Tuesday 11 January 2011


The garden looks disgraceful and needs attention, rotting vegetation to remove before shoots emerge, herbaceous plants to cut back, fruit trees to prune and the vegetable beds to be given a fork so that any further frosts will produce a nice fine tilth to plant in come the spring.
I'm not doing any of that. It's miserable out. I need the cold wind and the rain to stop before I'll venture out. 
I always unearth something or other when I'm digging in the garden, a small ceramic hand from a doll or a Victorian marble to remind you of the generations of children who have lived here.

Now a motley collection of objects sit on the kitchen window cills. There has been a house and garden on this site for hundreds of years so it is not surprising that small objects and fragments are constantly surfacing. By far the most common pieces are bits of old blue and white pottery and the stems and bowls of clay pipes. A few years ago the BBC television 'Time Team' came on a dig nearby and they were interested in anything that we had found on our land. I took along a few pipe bowls and was delighted to learn that one of them had been made by a Joseph Hughes who was born in 1660 in Broasley, Shropshire, who was working from 1680 for fifty years. This type of pipe was in use between 1680 and 1730. The enthusiastic expert, Marek Lewcum, who gave me this information, was able to identify and date even small pieces of stem from the size of the hole. He made me feel rather guilty that up until then I had been just tossing the broken pipe stems away.

All manner of odd things are unearthed when I dig. These two objects are made of bronze, although what their function was I don't know.
Our village was a hunting estate, dating from the 13th century, so perhaps these items are from a bridle? 

Until the weather improves there is plenty that I can do inside, why, I could even clean the house! Better than that, I can put another log in the wood burner and bury myself in a book.

I've got quite a number of gardening books and this is the time of year when I enjoy looking through them. Not the ones that identify pests and diseases or how to do things, but the ones that remind you when it is cold and miserable just how wonderful it will be when everything in the garden starts to spring back into life. Hopefully the weather will not have killed off too many old favourites. 
I like the books by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix and their rose book is very well thumbed. The photography is so clear that I have been able to identify a number of roses with the help of this book.

Another favourite that I drool over in the winter months is 'Auriculas for Everyone'.  I'm like a child in a sweet shop turning over the pages, oh, I'd like that one, or perhaps that one, or.....

Penelope Hobhouse's book is inspirational, with photographs of gardens that are my absolute ideal, Chilcombe in Dorset, walled and hedged, with cobbled paths, rose covered pergolas, lilies and herbs and Mirabel Osler's garden pond in Shropshire a perfect example of a natural garden. I think that this is also one of the best books on the subject of garden colour.
Speaking of which, I got a lovely new heart at Christmas from my friend Janet. Take a look at her work and home at Janet Haigh, her work.


  1. How lovely Cher - it has been a desire of mine for years to have a complete 17th century pipe like your bowls - about 2 feet long. I use a Roger Phillips book as a bible for mushrooms in the autumn, he is the best. Happy hunting.

  2. The pipe pieces are pretty interesting. My 13th great grandfather came from Toperton, Norfolk (although I can't find that on a map) to Massachusetts in 1635. He may have smoked a pipe such at those.

    We're expecting close to a half meter of snow by tomorrow. A garden is a lovely dream.

  3. What wonderful finds. I think the hope of unearthing something new would certainly keep me digging. It will not be long before I am out in my (humble) gardens playing in the dirt. Happy dreaming!

  4. We pruned the apple tree on saturday, Andy got a little carried away and i had to confiscate the loppers. The hens are always scratching up bits of old pottery, i am now going to keep it instead of throwing it away. We are planning the veg plot for this year, may need some advice from the expert.