Plans to develop the grounds at St Mark’s

As many of you will have heard, there are plans in place to develop the grounds at St Mark’s. This has been made possible following the kind financial support of a grant from the Farnham Institute Charity. Advice on establishing an orchard has been provided by a local expert who has drawn up plans for the orchard, which we will be planting in the large area of grass to the west of St Mark’s church. The orchard will be planted around November this year and will contain approximately 10 trees including cooking and dessert apple, pear and cherry trees. We plan to have individual trees adopted and maintained by various groups in the community.

We also plan to establish two areas of wildflowers inter-planted with the grass in the churchyard. One area of wildflowers will be where the orchard is and the other area of wildflowers will be under the horse chestnut trees that border Upper Hale Road. To prepare for establishing the wildflowers we will first need to lower the fertility of the soil. This will be done by cutting and raking off the long grass several times between now and late spring. We will also cut back competing plants such as ivy and bramble, especially where they are growing along the ground.

The wildflowers will be planted as plug plants in late spring with the soil surrounding each removed in order to reduce competition from the grass and help the flowers to establish. Advice on this aspect of the project has been provided by Surrey Wildlife Trust who visited the grounds to talk to us about how to prepare and manage the area. They also identified some valuable plants that already flower in the grounds that we will be preserving and suggested other plants to attract and support wildlife around the Church.

In the orchard area we will plant a mix of wildflowers such as Autumn Hawkbit, Bladder Campion, Centaury, Common Mallow, Crow Garlic, Hoary Cinquefoil, Hounds Tongue, Oxeye Daisy, Sheep’s Sorrel, Slender Birds Foot Trefoil, Vervain, and Wild Carrot. Once established, this area will be managed as a summer meadow with the grass cut once a year in late summer, August/September. The cut grass will be cleared off and used to mulch around the orchard trees. Paths will be mown through the grass throughout the season.
The other area of wildflowers will be under the horse chestnut trees. The lower branches under these will be trimmed to allow more light in and the area planted with earlier flowering wild flowers such as Red and White Campion, Greater Stichwort, Foxgloves, Violets, native Bluebell, Sweet Woodruff, Red and White Deadnettle and Hedge Woundwort. Once established, this area will be managed as a spring meadow with the grass cut in July after flowering and seed has set.

In addition, to the wildflower areas we will be planting the ‘poppy bed’ near the Upper Hale Road entrance to St Mark’s with spring flowering bulbs and annual summer flowers such as ‘Love-In-A-Mist’, Cornflowers and, of course, Poppies. We were very pleased with the poppy bed this year, a sterling job clearly done by the Adventurers Folly Hill Infants School and those members of the congregation who kindly contributed to sowing the thousands of minute seeds that eventually came to such a glorious display. There were a few anxious moments when some of us thought we might need to sneak some plastic ones in for the special commemorative service but we should of course have had more faith!

Getting involved
We believe gardening is a healthy, fun activity requiring enthusiasm and energy more than anything else. Gardening is about a process not an end point, so this is about sharing the experience of creating something beautiful and functional for our community. We invite you to join us in making this project happen and learning with us about preparing for, planting and caring for the orchard, wild flower areas and other important aspects of the grounds.

You, or a group to which you belong, may wish to adopt a tree. This would mean digging a big hole, planting your tree and tending it over the coming years through watering, mulching with manure (we have sourced a free supply!) and pruning it. Expertise can be acquired on the job as we work together to look after the trees throughout the seasons and of course share the spoils!

A big job needing a lot of support is going to be planting the plug plants. We will need to lift off a slice of turf for each, turn it over and plant the plug in the centre. My back is aching at the mere thought! We are talking hundreds of plants if it’s going to look good and many hands will make light work. HELP!!!!

On an easier note, you may wish to help plant bulbs into the poppy bed. The Adventurers have kindly offered to do the bulk of the work here but anyone who wants to add a few bulbs is very welcome. We are going to plant bulbs that will flower at Easter so if you want to join in let us know, we will supply the bulbs and you can join one of the Brown Bin Club sessions or just dig them in after a service.

We are going to be organising some dates soon and will let everyone know. If you can get involved but not on the chosen days, just let one of us know. We can allocate you a project to get on with in your own time if this is easier.

Brown Bin Club (the St Mark’s Gardening Club) is gradually acquiring members, for which we are hugely grateful and we hope these exciting projects will encourage more people to get stuck in. We have money for plants so there is no financial cost, just muscle power please!

Thank you!
Paul and Michelle Sowden for queries or offers of help

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