What a great time we had at our December meeting! It was that time of the year when we had our Christmas Party jointly held with the Walking Group. As in previous years, everyone brought a plate of finger buffet- style savoury or sweet food and we were treated to a banquet of wonderful seasonal fare. Free-flowing wine, expertly served by Martyn Thomas, accompanied our feast and Doreen’s picture quiz kept everyone guessing. Many thanks to everyone who brought food and to all the people who helped to set up the party and to clear up at the end. The party rounded off another very enjoyable year for the Gardening Group and we are all looking forward to a successful 2019.
We were whisked away from a gloomy November afternoon, into the sun and blue skies of Greece . Richard gave us a superb talk about the Peloponnese peninsula, it’s scenery, history, archaeology, customs and, above all, it‘s wonderful wildlife and wildflowers. Everywhere there were beautiful cyclamen, crocus, sternbergia and intriguing exploding cucumbers to name but a few of the plants. Richard’s photographs showed us the ruggedness and wildness of this part of Greece, unspoilt by tourism.
The Sunday had been wet and windy, so we were worried that our trip to Kew Gardens on the Monday would also be cold and rainy. However, we were pleasantly surprised to have a dull, but mostly dry and warm day. After coffee in the new Orangery Café, some people decided to take the small train for a 45 minute trip round the whole gardens and others strode out in various directions along the broad paths. The recently re-opened Temperate Glasshouse was superb as were the Palm House and the Princess Diana Glasshouse. The huge variety of plants from all regions of the globe was astonishing and it was easy to see why Kew is regarded as the premier botanic garden in the world. The borders were still showing lots of colour and it was fascinating to watch the gardeners and horticultural students planting the large beds with huge numbers of winter plants. The tree walk was superb with autumn leaf colour and it was wonderful to be up in the sweet chestnut tree canopy at the same height as the parakeets and crows eating the fruit. A lovely day to round off our 2018 visits.
Our October main meeting was the AGM at we had a record attendance with nearly 200 members present. The meeting was led by our President, Michael George, and after reports by the Chair, Treasurer, Social Events Secretary and Acting Membership Secretary, Gill Wilkinson, our Chair, thanked Committee members who had completed their term of office and presented them with gifts. After tea and a large selection of delicious cakes, we were entertained with a wonderful presentation of “A Journey through Peru in music and pictures” by Richard Jones. Fantastic photographs of Peruvian men, women and children, colourful costumes and buildings, plants and animals all set against a backdrop of the snow-topped Andes and wild, barren landscapes.
We had a very relaxed and enjoyable meeting on September 17th, with Jenny Boorer starting the proceedings with an entertaining quiz on trees which was followed by an Autumn plant sale. So many lovely plants donated by members which enabled us to raise £60. Thank you to everyone who gave and bought plants. To round off the meeting we had a delicious afternoon tea with sandwiches, scones, cakes and biscuits (thanks to those who baked) and it was really great to have an opportunity to chat and socialise with gardening friends.
The speaker at our September meeting was the well-known historian, author and speaker, Roger Moorhouse, who specialises in modern German and mid European history. Roger gave an excellent talk “The worst maritime disaster in history” which told the story of Hitler’s Titanic, the sinking of MV Wilhelm Gustloff in January 1945. Very few of us knew about this terrible disaster and it was sobering to hear how a Russian submarine whose captain was probably the worse for drink, torpedoed the civilian ship with the loss of nearly 10,000 lives, mostly women and children.. Roger also gave us a fascinating account of some little-known aspects of the wider history of the Third Reich.
Our July event was a coach trip to RHS Garden Hyde Hall, near Chelmsford. After a trouble-free journey we arrived at Hyde Hall in time for a quick coffee, before walking around these wonderful gardens. The weather was warm but not too hot and there were plenty of shady spots where we could sit and cool down. The gardens were spectacular in spite of the drought conditions and the careful watering had enabled the plants to thrive and the lawn to stay emerald green whilst the surrounding countryside was brown and faded. Beautiful herbaceous borders. roses and Australian and New Zealand beds. A new addition to the gardens was a fantastic display by Thompson and Morgan – a riot of colour and scents that feasted the senses. Two large and excellent cafes/restaurants, a well-stocked plant sales area and gift shop enabled us to rest and revive and retreat from the sun. Another smooth return coach journey completed a thoroughly enjoyable day out.
Our speaker at the July meeting was Roy Smart, who gave us a rip-roaring talk about “The Last Naval Hero”, David 2nd Earl Beatty, hero of the WWI and the darling of the nation. Blessed with the Nelson touch, this matinee idol had a darker side to his character and was something of a bounder. We heard about Beatty’s astonishing climb to fame and fortune and his involvement in the Battle of Jutland leading to the death of over 3,000 British sailors but the surrender of the German fleet. He became immensely rich and had a Downton Abbey life style with his hedonistic, American, socialite wife, Ethel, Countess Beatty, which was marred by marital strife and scandal. Roy posed the question to us , “Was Beatty a bounder or a cad?” Answer: Probably both!
Our June meeting was the “Open Gardens round Risborough” event. The weather was perfect and over 50 people wandered around the eight beautiful gardens that were open. A huge thankyou to all those who opened their gardens and to those who donated the superb array of plants for the Plant Sale. A very special thanks to David and Jenny Brown who hosted the teas and Plant Sale in their garden and to all those who helped make the day very special. It’s always a lovely occasion and as in previous years, very much enjoyed by everyone.
Our speaker at the June main meeting was Clare Smallman who was an ambassador from Great Ormond Street Hospital. Clare gave a most interesting talk about the history of the hospital, the current work being done and its future plans. With a very clear and enjoyable slide presentation together with video clips, Clare explained how the hospital was an international hub for the treatment of children and how it was at the forefront of ground-breaking research. Some very touching footage of young patients and their families telling their stories of how the hospital had saved lives enabled us to see the wonderful work of the hospital. Clare told us of the new buildings that had recently been constructed and the exciting fields of research that were being investigated to help children to survive life-threatening illnesses.