dip in thin batter made from above.
Fry the battered leaf/leaves in oil for not more than two minutes.
Makes a good, succulent companion to fried fish.